Relationships

The Upside of the Day Shift

Scrabble_tiles_wooden_2
Pure Luck has been working the day shift in faraway Mitten-Shaped State, which allows us to chat in the evening. We have discovered online Scrabble. My blogging and knitting and reading are suffering. But it is fun to spend time with him, any way I can get it.

There is no question that it has been hard to keep up with exercise in
the absence of my beloved personal trainer. But aside from that, we’ve
gotten along surprisingly well around here in his absence, especially
considering that Snowman is gone, too. I haven’t said much about any of
this because I’ve been reluctant to claim to be doing well in case
things tipped in the other direction.Don’t ask when he gets home; the dates always shift right at the end. I’m trying not to count on anything. In fact, he tells me tonight there may be a delay, just when it looked like he would be home next week.

I am trying not to spend too much time counting the days he has been gone.

Really, the only thing to expect is to be disappointed at the same time you’re feeling grateful that he has work. One need only consider the price of heating oil, right?

Meanwhile, we have Scrabulous.

Relationships, The Male Animal

Sigh No More, Ladies

Sigh no more ladies, sigh no more;
Men were deceivers ever;
One foot on sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never;
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny;
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey, nonny, nonny.

William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

‘Tis a hard thing to be eleven years old and learn that the boy you fancy has invited another girl to the Renowned Middle School dance to be held next Friday.

If you are a civilized girl, you may claim that you wish neither the boy you fancy, nor the girl he fancies, any ill. You may waffle on this point when reflecting on the fact that two short months ago this same boy you fancy insisted that you were all too young to date. Why did he lie to you, you wonder, since he obviously doesn’t believe it!!!!! But he’s a nice guy, so why did he do these things?

If you are her quasi-self-actualized, middle-aged mother, you will no doubt encourage her to feel her natural sadness and, yes, anger. You will tell her that even the nicest guys can be Boofuses, and you will then poke your husband with your foot for emphasis, remembering the time he was a great big Boofus.*

If you are a wise elder brother, looking back from the distance of four years to sixth grade, you will repeat needlessly the thought that none of this really matters, to cries of anguish from your little sister.

If you are a kindly stepfather, you will point out gently the logical fallacies in all the arguments being made and point out that our feelings can overwhelm our logic in such situations and there is nothing for it but to feel them in all their confusing tumult.

And if you are eleven years old and finally able to admit you want to cry over this boy with funny hair who doesn’t wash it often enough, you might start to feel better…tomorrow.

*Boob+Doofus=Boofus (a word coined by Snowman when he was small)

Relationships

Em-Braces

The Princess looks older in her braces. Even though she has been at middle school for two months now, the braces on her teeth seem to underscore her new status as a person who is not still a child but not yet a woman either. So sore and self-conscious on Thursday that she didn’t want to go to school on Friday, she came home smiling with all braces showing after walking home with the boy she likes and his best friend. The chilly afternoon did not stop them from standing at the end of our street and talking with her for a good ten minutes before saying good-bye.

This morning, her teeth hurt so much she couldn’t chew at first.

Change hurts, and yet we must find a way to embrace it if we are not to be broken by it. How many mothers have ruined their relationships with their daughters by refusing to accept them as women and striving to maintain power over them? An unconscious sense of competition, an unexamined psyche, a fear of being old herself may influence the mother, mayn’t it?

More than once in my life I have been misread by people taking only a casual look at who I am. There is, I suppose, something safe looking about my diminutive stature and my surface softness, something safe-sounding about my voice and the words I tend to use in conversation. Anyone who thinks I will be easy to push aside or dominate is wrong. I will move when I am ready. I will give in when I believe it’s the right thing to do.

But it hasn’t always been that way. And this week I am thinking about what has changed me from my mother’s cautious daughter into my daughter’s wide-open mother.

When I met Pure Luck, I had been divorced for more than three years, and although I had dated other men here and there, I was not exactly brimming with confidence that summer evening we met.  I feared that actually revealing my personality would doom the possibilities. I was quiet, reserved, careful about everything I said.

If you’ve met me in recent years, this may come as a surprise.

It took being trapped together on a long car trip for real relationship to begin being made. We had been to Maryland over Easter, and we had to get back to City By the Sea that Sunday night. The traffic was bad, and we sat waiting for a long time at the Sturbridge entrance to the Massachusets Turnpike.

While we sat, we bickered.

It came as a surprise to both of us.

We bickered about our feelings, about our pasts, about our baggage, about the words we chose when bickering!

Toward the end of the trip, he said words to this effect: "How can I know how I feel about you when you keep parts of yourself hidden?"

(Oh, that man with his good questions. He is a natural archetypal psychologist.)

He had a point. I was always "at my best" with him, dressed up, ready to "date" him. I said I wanted something more, something deeper. I must have wanted it, right, since I said so? But he was right; he was right! Although he had opened up and felt my acceptance of what he considered to be his sins and flaws, I was holding back the parts of myself I assumed would be disagreeable: the abandoned child looking for a mother, the princess trapped in a tower of her own construction, the bluestocking writing theology papers in a ponytail and a pair of pink sweatpants. 

It would have been tempting to push him away at that point in our relationship. He had named, or gotten me to describe, the parts of me that felt most vulnerable to rejection. My psyche felt as sore as teeth in braces two days old, as loose and likely to fall out, as needful of soft foods and pain relievers.

Coddling and analgesics will not make a relationship. When we got out of the car, finally, mercifully, I went into the house and put on the pink sweatpants.  And then he embraced me, vigorously.

I find that in the five years since that night I have become much more accepting of myself. I have learned to become more fully who I am, to better embrace me. 

I’m grateful for it, even if we do still bicker on long car trips.