Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Dear Paul...

Babies with a lot to learn
~~

"You about ready?" he asked as I put the finishing touches on my lipstick.

"Yeah, give me a minute." I said with a bite.

We were going on a date for my birthday and I wasn't feeling particularly excited. Anxiousness and irritation ensconced my emotions as I tried to steer my thoughts to a calmer place. If it doesn't happen tonight, it's not the end of the world. You know it's coming at SOME point.

"Well, the reservation is for 7, so we should try and get going," he called from the living room.

I stared at myself in the mirror and felt the tears well up with worry. I tilted my head back and fanned them away so as not to smear my mascara. Because apparently we didn't have time for me to fix it! We have a reservation that HE made! Because I guess everything has to be on HIS timeline! Shhhhhh, calm down. It'll happen eventually.

I had become one of those waiting-around-to-be-proposed-to girls and I was pissed about it. So, of course I took that out on the responsible party. I swore I would never become one of those ultimatum nags I had seen around me for the past few years. No, my attitude about getting engaged/married was super laid back for most of our relationship. Paul and I had been together over 4 years and, during that time, we took it moment by moment without the pressure of a cliched timeline. That is, until I felt a bride itch about a year earlier.

"Are you okay?" he asked as we drove to the restaurant.

"I'm fine, I'm just hungry," I managed to squeeze out in a lighter tone. Not light enough since that was all I said on the 10 minute car ride and my silence was shouting volumes.

"Me too! It's gonna be gooo-ooood!" he said with a goofy smile.

His chipper mood only exacerbated my ire. But wait, perhaps he's upbeat because he has something planned? Normally this type of mood would deaden any inclination for him to be giddy. Stop, don't get your hopes up.

As we entered the restaurant, there was a bustle of activity with crowds of people waiting for tables and waiters darting around at the peak restaurant time. Paul told the hostess his name and said there was a reservation.

"Paul, party of 6, right?" she said as another hostess quickly pointed to something on the reservation book. I looked at Paul since I thought it was just going to be the two of us. His commitment to avoiding my eyes in that moment quickened the pace of my heart. Hmmmmmm.

"Oh, that's... a-noth-er Paul... right... Paul party of... 2, " the hostess pathetically recovered, "Right this way!"

Paul took my hand in his as we turned the corner and I saw my family sitting at a table in the back of the restaurant. It's finally going to happen. We're getting engaged!! And I've been a total bitch all night.

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Marriage is hard. I don't care who you are or how fairytale your romance may be, it takes constant work and attention. Back in my single days, I'd hear the "old" women in my office (ya know, in their thirties- GASP!) lament about their husbands, kids and all the woes of their lives. Drowning in  naïveté, I remember rolling my eyes and resigning those whiny women to a foreign realm the likes of which I would never be a citizen.

Fast forward a few years later and I'm fully entrenched in the highs and lows of marriage; learning a valuable lesson that you really never know how things are going to turn out until you take the proverbial "plunge." But this I can say for certain... I have never once regretted taking that plunge. Marriage is a never-ending intensive workshop where you are forced to examine parts of yourself that are super ugly, super awesome and everything in between. I've seen a lot of sides of myself during the last 11-ish years and whooo-boy am I lucky that I chose someone who puts up with it all.

Since starting this blog last October, I've looked into my own sacrifices and struggles, but in this post, I want to explore a different perspective: being married to me is not easy. It is something of which I'm continuously reminding myself, because it's so very important. Throughout this road-trip of matrimony, I've been the one who has caused the stops along the way and Paul has been my rock through it all... and many times when I didn't deserve it. This Valentine's Day, he needs to know why I'm so lucky to call him my husband.

No Sense of Direction
When we started dating, I was smack dab in my "should burden" stage of life where I really believed I could, I dunno, break some glass ceiling of the Merchandise Planning corporate hierarchy. We met at a music company in 2002, where he was a buyer and I had taken a position in data entry right after college. From what he saw, I was a goal-oriented career-woman who had her sights set high.

Shortly after we got married, the company went under since it was in the business of selling CDs. Remember those? Nope? Me neither. Anyway, in 2008 I found myself in limbo and not sure what I wanted to do. Paul, being sensible, had set up his next gig with his start-up music label while I thought I should "take time off" and figure out what I really wanted to do. This was before we had kids, it was just the two of us and I was thankful for the freedom to dive into my dreams. Only... the fear of pursuing those dreams hung heavy in me, so instead I fell into a deep rut the likes of which Paul had never seen.

For a year and a half, Paul stood by me and supported my aimless existence even though I know it frustrated him. I was in a dangerous spiral of sadness, feeling inadequate, shame, self-loathing, regret, hypochondria and it all manifested itself by transforming my usual positive self into an anxiety-ridden nightmare. If the circumstances had been reversed, I'm not sure I would have been so forgiving. What am I saying... I know I wouldn't have been so forgiving. Paul never judged me or belittled what I was going through... he simply carried me forward and gently guided me toward a path that worked for both of us.

Baby Mama Drama
We had our daughter while Paul was getting his EMBA from the University of Michigan. Smack dab in the middle of his program our daughter arrived and we were consumed by a love so deep it practically scared us. Starting a family while Paul was in such an intense program was not recommended, but I was already 31 and I was not going to put it off until the program was over. Nope, as Marisa Tomei taught us in her Oscar-winning performance in My Cousin Vinny, there's a biological clock that ticks pretty loudly in our ears after a certain point. Since Paul was working about 50 hours a week and then studying roughly 4,000 hours a week, we agreed that I'd take on the brunt of baby responsibilities until he graduated.

