Saturday, January 16, 2010

When you feel you've failed a thousand times...

...congratulations - you're in a marriage. and an adult. and chances are, fatter than you were last year.

Ah friends, it's been a hard two weeks. Right now I'm listening to the dogs whine and take out their restlessness on each other, reminding me that I haven't been giving them nearly enough attention. My husband is in a deep sleep with an aching back thanks to his tireless work ethic and refusal to say no to anyone, including me. I haven't talked to my mom since January 4th, and I miss her. My poor dad has been relegated to an afterthought.... which reminds me, I promised him an "us" dinner at Christmas.. and then forgot.

I am completely sick of myself today.

Sometimes I have to just tuck my tongue in cheek and laugh at what a ridiculous woman God hath made in me. The bright, worldly women reading this gab-rag will hear me when I say - I have the capacity to be brilliant, but I am.... I am flawed.

I was so smart once. So accomplished... unstoppable, focused, unafraid, unencumbered. I was eight. I had this big wooden desk with a matching chair and shelves that went to the ceiling, covered in books, geodes, a globe I bought with my own allowance, and at one time every single pastel paperback in the Babysitters Club series. I fancied myself a Stacey McGill, but at heart I was a Mary Anne Spier, complete with braids I slept in only to unfurl gorgeous crimped-out waves by morning.

(that was sarcasm)

My mom would make my bed with me and say, "Trust me peanut, this is a gift you give yourself." My room was where I kept my every thought, bigger and grander and full of as much wonder and enchantment as the grassy knoll of Catonsville High School where I used to lay with pink plastic, heart-shaped sunglasses and snowball-blue terry shorts, watching the summer sky go hazy with every color you could see, celebrating the freedom just to be.

I thought so then, but I know it now - I could have been Anything.

My mom and dad divorced, mom remarried, and both of my parents went through hard times. We thrice moved into houses built just for us, but the past inevitably filled the walls and clogged the drains. I tried to blend in to the tide of middle school in Jordache and baggy t-shirts. Sometimes they had hip-hop bedecked Looney Tunes emblazoned on the front, and also -this hurts- the back. Forgive me comrades, I was born in a transient time.

I never tried to understand my mother's choices and this, I must admit, was a weighty factor in our inevitable schism. I stopped wanting to be a nice kid. I wished my brother would grow up and help me. I remember kneeling beside my bed and realizing that it did not matter who was right and what was wrong. I was not forgotten, not depressed, no, something far worse - I was angry, and anger needs no further analysis to do its bitter deed. I had been the dependable outcome in my mother's life and the pure good in my dad's, the smart child who disappeared from birthday parties to read, and went on sixth grade summits for precocious preteens hellbent on meeting the governor. I had been the piece of universe at the finger of the prime mover, and somewhere in the milieu became a lonely drop of water that couldn't find its way out of a rock. I was unrecognizable and unresponsive to urging.

Husband and I have had a [sometimes] rough road. We have a love story but it is also blemished with bouts of ugliness. Fights I would rather forget about issues that deserved a more prepared audience and less hardened heart. I was growing and healing and trying to be with this man who came into my life at the worst and best possible time.

Today, I don't recognize a hair on my head. Memories of climbing into those crisp cotton sheets with braids to my shoulders and a flashlight under the pillow feel so far behind. I made the bed the other day and as I tried to tame the corners I felt as though the sheets would pull the finger from the nail. I thwarted failure by stuffing the excess under the mattress and then slumped, like a boneless cat, against the springs.

I have been promising husband for many days that I would do away with the remaining piles of empty Christmas packages and shopping bags full of ribbon bits and endless receipts currently crowding the already stinted walkway along my side of the bed. I've also been meaning to make sense of the pile of paperwork and last semester's outlines collecting dust and resentment on the coffee table. And these are just the symptoms.

We don't necessarily make each other better, I've realized in some of my moments of greater clarity. We exist in this marriage as flawed as the day we began, and I have never felt so engaged in all my life. Every day is a choice. To be here. Both for him and for me - I know it doesn't read well, but it feels just fine. To be chosen as his wife on an otherwise nondescript Wednesday.

My husband is so good, so resilient and unapologetic. I find myself expecting him to improve the person I am. But the truth, the story of us, is that my love for him, along with my respect and admiration, have absolutely nothing to do with me. I have never blamed him for my shortcomings nor credited him with my strengths. I love him in spite of what I offer; I love him knowing he may not love me back. He brings a depth and awareness to my life, and what is most glaring in that light is my desire to be better... for him. To do this one thing inarguably well. To make the choice tomorrow that much easier for us both.

Troubling facts, these. My becoming a good wife with any measure of consistency depends not on my love for husband or his for me, but rather on whether or not I will allow myself to recall the spirit of that eight year old girl. To get back to believing that in my room, or my house, I can be anything.

I hear stirrings from the next room. I am going to bed.


  1. You're a great writer, I loved every word. You summed up what I feel sometimes but could never write so eloquently. Bonus points for the Babysitter's Club references, I always wanted to be like Claudia.

  2. You so beautifully articulated something I've been feeling lately, too ... minus the husband part - I don't have one anymore and even though the one I originally chose didn't hold up his end of the bargain, I have to admit I didn't either. I, too, was a Mary Anne who wanted so deeply to be a Stacey. And I, too, have let go of that young girl who believed she could be anything. Hmm. Thanks for making me think. I wish you luck in getting back to that young, limitless spirit!

  3. Thank you so much for writing this and sharing it. So many days I feel like this, but my mind is so busy rushing around, that I just can't put it into words. I hope you too are able to find a way back to those simpler times.