Monday, October 22, 2012


Sometimes it’s a dangerous thing to be away from the internet.  Trying to alleviate the boredom of a drippy day on vacation, I dove into my archived journal drafts.  I spied a file called “Matt letter [1].”  Oh my…these are never good.  I don’t know why I save them.  I only write my husband letters when we are at the stage of impasse where full frontal communication has been rendered impossible.  So, of course I had to open the document and read it.  Nothing like scratching open a nearly-healed scar and rubbing salt in the wound…  
But it gave me an opportunity to assess the progress we have made (or not) since I wrote that letter last July.  Honestly, back then, I was still trying to figure out whether I should stay or go.  The only time we had peace was when we stayed away from each other.  It was plain to me that he was going to be no part of the healing I so desperately needed at the time, and that our relationship itself needed healing, something upon which I was in no condition to focus. 
Eventually, I came to understand that the only thing I could change in this whole mess, the only thing I could heal, was myself.  In retrospect, I’d pronounce it a blessing that I had neither the strength nor the will to try to fix our marriage.  It’s probably why we are still together today.  Two years ago, I gave my husband the gift of choosing our marriage over continuing with the café—though it was not consciously intended as an anniversary gift, and I would not have been certain it had any value, at the time.  Absent that choice, we would never have made it to the 36 years we celebrated last Tuesday.    
Still, I know my marriage is not what I would have it be…what I believed it was, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, for many years.  As surely as I know that the peace we enjoy today was bought with my capitulation.  As the years piled up and we, along with our partnership, lost the freshness of youth, I stuck to the conviction that I was married to my best friend; that sole fact would outlast and outshine the cooling passions and yawning distances of a love gone mundane.   The pressures of joint entrepreneurship proved even that conviction a misapprehension; because when the shit hit the fan, it turned out we were anything but best friends.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  
So I’ve spent the past year trying to figure out my own life, attempting to jury-rig  what was left of me after the café debacle back into some kind of functional, tolerable human being.  I haven’t been altogether successful.  I still have no idea what I am, but I know what I am not:  I am not an exhausted, overwrought ball of kinetic insanity.  Not anymore.  And that counts for something.  It counts for everything, in fact, when it comes to my marriage.  That person drove my marriage to the brink.  The husband had no tolerance for her at all.  He wasted not an ounce of understanding, patience or pity on her.  He scraped her off and kept as far away from her as he could possibly get and still qualify for the dual titles of “life-partner” and “business partner.”
To put it bluntly, I acted like an ass, and so did he.  But I’ve learned something about “unconditional love.”  Mainly, that it’s a crock.  So many chapters in my life—most recently this journey with the husband—have proven to me that love does indeed have conditions.  That it is not possible to have love for someone—or give love to someone—no matter what they do.  “Love” requires a person to act in a certain way; when one steps outside of those bounds, love goes away.  Or at least, it changes into something that is no longer love.  That has been my experience.   
I now understand that in order to secure my husband’s love—or at least maintain the amiable state of co-existence which we now enjoy—I have to BE a certain person.  A person who is not necessarily who I am right now; a person I suspect I have never been.  It isn’t necessarily who I am NOT, either…I really don’t know.  But I’m not being given the luxury of a choice. 
There are times when the old wounds produce waves of phantom pain, like the ache of an amputated appendage, which usually manifests as a burst of unreasonable anger ignited by some insignificant catalyst.  (I’m shocked by how much anger I still have, and how close beneath the surface it lies.)  And if the husband happens to be within my airspace during one of these episodes, he meets it with an ice bath of cold, haughty meanness—his go-to weapon of our café years.  Proving that there has been neither forgiveness nor forgetfulness on his part…any more, it seems, than there has been on mine.  If I do not want to challenge the status quo, I need to make every attempt to pilot my little boat on an even keel.  I have chosen to do that, as much as it is humanly possible for me to do so; because I don’t want to fight anymore. 
So we live peacefully, most of the time.  We get along as long as I mind my p’s and q’s.  We even enjoy each other’s company.  Which is a far cry from where we were not long ago.  I should be happy.  Content.  And I am.
Most of the time.    

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