So, with August 17th looming in front of me, staring me in the face like the combination of a dreaded dentist appointment (painful, yes, but a certain end to a lingering problem. And f’ing expensive) and spending three hours cleaning out closets (loved it once, don’t need it any more), I find myself going back to the ol’ marriage evaluation thing. I actually didn’t go there for quite some time. I guess I figured that I’d spent enough time doing that and now I needed to get into moving on mode. But here, in the 11th hour, it sneaks up on me unbidden and unwelcomed. But sneaks up it does, and it immediately lodges itself into some of my brain real estate.
For some reason, this morning, as I was pouring myself a cup of coffee (I’m still trying to get the dogs to do that, but they’re just not getting it. I think it’s the whole “1 packet Sweet’N Low, 5 drops Stevia, a little fat free half-n-half” regimen) I had an image of Mr. Ex and me using the Cusinart early in our marriage to chop vegetables. That was really early in our marriage, because it didn’t take long to figure out that vegetable chopping was way easier with an, um, knife, but the Cusinart was a wedding gift and we were going to use it, damnit. By the way, I still have the Cusinart, so it’s one more thing that lasted longer than my marriage. But I digress.
I remember it well, for some reason. We were putting cucumbers into the Cusinart, and Mr. Ex pretended that he was the vegetable, and started screaming something like “no, don’t do it.”
I also remember laughing like that was the funniest thing I’d ever heard. Seriously? Was I high?
You know how sometimes you see parts of your life like they’re scenes from a movie? Well, that was how I saw that scene. I saw us, young (and I mean young – my youngest is several years older than I was at the time), learning to be a married couple together. I saw us playing in the kitchen (stop that – get your mind out of the gutter. I mean playing, like with kitchen appliances). We were barely adults, playing at being married. And it was fun. Like playing house. And I remember being happy.
Happy. What on earth does that mean? I went to the doctor yesterday to refill a certain anti-depressant that I started in September the week that Mr. Ex moved out. The doctor was actually looking to see if he should up the dosage, and asked me if I was happy. Now, I’m not generally a person who gets stumped, but I just couldn’t answer that question.
I don’t know.
I think I’m content.
But happy – meh, not so sure.
More importantly, I didn’t think I could really remember what happy feels like.
But, looking back at the cucumber murder scene in the kitchen (and, by the way, it’s WAAAAY easier and less messy to slice cucumbers with a knife), I distinctly remember happy. Happy that we were cooking together, compatible, enjoying each other’s company. Happy in the moment.
Ah – there’s the rub. Happy in the moment. Like a child is happy with a new toy, until it falls under the couch and is then forgotten. Like an teenage girl with a new shirt, until the newest style comes out. Fleeting happiness.
At some point during the marriage, happy in the moment ceased to be enough. I wanted more. I wanted security. I needed security like a baby needs a swaddling blanket. I wanted respect. Not just the polite respect of conversation – “please pass the salt,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome” – but the deep down, unspoken respect shown by a husband taking care of things, being a partner, caring enough to put aside his own momentary happiness aside and get down to the business of being a responsible adult, husband and father. And doing it without nagging and constant reminders.
And as I realized that just being happy in the moment wasn’t enough, I became anxious. I became a worrier. And, somewhere, security became so elusive that it turned into my Holy Grail. Like Indiana Jones I dodged bullets, changed courses and avoided certain death. But I never got there. Oh, in the beginning it would look like it was there. I could see it. I was still an optimist and would believe that it was in my grasp. But the music would change, the pacing would speed up, and . . . it would be gone.
So now I don’t have any of it. I can’t remember happy and I don’t have security. I imagine it’s unlikely that I’ll never really have security. Seriously. I’m too old to amass the kind of retirement security the “experts” keep telling me I need, and, in the current economy, I just can’t see I’ll ever get there. I’m guessing that my standard of living in retirement will be lower than it is now, which is an accurate expectation for my generation. So I guess it’s a future as a Wal-Mart cart person for me. Oh well. Whatever.
But happy – that’s probably a more realistic goal. I can still get there, I suppose. And, unfortunately, I’m truly convinced that it requires the demise of my 30-year marriage. What a shame. What a waste. What a loss – really.