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.

City Girl In The Country

On this episode of City Girl In the Country, the Dunham Family built their mother a garden for Mother’s Day.  When I, Mother, arrived home and saw this (without the descriptive sign),

I thought perhaps husband had bought a tiger.  He lovingly described his intention, “You’ve always wanted a garden.  I thought it would be a great present.”  And it was.  The most thoughtful and ambitious one yet.  And yes, I’ve long held images of me preparing a wholesome organic dinner with fresh ingredients from a garden planted, cared for, and harvested by yours truly.  But dreams and reality are very different beasts.  What  do I, a vested city girl, know about gardening?

Stifling my panic and premature thoughts of failure, I smiled at husband through clenched teeth.  Poor thing, he looked so enthusiastic and optimistic.

He may have conveniently forgotten my history of city-girl-itis.  There was the time nature boy husband was away on business and I found the ugliest little animal swimming in our pool.  With its matted grey hair, absent eyes, and what appeared to be a ‘sucker’ for a nose, it resembled a mutated mouse.

Convinced that this unfortunate creature had been exposed to hazardous chemicals hidden in my yard, I  scooped it into a bucket and marched it to the bus stop for show and tell. A country neighbor – without the courtesy to stifle his amusement – set me straight, informing me that this mutation was, in fact, a common mole.  Scraping for self-respect, I argued that it didn’t look like any cute picture of a mole I’d seen in my childhood books.  And we most certainly did not see these in the city.  Hmph.

Then there’s the time husband took me to Maine for the first time.  We sat on a deck lined with red flowers.  A hummingbird (an exotic bird by city-girl standards) appeared from nowhere and stopped to suck nectar from the flowers.  I exclaimed, “Oh, look how cute!  She thinks the flowers are a hummingbird feeder!”

Several seconds of stunned silence followed when husband realized that his Summa Cum Laude wife was serious.  Gently and slowly, as if I might be having a stroke, husband asked, “Honey, which do you think came first?  Hummingbird feeders or  flowers?”  Recognizing my grave error, I chuckled nervously and left to make a sandwich.  You can take the girl out of the city, but….

It’s been several years since I’ve moved out of the city.  I now understand the difference between septic and sewer and why we have no well water when the electricity goes out.  (Which it does on a ridiculously predictable basis in the woods.) Yes, I’ve adjusted to the country  life.  But the city is in me.  Gardening is not.

I don’t think husband should have been shocked when he had to instruct me to cut the broccoli – which had grown without my help, by the way.  (I love a self-sufficient plant.)  When I argued that I couldn’t find a pair of scissors, husband retrieved the kitchen shears and said, “Use these.”  Too quickly I protested, “But those are for food.”  Husband shouted, “AND WHAT DO YOU THINK BROCCOLI IS?!”  Oops.

Husband carried on for a long while about city brains and packaged food and grocery stores and cold eggs.  Geez, it’s not like I’ve ever claimed to be Farmer Brown or anything.  Cut me some slack.

Out I went in search of broccoli.  And I returned, proudly, with this:

My very first crop.  (Pause for admiration.)

I held that broccoli high, like a trophy.  I couldn’t have been more proud if it had sprouted from my own ears.  I’ve incubated, birthed, and raised three children, but this…the growing of a vegetable…this is a miracle.

After admiring the broccoli as a centerpiece in the kitchen all day, I did eventually cook it.  Eight year old daughter deemed it ‘Not as good as store-bought.  But you’ll get there, Mom.’

Yes, darling, I think I will.  There’s hope for me yet.  Though I doubt the producers of this life of mine will be cancelling the longest-running sit-com in history any time soon.

Joy, Where Are You?

Joy, where are you?  You were right here a minute ago.  I turned to talk to the Complaint Family and when I looked back, you were gone.  I know your hiding places.  We’ve played this game before.  I’ll find you eventually.

Ah, there you are.  Why are you hiding?  You look scared.  Yes, the Complaint Family is loud, I agree.  They brought so many relatives to visit this time – Stress and Depression and Frustration.  Oh and Jealousy – haven’t seen her in a while.

They always seem to visit when I’m tired.  How can I turn them away when they show up at my doorstep?  No, I don’t love when they visit either, but they’re old friends.     Well, that’s true, you’ve known me for longer.  Yes, Joy, you were my first and only friend for a long time.  But I had to grow up and meet others.

