Monday, October 27, 2014

How To Revive Your Marraige. Not.

A bad case of indigestion woke me at 2:30 this morning.  Typically, when this happens, I prop myself up in bed, grab my computer and mindlessly surf the internet, waiting for things to settle down again so I can go back to sleep.  Last night, one of the things I read not only didn’t settle me down, I think it added fuel to the fire in my gut.

The headline read:  The Day I Realized I Was No Longer The Woman My Husband Wanted.  I don’t know why I clicked on it.  It is not the kind of story that I routinely have any interest in whatsoever.  Intestinal distress makes one do inexplicable things, I guess.  In fact, I knew the story would probably be stupid even before I went there, but something made me do it anyway.

And I was not disappointed.  The piece was written by a forty-year-old wife/mother/entrepreneur who, cleaning out a closet one day (I don’t know how she found time to indulge in THAT bit of housewifely drudgery), finds a box of love letters she wrote to her husband when they were courting.  Honestly, the letters were stupid, soppy and looked like something passed in high school study hall.

"Hello gorgeous, how's my darling, sexy, charming, romantic, thoughtful, loving man doing?"


Instead of wondering why she had never destroyed these ramblings of a lovesick adolescent, she goes all gooey and nostalgic, wondering whatever became of that “encouraging, always laughing, dancing, singing” girl her husband fell in love with.

I’ll tell you what happened to her, you twit!  She GREW UP!  She left her laughing, singing, dancing girlhood behind and got a life, like a responsible adult.

The author goes on to concoct a list of surefire ways to drag your relationship out of the toilet and give it back the spark of “newness” it obviously needs to keep your spouse interested in you.  Offer compliments!  Make it fun!”  In short, do everything you possibly can to show your spouse that your years together had turned you into a selfish-centered, exhausted harpy and you wish you were 21 again.  God forbid that growing up and growing old together should be satisfying enough to keep the relationship healthy. 

Now, I am not saying that adulthood is all work and no play, all seriousness and responsibility and no opportunity to break out of those restraints once in a while and just have a goofy good time.  If that were the case, I would never have signed up, myself.

But every woman I know who is in a long-term relationship knows that these relationships are not for the faint of heart.   Time is not always kind; it has some hard and some valuable lessons for us.  The tightrope we walk is this: We don’t let ourselves or our marriages become destroyed by these changes, but neither can we pretend that we are not changed.  We cannot, nor should we, set up our young, careless selves as the prototype--the model to which we must always return when things seem to go wrong.  We cannot concede that the maturing process has somehow “ruined” us.  We must acknowledge and value the changes, sand off some of the rough edges and cherish the changing shapes of our selves. We must be who we are NOW, and then figure out how to make a relationship between this person, and the changed and matured person to whom we are voluntarily bound, work.

Perhaps if I had not been primarily occupied with that exact task for most of the last four years, I would have looked a little more kindly upon this girl’s (she’s forty to my almost-sixty…yes, she’s a girl) regressively sexist, 1980’s Readers’ Digest-esque tutorial on How to Keep Your Man.

The opinion expressed in this essay not only disrespects the changes naturally wrought upon women by years on the planet, it disrespects the partners who, theoretically, have undergone their own changes as well.   I'm pretty sure men change with time, too.  The worthwhile ones do, anyway... I can't think that my husband would suddenly love me more if I became an exact copy of the twenty-year-old he met and fell in love with.  Seems like he'd be more likely to want to parent me than partner with me, should that change miraculously transpire.

All I can do is sigh (and grab the bottle of Tums) when I read an article like this one.  The writer really thinks she’s on to something.  But she needs another decade or two under her belt before she can presume to write a "how-to" for modern marriages.  Too bad she--and her publisher--haven't figured this out yet.               

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Not Loving Getting Old

When did we get old?

Wasn’t it only a few years ago that we all gathered around my parents’ kitchen table to talk about Dad’s heart attack?  And certainly it hasn’t been twenty years since I got that phone call at work from Mom—“I fell and I can’t get up!”  When did the ills that caused us to worry so about our parents, not so long ago, become OUR infirmities?

I have three brothers-in-law in their late sixties.  Honesty, I can hardly get my arms around the concept of my siblings being that age.  One BIL has already had a stroke and a heart attack.  The second has high blood pressure, diabetes, failing kidneys and two shot knees—one of which has already been replaced and is still shot.  BIL number 3 has peripheral arterial disease, can’t walk a block without the muscles in his legs relentlessly cramping due to lack of blood—which incidentally prevents him from being a candidate for a knee replacement, even though he cannot bend his left knee more than about 25%.  And he is about to go under the knife to have his carotids—70% to 90% blocked—roto-rootered.

