Figuring It Out

I’ve gone through several phases in my life when it comes to my views on partnership and love. When I was a preteen and teenager, I really had no personal frame of reference when it came to romance beyond fiction. My grandparents, looking back now, were clearly in love, but I didn’t recognize those things as a little girl. By the time I started paying attention to things like that, they’d passed away, and my thoughts of them weren’t of their love story. They were of me missing their presence in my life. As an adult, talking to a few sets of my and J’s older aunts and uncles, THEY were clearly in love…my uncle wrote my aunt love letters. For real. I always wondered where my romanticism came from, because as I’ll detail in a moment, it sure didn’t come from observation in my house. But the penchant for sentimental writing must be in my genes on my dad’s side somewhere. They just must be recessive or masked or something in my dad. See, neither of my parents are romantic people. My father has NEVER in my lifetime given my mother flowers. Or jewelry since her wedding ring, which I clearly wasn’t around for. He didn’t sing to her (or me…or my brother…) or act silly with her about anything. They don’t share ANY common interests. They don’t do much together but eat and take up the same space occasionally. Like…she sits on the sofa and he sits in the chair in the living room. They are never physically affectionate. They barely speak to one another, and when they do, it’s >50% bickering. My mom complains about my father when she’s with me A LOT. I’ve never heard her say she was happy about anything about him or grateful for anything about him. Dad doesn’t say anything about Mom at all, good or bad. Not to me. Not to other people that I know of. Not to her. My early opinions about love and marriage were shaped by the example I lived with, which was basically roommates who get along just well enough to share a house and practical life responsibilities, and pay for things on time, but barely even liked each other. And that’s honestly what I thought were the requirements for marriage…you like each other *just* enough to share bills and chores and not practice violence on each other.

That wasn’t exactly a dream come true for me. Plus, I was what I’ll call a ‘late bloomer’ when it came to even noticing romance of any kind, even the fictional variety. I was only interested in friendship until I was in my later teens, really. And then, I had mixed emotions, because of what I’d seen around me, both with my parents and with my peers. I wasn’t ever sure about dating when I was young. I was skittish and nervous a lot. I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to get married. I wasn’t sure what ‘love’ really was…

Then, after enough exposure to fiction and my peers, there was that phase that most people go through a lot sooner than I did, and some people never outgrow, when I thought ‘love’ was flowers and sparkly, overpriced, artificially valued ephemera, and all the other commercial and cliched trappings and signifiers that Hallmark and Kay Jewelers and Godiva and whoever else wanted to profit off of the most powerful and misunderstood emotion in humanity wanted to claim meant you ‘loved’ someone…

bloom-blossom-flora-1028707

And I used to think that undivided attention meant love (it can). Or being verbally and physically expressive and appreciative meant love (it can…that’s usually how I show love, anyway). But those things aren’t universal. Some people aren’t very good with words and are very private about physical affection, or outright uncomfortable with it (that was actually me for a long time…and I’m still pretty private about it). And some people don’t have the patience for prose.

Not to be all Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run or Foreigner here, but J really has shown me what love is. What love is to me now, as a mature adult with some actual experience in life, is putting another person’s needs, desires, and dreams as even with, if not ahead of, your own. I’m not sure I’m very good at that. I try to be supportive and unselfish, but I often fail, or at least feel like I’m failing.
J is FANTASTIC at it.
If I want to do something, no matter how silly or sometimes downright frivolous it may be, he finds a way to make it happen. When someone hurts me, or makes me angry, he not only stands behind the decisions I make about the person or the situation, but will sometimes even handle things on my behalf. He may LOOK like a mild mannered engineer, but, like most superheroes, that’s just his alter ego; his Clark Kent public persona that hides the fact that, in reality, he’s Superman.

clark

(Henry Cavill fans…you’re welcome.)

I haven’t always placed the appropriate value on J’s quiet steadfastness. I used to be kinda down and complain about his lack of ‘romance.’ The truth is though? Passion waxes and wanes and romance is almost always phony and manufactured. To me, REAL LOVE is this:

…It’s changing the laundry over without fanfare so that your wife, who normally does the laundry, is pleasantly surprised when she reaches the laundry room to find she’s a step ahead…

…It’s trying to prepare dinner for your wife who worked overtime at a boring meeting, even though you’re kinda clueless and you put peanut butter in franks and beans…

…It’s saying a wisecrack under your breath, so only your wife can hear you, when you know she needs a tension-breaker, secret-inside-joke laugh in an uncomfortable, obligatory social situation…

…It’s laughing at fart jokes with your son and holding him upside down (The Boy is too tall for this now, but J used to do it quite often) to hear him giggle in that musical way that only little children can…

…It’s building a playset for your son by hand, because you want to select the best wood, board by board, and secure them together in a way you can be sure is the safest you can make it, rather than settling for what some company decides is adequate and throws into a ‘kit’…

…It’s going back to work right away and coming right home with take-out, or to heat up frozen food for two weeks while your wife recovers from emergency surgery that broke BOTH your hearts, instead of taking time to grieve yourself…

…It’s being a pall bearer at your godfather’s funeral, because while you are uncomfortable and nervous, you know you were his favorite nephew…that he thought of you like a son, really, and how proud he was of you…

…It’s coming home from work early to take your dog to the vet, because your very pregnant wife couldn’t drive her there…and holding your senior dog to calm her while she cries when she comes off anesthesia from medical procedure…

…It’s tirelessly researching new ways to save money and reduce debt, so that your family can live in financial peace…

…It’s realizing that sometimes it’s the right thing to do to dance with your wife in the living room, or buy a motorcycle, or take your boy to another place to ride roller coasters and to Disneyland again, because, as the internet kids say, ‘You only live once…’

…It’s being a role model of integrity and kindness and intelligence for your son. That Boy wants to be just like his dad when he becomes a man. And That Boy’s mom wants him to be just like his dad, too…

…It’s suffering your wife’s irrational anxiety and fickle moods, and supporting her childish dreams that she still has yet to fully let go of at 40, with a smile. She may never let go of those immature fantasies, but you love her, inexplicably, anyway…

Anyway, I’ve written a whole lot of things about J here on the blog, and I’ve also written before about how I just don’t like being cynical and sarcastic about life. It seems like that’s what’s ‘in’ right now. It’s cool to be dramatic and mean and spew hate and negativity. It’s really easy to focus on flaws and what’s lacking in life and other people. ‘Everybody’s doing it.’ I’ve never been one of the cool kids, though. So I’m going to go ahead and focus on what’s positive and abundant in my life and with my people.

I love my husband. He is a wonderful father, a great provider, a rock of support, an honorable man, and a calming force in my turbulent universe. He’s a man of few words. Words are more my department (obviously). They may make you sound smart, or maybe even important, but they are actually pretty useless almost all of the time. J is more a man of action. He’s a doer. He’s a fixer. He’s a problem solver. And I’m a very lucky woman to have him as my partner in life. I love us. I’m never going to stop learning and evolving, but I’m glad I’ve figured this much out.

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