Stop... stop laughing. What? You mean that sounds unrealistic for our first experience as parents?? Um yeah, we found that out within the first month. It didn't help that Paul and I produced a kid who wasn't fond of sleeping... naps or through the night. Nope, if there was such a thing as "baby FOMO," our daughter invented it. Pretty sure her infant eyes watched most of the first season of The Walking Dead while I bounced her for hours like a zombie (JOKE!). Living on about 5 hours of broken sleep for 14 months straight took it's toll on me and our relationship. In Paul's eyes, he was just living up to the agreement we had made. In my eyes, well, they were bloodshot and unable to focus from being so painfully exhausted.

A few years later, our son was born. Aversion to sleep occurred again, replace EMBA program with consultant business travel, add colic, stress of living in a cramped apartment while our house was under construction, moving when he was 8 weeks old, caring for a toddler... and to top it all off, I was suffering from postpartum anxiety.

I felt like a totally different person after each of our children arrived. My attention was pigeon-holed on the kids and my self-sympathy, so you can imagine how much effort I was directing towards Paul's needs or what he was going through. In the haze of survival mode, Paul and I got into some intense arguments where he was genuinely trying to help me, but in that altered state, I saw those attempts as attacks. Oh, you want to start formula to calm our son's colic? That must mean you think my breast milk is bad for him!! You want your mom to come for a couple days to help me? Because you think I'm a terrible mother?! You want to take the kids so I can get out for an evening? Why, because YOU want me out of the house?!?! Sigh, he couldn't win.

Not once did Paul suggest I was doing a terrible job or criticized my level of stress. He offered help and no matter how much I fought him, he stood by and reminded me that our kids were lucky to have me as their mother. He must have been going through so much pain of his own, but he certainly didn't let that affect his unwavering support and love for his zombie wife.

They're Snaps
I need to learn to keep my big mouth shut sometimes. Especially when it comes to snapping at my family. Look, have I gotten better? Sure. Does it still happen? A lot. Will it ever go away? Doubt it. The thing with snapping at Paul is that he never returns fire. So yeah, I'm just the verbally aggressive spouse who cannot seem to keep her trap shut when he hasn't heard me for the 3rd time, or cannot find something that's in front of his face or gets confused about my schedule even though it's on a shared calendar. Even though, yes, these things are annoying, the gentle art of explaining rather than spewing an insult is rarely my path.

"It's not what you said, it's the way you said it." This line was joked about in a an episode of Friends where Joey was "becoming a woman" thanks to his hot roomie played by Elle McPherson. Well, that old chestnut is not exclusive to the ladies, believe me. I've got the acid tongue that stings while Paul will calmly clarify. Or, he just lets it go. Not all things need to be said... at least that's what I keep telling myself but usually after I've said the thing that didn't need to be said.

Our differences in temperament is something I wrote about in another post and it's, by far, the most frequent point of contention in our marriage. Paul often points out that he would never respond to something the way I do and "never speak to you that way." Ugh, it's a knife through the heart every time. I'm sure he'd find this hard to believe, but I swear I'm trying... really, I am. One day, I'll just repeat myself for the 7th time in a very calm and steady tone. What? No, I'm not getting annoyed just thinking about it. ;-)

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Dear Paul,

First, I love you.  I know in the doldrums of everyday routine I probably don't show or say that as much as I should, but please know that I'm completely draped in love for you... much like George Costanza draped in velvet, if it was socially acceptable.

Thank you for allowing me to be a witness to your life. When I think about those first few months of getting to know you to now, the sheer volume of things you've changed for the better is nothing short of inspiring. Not the least of which was your acceptance that you're a size Medium and not XXL. I'm surprised I could even find you in those shirts!

For every one annoying thing I point out about you, I'm sure there are 50 about me that you never mention. In fact, even when I try to suggest something I do is annoying to you, your response is usually to smile and say, "It's cute." Thanks for lying, Paul.

Your presence in my life has saved me numerous times. Saved me from myself, saved me from bad decisions, saved me from deep pain from my past and present. In life, we all make critical decisions where the course of our lives are forever changed. You're the best critical decision I've ever made.

You and I are similar in that we've always felt "other." I've seen you struggle with not being a "typical guy," and how that puts you on the outer rim of the social circles. You don't watch sports, drink beer, play golf or tout your masculinity as a badge of honor. Who the f*ck cares? Your passion and tireless quest to evolve as a human being is more attractive to me than any bro-dude could ever understand.

As you know, I'm a hypochondriac and tend to think I'm going to die about 5 times a year. Well, to go further down that bleak path, if I did die and you were to be the only parental presence in our kids' lives, I really couldn't think of a better example for them to follow. My god, they are so fortunate to have you as their dad I can hardly put it into words. Not a day goes by where I cannot see and feel your love for them... be it through a smile, a look or all-consuming snuggle.

Thank you, Paul. Thanks for sticking by me. Thanks for being in my corner. Thanks for coming to my improv shows and being my biggest fan. Thanks for believing in me. Thanks for your patience. Thank you for witnessing my life with pride. Thank you for never letting me forget your love for me. Thank you India. Thank you clarity. Thank you DISSS-ILLLUUSIONMEEEUUHHNNT. Oh wait, that's naked Alanis Morissette, sorry.

Happy Valentine's Day, Paul. xo

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