Thursday, September 27, 2018

I don't get many things right the first time...

Dear Nick,

Ten years ago today, we stood up in front of a gathering of loved ones and said our very simple vows.

And then we exchanged rings.

Then did we kiss too quickly? Or did you kiss me twice? Whatever it was, it made us laugh, up there in front of everyone. And our friends and family laughed along with us.

Laughter is what I come back to, over and over.

I remember when I was young, hearing parents' friends say things like, "I married him because he made me laugh."

And I remember being all, what? Anyone can make you laugh. What kind of a lame reason is that?


I grew up with a particular kind of funny. Puns. Clever humor. And lots and lots of physical humor. My dad doing silly walks in public that mortified me. My dad and I having terrible-face-making contests at the dinner table. Jokes and stories.

I see this flavor of humor in my relatives, and I embrace it. I love many kinds of funny, but these particular kinds most of all.

And, I have discovered, there are scads of not-funny people in the world.  You know I find women, on the whole, funnier than men. I know you disagree with this. Just as every man I've ever said this to has done.

As I recall, in my first iteration of my Match profile, over two years before we met, I said I loved to laugh. It's hard to write an online profile, as you know. How do you figure out what to say about yourself? I read some examples, and I picked out things that I thought were most important to me.

And then I read an article about how trite that was in online profiles--everyone says they love to laugh--and I took it out.

Other things you weren't supposed to say were "partner in crime" and something about being comfortable going from a cocktail dress to blue jeans.

I guess the reasoning was, who can't leap from jeans to cocktail attire? Who doesn't want a partner in crime even though ostensibly you don't commit crime? Who doesn't love to laugh?

As I discovered in my dating career, a number of men don't find me funny. It was clear that we were not destined to be.

Because I have many insecurities and shortcomings but there are people who find me fucking hilarious, and I was pretty sure the future Mr. LG ought to be one of them.

And then, then you did! We had such a fun first date! We made each other laugh, and we told each other ridiculous stories.

You thought I was hilarious and I thought you were hilarious, and we were both profane, and that seems very little to start with, but really, it was a good enough place.

(It's also true that I accepted your offer of a ride home, and on the way we passed a bar that turned into a sex club once a week, and I pointed it out because a friend of mine had gone and I had a story about it, and this apparently made you hopeful and then I gave you a quick kiss in your car and said good night and completely forgot about it and never mentioned it again.)

By the time we met I was pretty candid online and in my profile.

I said men who could do complicated math and use power tools made me swoon. True then, true now, and boy howdy am I glad you're a math guy with power tools, because besides these being qualities I find attractive, with weekly and complicated house repairs, we'd otherwise be bankrupt.

I do still love to laugh, but no longer wear a cocktail dress under my jeans at all time for the just in case.

There have been, I must admit, chunks of time in this past decade where I haven't found you funny.

When I'm annoyed with you, you're instantaneously not funny.

I imagine you feel the same. We've had some truly unfunny points in our marriage.

Someone once told me that you get married and then you make the choice to stay married. You make this choice over and over. I believe this.

People are hard to live with.  The closest people are the ones with whom we can be our worst selves.

This makes the closest people the most irritating of all.

Particularly when you are not a morning person and your spouse can be kind of smug about getting up at 4:30 am to row and then, like the loud extrovert he is, insists on both playing music and keeping up a constant flow of jokes that kill with the nine and under denizens of the house.

Oh, hilar.

The other morning I walked to work so annoyed that by the time I arrived at the office I had a firm action plan to never marry again after you'd been hit by a bus or we'd gotten divorced.

And then you called an hour later and by then it had passed.

I can't actually imagine us getting divorced. I imagine us getting really mad at each other, and yelling and talking and then apologizing and being the stronger for it. And please don't get hit by a bus. You know I save your voice mails just in case.

I didn't know I was looking for safety, but I found it in you.

Without realizing it, I needed a person who was so stable, so firmly rooted on this earth, and so committed to family that he would never leave.

Not in a boring way. In a calm, reassuring way.

It's not just that I feel physically safe when we're together. Although as a small woman who is extremely vigilant at most times, I appreciate how I can relax when I'm with you.

With you I feel safe in the world. I can exhale, and stop paying constant attention, and all will be OK.

But the bigger thing, the most unexpected part for me, is that I can be the weakest version of myself, the person I never, ever trust most people, and certainly not men to see, and you love me as a whole person.

Nobody ever did that before.

You celebrate my strengths and you do your best to lift me when I'm weak. And sometimes you just listen, which is even harder than lifting.

The other day I got in a fight with Jordan, and when I told you about it you said, "There are times when you get mad at me when you tell me something and I immediately start making a plan to fix it. You've taught me that sometimes you just want to vent, and I just need to listen. And I think Jordan needed you to just listen, and not fix it."

I felt so heard. I appreciated your advice. I loved your insight into our kid.

