Saturday, August 15, 2015

Being alive: Musings on the mysteries of marriage

I love musical theatre. One of my favorite shows is Company, in which Bobby, a thirtyish New York Citian is the last of his circle of friends to remain single. He shares meals and social events with these friends, listening to them and observing their lives: how they interact, how they treat each other and their children, what they like and don't like about marriage. Some are recently married and a bit tentative, others settled into the amiable companionship of longtime friends and lovers. One couple is divorced but living together with their children.

Bobby takes it all in and throughout the show, he considers the pros and cons of marriage. At the end, he expresses all his doubts, anticipation, and finally, his rising wonder and excitement as he concludes that it would be worth taking the chance. A chance too good to be missed. The song is Being Alive:

Someone to hold you too close
Someone to hurt you too deep
Someone to sit in your chair, and ruin your sleep
And make you aware of being alive...

 David before I knew him, before the mustache.

I was 39 when, 15 years ago today, I got married for the first time. I have been asked why I got married so “late.” Let's just say that life circumstances in my early adulthood did not allow marriage to be a priority. In retrospect, I don't believe I would have been ready for such a commitment at a younger age. Actually I think, for me, it happened at just the right time.

David near the base of Snoqualmie Falls, shortly before our wedding

What is it about being married anyway? Why is it so different from, say, living together? I hazard the guess that it has to do with the expectations we naturally have about what marriage is, or should be, or will be, or what we want it to be.

Someone to need you too much
Someone to know you too well
Someone to pull you up short, and put you through hell
And give you support for being alive...

Celebrating back at our house in Seattle

I like, and often feel the need for, quantities of time to myself. I lived by myself for a long time before I got married, and am used to having space and time. This hasn't changed. Still, I love the companionship of being together, talking or not, doing something important or not... sitting outside looking at the stars, enjoying the quiet sounds of the birds settling down to sleep, curled up with good books near the living-room woodstove, working on a project together. I'm much more of a realist than a romantic type, but I can, and do, appreciate the romance of sharing simple things. Companionship. Nice.

David with Old Tom, our farm mascot

I have rarely felt what I would call lonely in my life, but I have certainly had many moments of feeling alone. The most memorable, painful, almost heart-stopping of these moments have occurred within my marriage. The almost indescribable vulnerability of being disconnected from someone you love so much... like being on the outside of a house, the structure, the bones of the edifice you imagined to be so solid, so sure... looking up at the windows to see all the shades pulled down. What has happened here? Am I locked out? Is he huddled somewhere inside, in the dark, as frightened and miserable as I?

Make me confused, mock me with praise
Let me be used, vary my days
But alone is alone, not alive

Gotta love a man who hauls wood and picks up eggs at the same time!

We both brought a lot of baggage with us into this relationship. It is frustrating to me that, in spite of all my efforts and willingness to let things go, to forgive and move on, so many past hurts still lurk in the shadows, waiting their moment to rear up and cause new pain. Some of my most awful moments have been those where I find myself wanting to strike back, to force him to experience the pain I want to blame him for... and I know that isn't really me, that in my heart what I want him to experience is how much I love him, adore him, care for him, want to be here with him. It is probably inevitable that we hurt each other at times, although I suspect this is mostly about wanting someone to share our own pain. I just want to always be sorry when I cause him pain, not glad.

Someone you have to let in
Someone whose feelings you spare
Someone who, like it or not, will want you to share
A little, a lot, of being alive

Terror at 1000 feet! I love a man with a sense of humor.

There is so much that I want to give this man. So much I want –no, need– to share with him. We are both people who find it easier to give than to receive, though, both a little wary of being rejected. What would happen if it turned out that he doesn't want or need anything that I have to offer? When this thought intrudes occasionally I push it away; whatever is happening at the moment, it simply can't be true. I have the evidence of these 15 years for that.

Yes, life is a dynamic thing, evolving and changing and transforming us in the process. But the things that drew us together, attracted us to each other, stirred up and wrapped us round with whatever mysterious glue it is that forms that bond between two people... those things are still there, still just as true as ever. Like a kaleidoscope; all the pieces are there, always the same, but when you shake it, turn it over, aim it at the light, the pieces roll and clatter and slip into an almost infinite variety of unpredictable patterns. That's how I see marriage. I hope I never find myself taking it for granted.

David and our cat Cosmo napping

What ever happened to Bobby, I wonder? Did he follow his heart, find a true partner and learn to navigate the risky but glorious, unknown but exciting experience of marriage? I hope so. Perhaps it sounds simplistic, or even a bit silly, but I honestly like being married. I love and treasure the man I married, and I want to be grateful every day that I am here in this beautiful place, this home that is ours, all that we share and know as our marriage.

Somebody crowd me with love
Somebody force me to care
Somebody make me come through, I'll always be there
Frightened as you to help us survive
Being alive, being alive, being alive... being alive!

1 comment:

  1. Sentiments so beautifully expressed!