A said something today that set me sputtering like a fire hydrant. He expresses the sentiment often, but most of the time my reaction simply festers, digging into that dark place in my heart, also home to my anger toward society at large and my longing to escape most of daily life as I know it.
They were innocent, responsible words: “Sweetheart, I won’t start chasing my dreams until you’re settled into yours.”
This response comes up at every possible turning point in our lives: our engagement, our wedding, job transitions, job applications, name changes, date nights, couch nights…you name it. And each time, it kills me a little inside.
Why? I didn’t realize until it came pouring out of me today. While A was outside digging our old, blind and poorly mobile neighbors’ (husband and wife) car out of the snow, I slammed around the dishes and violently folded the clothes while screaming to boomer “I’m not chasing my dreams. Going to school for a degree that will lead to I don’t know what is not my dream” And then I burst into more tears, if that’s possible, because I realized I have no real, concrete, chase-able dream.
Once my dream was to be a physics professor. And A kept preparing to sacrifice so I could do that (his job, his home, his comfort and friends and family.) But then I sacrificed that dream because more so, much more so, I wanted to build a life with him, not away from him. Then my dream was to be an orthopedic surgeon. And A was again willing to sacrifice, but I again backed out because even more than working with my hands for a big fat paycheck, I wanted to see our son grow. I wanted to be present for his miraculous, fleeting childhood.
Then I found biomedical engineering which, honestly, is fine. But it’s just that: fine. Not really a dream. It let’s us take care of the bean without relying on a stranger which is AWESOME and is the irreplaceable, priceless, central reason for our decision to do it. But it means I’m not making money, I’m not contributing, I’m not helping to create the environment A needs to set sail and fight for his dreams which are much more solid than my own. And for that I feel awful. The guilt which follows me around trips me up, knocks me down, makes me question the point of it all: this stupid degree, the great unknown which lies beyond, the audacity to want a job I like versus a job I tolerate.
And then, still venting to boom, I started railing against even being with someone, even being married to A, even being committed and all of those things that come along with building a life with someone else. And here: epiphany number one. These thoughts and tears I was airing to boomer echoed the very same doubts A had expressed to his best friend (not me) some time ago.
I was royally the worst: a snooper, fueled by the insatiable curiosity to know and understand every aspect of my newly minted husband. Armed with his password, I read his emails. I found one complaining of my blindness to mess, my idiocy when it came to doing simple chores, my unwillingness to engage his family or friends, his feeling of pure isolation and foreignness in his own house, and an admission that it was far easier, and he was happier, when he was alone.
I found this six months after we married. Still on my honeymoon high, the fall was bad and broke my heart in what felt like too many pieces to count. I licked my wounds for two good weeks before fessing up to my despicable snooping, trying to find an explanation for what felt like the ultimate betrayal, trying to comprehend how he could feel this way when I felt as though I gave up everything to be with him (the abandoned visions of physics and a tiny wedding and an escape to start a new life were fresh on my mind.) He explained. He forgave me. I forgave him. But the scars were new and tugged at my heartstrings, mostly because I still did not understand them. I could not comprehend their origins.
Not until today, when I realized their truth inside of me: sometimes A annoys me for the very person he is: stolid, reliable, utterly giving of himself. Just as I annoy him for the person I am: a disorganized daydreamer who is fiercely protective and stubbornly refuses to give the time of day to people she a) finds silly or b) perceives have wronged the ones she loves. And I too thought it would be much, much easier if I were just alone. And I too told my best friend (who happens to be a puppy.)
Why did I want to be alone? Because my dreams, once so simple, dependable, achievable, now lie in someone else. My dreams are not achievements, or careers, or livings; my dream is to live. It is to live in peace and freedom as a mom and a wife and a woman unplagued by worry or fear. Considering that one of the two things I worry about most is A’s happiness (the other is bean’s health and all it encompasses) and the thing I fear most is a zombie life with hours wasted just killing time, I know that I can only achieve my dream if A is not stalled in the chase for his. After assuring this base, I can move on to building my life and adding to it, chasing new dreams of my own.
It is so easy to live on an island. It is so hard to depend on someone else.
It is so easy to love boomer, always. She asks nothing of me.
It is so hard to love A sometimes. He asks everything of me: he asks me to be a better person, even when I don’t know how to be or who to be and even when he know that our definitions of “better” are wildly different.
I likely would be happier more often if I were on my own, or just with boom. But it would be a hollow kind of happiness. It would be a happy whose amplitude was limited by dearth of experience, muted by an absence of a demanding type of love. It would be the kind of happy painted on a dream that only required me to reach as high as a lamp-post; now I’m asked to reach for the stars.
And that is epiphany number two: my dreams are irrevocably entangled in A’s. They depend on his happiness, on his dreams. But because of the person he is, because of his very sweet, good, godly qualities of steadfastness, constancy and selflessness, he won’t give himself wholly to the pursuit of his happy life until he knows we are on solid footing. So we have to work together, and maybe it’s up to me now to work hard and quit waiting for A to work hard too. If A won’t jump with me, I can at least jump with the knowledge that he’ll soon follow (as long as I land well.) It’s not the way I want to do it, but what I want is not necessarily what I need.
What I know I need is A, and for this reason I’ll keep asking him to be my valentine tomorrow, and next year, and the year after that, and on and on and on.
He is my 100 days of happy, my 1000 days of happy, my lifetime of happy.