Here’s to delightful surprises! May your lives be full of them.
A toast of good cheer I have made many times, sober or not, today I toast a special anniversary–mine.
I married my charming good friend 35 years ago. I loved him then, one of a couple of jackass kids we were back in 1980. Flippantly striding through college campus defying accepted authority and unearthing sacred ground, we were irreverently youthful. So when he asked me to marry him for a practical solution to an impractical problem of late registration and the French military, I did. After all, he was my good friend-sometimes lover. I did love him.
To this day I am unsure of the depth of our love–even if he loved me–to what degree or intensity. It did not matter. We galavanted through the crazy years together as a pair. And when my car blew up and my job went south, I moved in with him, only to move out nine years later and then move back in 6 years after that.
To our sometimes amazement, sometimes knowing nod, we have lasted this long together, through the soaring and sinking. To our surprise, we built and destroyed things together without destroying each other. To no one’s surprise, we have tried our best to be good friends, lovers, parents, children, siblings, friends and citizens of the local and larger world we inhabit.
Even more surprising than our lasting is our having met in the first place. What were the chances that we would meet at Golden West College in Mrs. Strauss’ World Literature class and start a conversation, me, who never initiated conversations with anyone, whispering that first opening line: “Where’re you from?”
I was an awkward, self-conscious, earth-shoe-wearing 18 year old poor student with visions of backpacking through Europe some day and a sucker for an accent, while he was a suave, self-assured, French-accented European of means with a late 70’s expensive shoulder-length haircut, collar-less shirt and American boorishness critique. We were caricatures of Romantics–righteous anger, cynical disdain and ironic amusement–back then.
When I married him, I was aware his eyes turned for delicate boned petite beauties with eyes the color of the sea set in sand-polished skin while I adored tall, dark-haired brown-skinned rugged bad boys who seldom smiled. I was a tall, clunky hippy, a brown-eyed brunette with freckles who hugged her knees into her chest while conversing in wild waves of gesticulating hands. He was fair-haired, small-framed metro with polite manners and a sense of decorum.
Somehow we found our meeting. Somehow we have survived the mountain of small frictions of daily living atop the chasm of disappointment, misunderstanding and alienation that one human being can produce in another. Steadiness steered us through the rocket ride up and back as it does now.
We share a steadiness, a vibration like the P wave of the electrocardiogram, where the spikes are measured against the dips to tell the story of a heart’s patterns and rhythm. Call it history, maturation, transcendence, or regeneration like severed nerve endings in the brain organically reaching out and reconnecting, we share a communal past and an ongoing present. We grew up together.
To my daily delight, we survive days that lapse into years. We co-exist, unconsciously in each other’s often silent presence puppeteering the motions and emotions of two people conducting a marriage, a family, and a life as we wander through moments, sometimes colliding, clashing and crashing, other times melding and mooring, uplifting upon the same softly rocking sea of a cul de sac world we look out to sitting on our lawn chairs in the sunny warmth bathing our suburban front porch.
There is peace in constancy. I am surprised to write that, me, whose constant throughout my kick-ass twenties and thirties was the belief that contentment was a fate worse than death, a killer of creativity and therefore life. Without the itch, the striving, I thought, there was only collapse into the hum of the daily, the numbing hum of contentment. But constancy is not always contentment.
The average, the mean and the median are constants, not so much as compromise but as perspective. The sum total of existence is the graph of heart palpitating thrills of victory measured against the torpor of stultifying loss. Quality of life, in retrospect, is calculated by that range of emotion, the depth of terror and rage against ecstasy and bliss. My husband-partner-mate and I have reached, stretched the limits together, and so have bonded, grown neurological tendrils of connections in the doing.
And we stumble over and with each other still, amazed that we awaken to yet another shared morning, that we grew two healthy, happy humans despite ourselves and manage to move through time and space as we do–mindlessly mindful of the beat that syncs us, he sometimes the high and me the low while other times he the wide and me the far. Wondrously, unexpectedly, we make it–together.
Happy Anniversary, to you who will not read this tribute to endurance. If you did, however, you would find in this lovely duet, a surprise akin to our own song. Cheers!