You Can’t Judge Love By It’s Cover

June 17th happens to be Father’s Day which happens to be my oldest daughter’s birthday which happens to be my wedding anniversary.  Guess which one never gets recognized?

Husband and I had exactly two years as a married couple before baby number one arrived.  That amounted to one anniversary trip/dinner/celebration.  Had I known it would be the last, I would have set my sights higher than a Bed and Breakfast in Maine.

For years we’ve consoled ourselves with the mutual agreement that there would be no hard feelings about a triviality like a date on the calendar.  Instead of coveting time alone we would, forever more, share our celebration with multiple reasons to be grateful.  Nary a greeting card has passed between us on this date for 15 years.  But this year, my Year of Thank Yous, is different.  This is the year I may breathe my last.  And if it is, there’s a thing or two I want to say about the man who took me on for better or for worse.

There are times when I actually hate the man who so easily pushes my buttons – and I let him know.  To the credit of his pit-bull demeanor, husband can take it. Though I try not to abuse this fact, I appreciate that he is rock solid and nearly immune to the depths of my moods.  Which is probably why, although I didn’t know it at the time, I married him.  He is fearless in the face of….me.

This was perfectly illustrated from our inauspicious beginning.  Imagine if you will, a very tired me after a long day of skiing at unusually high altitudes.  My beloved invited me to walk on the romantic shores of Lake Tahoe while we waited for our ferry.  But I wanted to sit.  Seeing that I wouldn’t go easily, he started down the pier toward the beach without me.  As he reached the end, he began yelling  – demanding actually – in front of a crowd, that I come for a walk.

Here’s the thing.  I hate being told what to do.  HATE it.  Especially when it resembles antiquated ‘woman is subservient to man’s wishes’ logic.  So I reacted poorly.

I stormed down the pier after would-be husband, calculating how many of Deb’s Code Of Conduct rules he was violating.   Immediately upon reaching him I launched into a string of infractions, “How dare you! If you think for one minute that you can command me and I’ll obey…….”

After ranting for a while I noticed that he was smiling.  Strange.  He should be mad at me.  But instead he looks like the cat who ate the canary.  Why?

“Are you done yet?” would-be husband asked with amusement.

My response is difficult to admit.  I did worse than curse.  I did something I never had before.  But recall the level of my anger – at least a ten on the Richter scale.  Here it is…..I spit!  Right at his feet.  It was all I could think of to match the imagined disrespect he had shown me with his commanding tone.  I had no idea what would come next.

Beloved fell to one knee, right there on the beach, after witnessing my immense tantrum, and reached for my hand.  “Will you marry me?”

Gulp.  S*%t.  Oh, what have I done?!

It was years before I could share in the enjoyment husband had telling that story.  Needless to say, it was a humbling experience.  One that should have curbed my temper for good.  One that should have made husband run for the hills.   But, reader, neither has happened.

Now would be a good time, lest you get the impression from my stories that husband is some sort of saint, to let you glimpse the other side of the coin.  Husband has his warts too – one that a close relative of his wanted to be sure I knew before I married him.  Before our wedding date, said relative pulled me aside to say that everyone would understand if I backed out.  I paused for the briefest second then laughed mightily.  Perhaps this traitorous relative, like many, failed to see the magic in the union of a clap of thunder and a lightning bolt.  While we were having a grand ole time lighting up the skies, we were also scaring people it seems.

But we can’t worry about that.  The thunderstorms suit us.  As do the moments between the storms when the air is sweet and the symbiotic sounds of nature return.  It’s all good.  And not to be judged.  Because love is love no matter the packaging.

If the classic love poem read at many a wedding were a test, husband and I would certainly fail.

Love is patient.  Love is kind.

It is not easily angered….

….If you have not love,

You are but a noisy gong or clanging bell.

Really?  Because at our house, there’s a heck of a lot of pots banging and voices yelling that could equate to the noisy gong in the recipe of love.  And yet, we still feel ok.

Don’t get me wrong, we try sweet and gentle.  Even pull it off on occasion.  But the transformation feels all wrong.  Like a prickly bush disguised in a rose-bush costume.  As time passes and rose-bush couples split up, husband and I gain confidence in our not-so-subtle happily ever after.

When I say to husband, “I love you because of the reasons I hate you, not in spite of them.” He understands.  He may look briefly as if he’s been slapped, but his hint of a grin assures me that he got my meaning.  He has the capacity to understand me, and I, him.  Isn’t that all we can hope for?  To be understood, appreciated, and loved just as we are?

After all these years I can say with confidence that husband is still my favorite person.  And it’s not just because he took the initiative to locate a gluten-free Happy Anniversary cake (though that does raise his stock.)  I just love him.  Plain and simple.  And I wanted you to know, in case it wasn’t clear.

Brain Shrinkage

I messed up royally – again.  Before I tell you what I did, I want you to understand why it’s a big deal.

If there’s one quality my mother embodies, it’s dependability, which is closely related to her extreme organizational skills.  I don’t exaggerate when I say that Mom has never lost anything or failed to do what she says she’ll do.  Her linear, and possibly photographic memory is backed up by an elaborate system of note-taking and filing.

Claiming to have inherited her affinity for organization myself would be disingenuous.  But, for what I lack in natural talent, I was trained to make up for in discipline.  I can chart with the best of them.  Or I could, until I had children.

Husband used to rib me about ‘pregnancy brain’ citing research theorizing that women’s brains shrink during pregnancy.  I went to great lengths to disprove the theory by covering up for my all-too-frequent memory lapses, which I secretly feared amounted to permanent brain damage.  As you know from recent blogs, my mind never did fully recover.

I remember clearly the day I decided to surrender to imperfection in the memory/organization departments.   I simply removed the mask of Utter Competence I had rented and declared myself a mere mortal – free to make mistakes andforgive myself without excuses.  That very month, I forgot to invite my daughter’s godmother – on my husband’s side – to a birthday party.  (It’s always worse when you mess up with the in-laws rather than your own kin.)  

My error registered as an immense transgression.  Shock waves shot through the family.  You’d have thought the sun forgot to rise by the way people reacted.

Determining not to let their disappointment scare me back into perfectionist tendencies, I simply said, “Oh, I forgot,’ and prayed really hard that would suffice.  Vaguely, I recalled something I read about ‘giving up perfect.’  The sage warning was, ‘When you stop being perfect, don’t expect it to be a popular decision.’   People were used to my dependability in these matters.  Well, they’d have to adjust because imperfect me was here to stay.

Further proving my committment to imperfection has been easier – and more enjoyable – than I could have imagined.  Aside from the occasional frustration it causes, I rather like imperfect me.  Of course, I do occasionally feel a bite of horror, like today when I was informed that I forgot to acknowledge my mother-in-law’s birthday (two weeks ago!)  Yes, it is my husband’s mother and he forgot too.  But then, men aren’t laden with the same expectations as women in this regard.  Ultimately, I take ownership.  After all, I am the one in charge of the fancy calendar.  How did I miss this?  It’s not like it’s a new entry!

I can’t be sure my mother-in-law forgives me this oversight, but truthfully, it doesn’t matter.  Harsh sounding, I know.  In defense, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my imperfection training, it’s that self-approval is more important than approval from others.  I am sorry for forgetting, but I cannot – will not – revert to perfectionism.  It hurts my head.  I choose, instead, to offer my soggy, over-saturated brain some compassion.  It can only do so much.

Years from now, this too will be forgotten.  It will be replaced by subsequent mistakes and hopefully, some triumphs as well.  I hope the scale will be balanced, so that I will be balanced too.

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