When did we become our parents…and our children became us?

But our children are NOT us, are they? 

There are some days I wonder if my childlessness is going to be a liability.  Who will be there to watch after me, like we attended our parents as they aged?  Who will advocate for me through a health “care” system which was crumbling when my parents needed it, is a shambles now and only promises to get worse? 

But, then again, witnessing my sisters’ relationships with THEIR children, I’m pretty sure that dynamic doesn’t exist for them, either.  Our generation did not seem to comprehend that “parenting” was supposed to include preparing one’s progeny to take on the mantle of family responsibility when the older generation needed to hand it down.  Instead, our children are more likely to run far and fast into their own lives as soon as it looks like the old man and old lady might be a diminishing resource.  Witnessing this, I tend to adopt the opinion that perhaps I dodged a bullet when I chose to remain childless.  I don’t have anyone upon whom to project unrealistic expectations.  Best to know that as early as possible, I guess.

This moment of bewildered reality check was brought to me by a card we received on our anniversary last week.  It came from my late oldest sister’s husband—one of those above mentioned BIL’s.   It’s almost twenty years since my sister died, since BIL#2 faded out of the lives of the family of his wife. But not completely.  He never forgets a birthday or anniversary. For almost two decades, his missives have arrived like clockwork.  He’ll send pictures, newspaper articles about the latest wild animals to take up residence on his family’s farm in Michigan where he retired, ever-optimistic Green Bay Packer fan trivia…only, lately, his letters read more like medical reports. 

His last card:  “My health is not good…hole in right foot…swelling in calf and foot…doc says my kidneys are poor…managed to put a shoe on my right foot for the first time in ten months...blood sugar climbed to 350-390…  Haven’t seen the girls [my nieces] for over a year.  Boy, life can go to pot in a hurry…”

About ripped my heart right out of my chest.

This is not where we’re supposed to be!  We were supposed to stay young and vital for many more years.  Or, at the very least, step lightly into an active and comfortable old age.  There were supposed to be picnics, and camping trips, and train rides and ball games, and visits to the farm and Alaska and the Grand Canyon.  We were not supposed to be thinking about hospital beds and canes and blood thinners and insulin shots, heart attacks and clogged arteries…and children we never see.

Fortunately, there is one thing I know I will always have. 

I will always have my sisters.

Fifteen years ago, after Dad died, we went through such a rough patch that I could not have confidently made that statement.  It looked like we would never again be more than polite strangers who shared a childhood history.  But somehow—and it was hard…and it took time—we managed to reach out again and pull each other close, and tangle ourselves together inside this bubble of not-always-harmonious energy without which none of us would survive very long, I’m sure of it. 

I only wish the bubble was big enough to surround all the distant strays we love and long for.              

Monday, October 20, 2014

I'm Not The Only One Who Thinks That CFL Light Bulbs SUCK

Once again, I glean rant-fodder from my Facebook news feed...

A friend posted a link to a blog post that I have been longing to write.  SHOULD have written a year ago, in fact.

Dear CFL Manufacturers:  You Suck

OMG I am SO on board with this.

CFL's are a HUGE racket. They cost a mint and DO NOT last any longer than regular bulbs.  The light they provide is hideous--how much do I love looking like a corpse when I look in my bathroom mirror in the morning?  And this crap about how they take forever to actually GO ON when you flip the switch--what is UP with that?

I finally went around my entire house, took out all the crappy CFL's and replaced them with good ole fashioned light bulbs.  But, of course, I can't just throw the f**kers away...I have to take them to the dump to be disposed of as hazardous waste.

So now, incandescent bulbs are being "phased out."  By law.  How does that happen?  I can guarantee you, it had little or nothing to do with saving the environment.  Someone who had a lot of money sunk into the development and sale of CFL's made sure that, at some point, the purchase of their product would be if not required by law, at the very least strongly promoted by it.

American consumers are at the mercy of speculators who bombard the public with imperfect technology, LIE about it ("You will NEVER have to change these bulbs! You will save hundreds of $$$ on electric bills!") and then throw a bunch of money into legislation to guarantee that their gamble pays (them) off.

I don't know about anyone else, but I am sick of this bullshit...