Honestly, you were right. Our son just wanted to vent, and I jumped to fix, and it made him angry. And then I felt powerless and got mad right back. You listened to me, you processed it, and you gave me good advice.

When I look back ten years, I realize I had no idea what lay in store.

We got engaged in 10 weeks, and we married seven months later. It could've all gone very badly, very fast.

We got married, and life rushed at us. You had to deal with things you really didn't understand, like my dad's mental illness, and the aftermath of his death. You stepped up where my blood family didn't.

I don't know when we started truly appreciating each other for who we are, rather than who we seemed to be, or wanted each other to be. It wasn't immediate, but at some point we did, and we do.

When our kids list our family, they name the members of our household: you and me, Nana, and each of them. You're my family. You're my world.

And look, just look, at how lucky we are to be here, together, now.

Happy anniversary, Nick. I love you.


Thursday, September 06, 2018

I'm not calling you a ghost. Just stop haunting me.

This is something that scares me to post.

Last month, Nick took this photo of me at camp.

Isn't Moose Pond spectacular?  I've taken a photo of this view myriad times with and without people in it.

So I wanted to be in a photo with that particular backdrop.

And still, when I saw the picture, my immediate response was to cringe and delete it.

I wear a bikini because it's easier to get in and out of. I learned this when I bought a shaper one-piece after I had Jordan. I got stuck in a bathroom with a wet bathing suit, struggling to pry it up or down. Two pieces are easier.

But I typically wear a sun shirt over it. For SPF rather than modesty. But I looked at this photo of me sitting down and I thought, why, why wasn't I wearing my sun shirt? Or a tee shirt or a towel? And makeup? Or better yet, my sunglasses?

Ugh. Delete.

Then I paused. Because I've recently seen some high school photos of myself. I was so young and fit, so fresh and pretty.

Do you know what I said about myself at the time? Same things I say now. Negative, critical and negative.

But look, look at me then. I was lovely.

And I do remember. I remember all my criticisms of myself at the time.

I was raised to seek external validation. But it didn't actually make me feel good about myself.

I know, looking at those photos of my youth, how bad I felt about myself then. I remember how inadequate I felt. If only I were taller. If only I were thinner. If only were prettier. If only...

The fact was, I could only starve myself so much. I could only run so many miles. I tried very hard to do more of both.

And just as with moving from place to place, you're still you with your same issues, until you deal with them. You can't run from them, you can't starve them out, and you can't move away from them.

As it turns out, you just have to work through them. And sucks for a while, and then it makes you feel better.

I can take a photo tour of myself across time. Sometimes I look pretty. Sometimes I don't. Sometimes I am beaming or laughing, genuinely delighted. And sometimes, despite a smile, I can see through the facade to profound misery.

And still, the person in those photos is never the gorgon she imagined herself to be.

My reaction to my high school photos was to wish I'd appreciated who I was and what I had when I had it.

From my current vantage point, my skin then--always too pale and freckled for my liking, and why was I so unfairly pale?--was unwrinkled, lush and beautiful. My thighs, my dread thighs, were strong and athletic, smaller than they are now, back when I imagined they were enormous.

I look at this picture of myself at camp, and my eyes go to my flaws. But let's be honest. I'll never be younger than I am now.

This body created and carried two babies, one of them almost nine pounds, to term. This body had its abdominal muscles cut, and recovered.

This body has done the Everest trek, and ridden camels, and slept on the roof of houses in the desert in Rajasthan.

This body can do push-ups, and climb, and lift an 86-pound kid, and walk over 16 miles overnight.

I work out at home regularly. My kids see me lift weights and do push-ups. I tell them how proud I am to be strong. How strength and fitness are what I'm working for.

I don't focus (out loud) on size. I shush that voice for them, and I try to quell it within myself.

I've had more and less toned abs. I've had larger and smaller thighs.Sometimes my butt is bigger and rounder and wider. Sometimes it's less so.

 Last year I ate a pint of ice cream every night and grew out of all my pants. Like, I literally could not squeeze them up past my thighs, or if I could, they weren't office-appropriate. My skirts were like sausage casings. So when I returned to the office last winter, I bought two pairs of black work pants, vowing to fit back into my wardrobe.

And I started working, really really hard, on fitting back into my clothes. It's more difficult than it used to be. Just eating well didn't do it. Just exercising hard didn't do it. I had to do both, and diligently.

Now I fit back in my clothes, and for the most part, I feel good.

As for my freckled Irish skin, well, I spent too much time without sunscreen in the Indian sun, and that's just a fact.

So back to this photo. I saw it and deleted it. And then I made myself stop and reevaluate. Not the photo. My response.

I decided I needed to change my internal narrative. Because the issue is not actually the size of this body part or that. The issue is my brain.

We swim often, and we wear bathing suits while we do so. And it's OK for me to post photos of myself in a bikini, no matter how old I might be now, no matter how much fitter I might have been back when.

My body has done some amazing things. My body is strong.

I do my best, most days. Regardless of how I look, or think I look, I am enough.

And this is my body.