Now, don’t do that.  No fair bringing up the teenage years when I abandoned you, Joy.  I didn’t know better.  I excluded you and I’m sorry for that.  I know you were hurt when I chose Depression as my new best friend.  It hurt me, too, to be without you.  I’m so glad you didn’t give up on me.

I’m still not perfect you know.  I get caught up with Stress sometimes, and Responsibility – they’re hard to handle.  Yes, you could help me deal with them.  Your presence would quiet them.  I should try to remember that.

Look, I promise I will pay more attention to you.  Now, will you come out from that hiding spot?  Come and give me a hug.  I love you, Joy.  I need you. What’s that?  On one condition?  You want me to invite Gratitude to live with us?  Sure, why not?  I like Gratitude.  She’s a good friend to you.  I notice that when Gratitude stays with us you seem strong.  And when she’s here, the Complaint Family doesn’t come around.  I think that’s a splendid idea, Joy.  We’ll invite Gratitude to live with us.

. . . . .

And so it was.  Gratitude moved in.  Joy grew stronger.  And we all lived happily ever after.  Sure, we’ve had visitors occasionally.  But the Complaint Family stopped coming around as much.  And when they did, they weren’t invited to stay.

…..

For more on my journey with gratitude go to http://www.yearofthankyous.com

Helen Keller Could See

A blind man walks into a restaurant.  The maitre d’ says, “I’m sorry sir, dogs are not allowed in the restaurant.”  The blind man defends, “This is my guide dog.”  The maitre d’ replies, “You expect me to believe that a chihuahua is a guide dog?”  To which the blind man exclaims, “What?!  They gave me a chihuahua as a guide dog?!”

This is my favorite joke.  My children tease that it’s the only one I can remember.  This is true, but really I love it because of what it implies about human nature, and about the gift we call vision.  It leaves me thinking that vision may not be the prize we think it is.

I’ve been myopic since sixth grade.  By the time I reached high school I needed to wear glasses full-time.  I despised my limited eyesight, feeling vulnerable to ridicule and dependent on a pair of plastic frames for survival.  So scared and angry was I at not being able to see everything at all times, that I cursed God and my body for my handicap.  The advent of contact lenses provided some relief from the struggle.  But when repetitive eye infections plagued me during my senior year, and I was forced to resurrect the large, thick glasses FOR MY PROM, the venom returned.

I’ve made some peace with limited vision since then and have come to appreciate the availability of corrective lenses.   At times, I can even laugh about the predicament of low vision.   Like the morning my glasses fell off the bedside table.  The folly of trying to find the thing that helps you see when you need that very thing to see, cracks me up.

Giving up the search, I stumbled to the bathroom, hands on walls for guidance, to begin my morning routine.  After rubbing the sleep from my eyes and washing my face, I looked up to the mirror to asses the night’s damage.   Instead of the middle-aged, bags-under-the-eyes, acne-prone woman who usually greets me, was a…well…beauty.  Before me stood a healthy, trim, glossy-skinned goddess.  I could hardly believe my blurry eyes.

With regret, the irony hit me.  Seeing poorly made me see well.  I recall a meditation instructor guiding his students to look at their faces from the inside out.  At the time, I didn’t get it.  But today, standing half-naked and partially blind in front of a mirror, I see myself for the first time from the inside.  And I am perfect.  The realization makes me cry.

I mentally flip through a list of misguided grievances that have accumulated over years of ‘seeing’ myself.    How unfairly harsh I’ve been on my human form.  How many beliefs about my worthiness do I possess that are based on false processing through my eyes? Wayne Dyer says, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change.” In the absence of detailed vision, I see the whole picture.

When my daughter was two years old, I scolded her for misbehaving.  Subsequently, I frowned at her.  She pointed her little finger at me and said, “No, Mommy.  Don’t see me that way!”  She’s right, of course.  I wasn’t just giving her ‘a look.’  I was judging her, seeing her in a way that reflected my unloving thoughts.  It’s the same disapproving look I’ve given myself in the mirror.

My thoughts drift to Helen Keller who said, “I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which to me is golden.  I can see a God-made world, not a man-made world.” After awakening to the limitations of my own intact senses, I conclude that perhaps blindness exists to an even greater degree in those who believe they can see.

I’m over forty years old now, which means my eyes are too.  After years of failing to see at a distance, they are deciding that, heck, they don’t need to see anything up close, either.  And it’s okay.  Seeing is overrated.

“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn whatever state I am in, therein, to be content.”  – Helen Keller.

%d bloggers like this: