Thursday, September 22, 2016

When being the Disturbed Hibernating Bear is a temporary departure from your constant Zen self

This being married thing is sometimes awfully tiresome, especially when you remember you signed up for a lifetime. Anyone in an intimate relationship lasting longer than five minutes knows this. Often the stress stems simply from the fact that you are a person apart from your so-called better half. There is no getting around this: you are two people with separate brains, each brain infused with muleheadedness. This, despite all the church talk about being one in God's eyes the moment you say your vows. Living with another person day in and day out is the litmus test for patience, altruism and self-awareness. How much does one put up with in the name of unconditional love? How much does one give up of one's preferences? Some days you cave just to keep the peace and some days you let the steam out and scream back. Boy, does that feel good. For about two minutes. The spouse is startled into the re-realization that you are quite capable of pushback.

You wonder how people stay married. You wonder why people even marry to begin with. Don't they know what it can be like? Do they think they're exempt? Are they convinced they're exceptional and able to float above the chaos? Didn't their mothers/girlfriends/sisters warn them? (And you acknowledge with some guilt that you are partly culpable in perpetuating the romantic myth of married bliss, due to those posts when you are at the moment quite adoring of your beloved, and those posts that never get written, a sin of omission if you will, when you are at the moment regretting having said "Yes" that many years ago.)

So let's talk about anniversaries—the announcements of such on social media, the resulting outpouring of congratulatory comments. Thirty years wed, you say? The higher the number, the more we are supposed to be impressed.  Some of us concede during these announcements that the journey hasn't been padded with rose petals. We are being kind, and that kindness comes out as vague references to bumps and snags. We like to think we are not sugarcoating or whitewashing, when in fact we are, but it is called not washing dirty linen in public. This is how we distinguish ourselves from the juveniles who trumpet every dissatisfaction and slight, and change their relationship status to "It's complicated" whenever the SO exhibits a pinprick of insensitivity.

Right about now you are looking for a redeeming factor amid the venting. Maybe if this were a post on Facebook you would be tempted to write "SMH." Maybe you want to, facetiously or sincerely, (either way, infuriatingly) suggest that one could use a glass of wine. And, if you are single, you might already, four paragraphs up, have concluded that you are better off.

I wrote all of the above about a month ago, when I was particularly peeved at the spouse about something I don't even recall now. I have long since simmered down, as I knew I would, and might have forgotten about the draft had I not come across Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person in The New York Times Sunday Review.

There can be no end to our sense of emptiness and incompleteness. But none of this is unusual or grounds for divorce. Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for.
In other words, you could be lonely as a singleton or despondent within marriage. Choose your poison. And doesn't that hold true in other areas of life? You could be exasperated as an employee or as an entrepreneur. You could be confused as a believer or as an atheist. You could be indignant as a conservative or as a liberal. You could be deprived of human rights as a citizen or as an undocumented immigrant. You could be exhausted as a dancer or as a couch potato.

The opposite is also true. You could be grateful for income as an employee or an entrepreneur. You could be devout as a believer or an atheist. You could be committed to justice no matter which party you vote for. And so on.

What have we learned here? What pithy summation can we formulate to put this post to bed? How about:

The circumstances may not have changed, but your perspective changes everything.

P.S. I'll paste my reply to Eugenie's comment, below, as I am unable to respond to it under her comment: Lovely seeing you here, Eugenie. Thank you for commenting. I felt so much better after getting all this down in writing and putting some distance between myself and my emotions. Yes, gratitude cancels out resentment.