Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Priority { Scenes From A Marriage }

When anxiety comes and winds around me like a python, an old and powerful fix is to draw my children close. The most potent antidote, having all four of them under the same roof, here at home with me, where for a moment in time I can pretend that nothing can hurt us, that life is safe, that we are all safe; the python unwinds, I can breathe, I can press their chests close to me and kiss their cheeks and call them the nicknames and pry the phones from their hands after they've fallen asleep and I am fortified. And now Dakota is moved out and is hours away, and Lola is down the roads at my mothers, and Ian is at his other home, and the only child I can claim and hold is Ever, asleep in my bed, her mouth still red and blossomed from nursing.

I bought a children's book years ago by Maya Angelou called Life Doesn't Frighten Me and hoped that by osmosis my children could absorb more of that courage, that hutzpah, that gorgeous vitality. Today I am drained and old as only fear can age. Ever fell on her head and the image of her lifeless body flashed through my mind. I slipped a half step on our stairs and saw myself dead at the bottom, like a Dallas cast-off from the 80's. I replayed a message from Mr. Curry and the sound of his voice triggered a deep and violent bell, warning of our mortality and the cruel and unfathomable nature of death. I watched women moving on television, their eyes flashing with purpose and energy, their hairlines pulled to a glossy seal, their eye makeup sharp and black as ink, their clothing simple and fitted, and I wondered if I would ever face the world again so composed, so energized, so sure of my place and purpose and worth. As the mother of a two year old nursling, I feel important and simultaneously invisible: a stand in- Maggie as ' The Breast ', Maggie as ' The Wife Making Mr. Curry's Lunch ' Maggie as ' The Supportive Mother Over the Phone ', Maggie as ' The Back Scratcher ' Maggie as ' The Smile and Head Nod ' Maggie as ' The Tired One In the Kitchen ' -- 


My husband works an exhausting job that he rises before light to attend to, showering in half darkness and steam lit by florescence. He comes home and plays with the baby, swings our older daughter around a few times, sometimes he makes dinner, takes out the trash, watches the kids while I write. He hugs me, tells me I'm beautiful now and again. And every now and again we have a night of pure and complete crazy ass passion, the last in the darkness of our hallway when all the children but the smallest were gone, and the intimacy was as pure and honest and real as the fingers on my hand. We have a friendship that is the best of my life, an unreliable but exceptional sex life, a deep love. And -- I want more. I want to be adored and held when I am sad. I want to be understood when I can't explain. I want to be heard when I can't find the words. I want to be a priority- THE priority- sometime. Not when it's convenient, but when it's necessary, for me.

Myself as the stand in wants my real self to be unzipped from the bag, taken out and seen, as a woman with needs beyond children, house, schedule, my husband's moods or work problems, my family, my job- even sex. 

So tonite we had the night alone with Ever and my mood was blue and my heart was sore and Mr. Curry, recovering from being ill all weekend, exhausted from his job, was just a regular guy who wanted to eat dinner, and that wasn't enough for me. I wanted to be the priority. So the night ended with sore feelings and frustration, and we went to bed separately. 

As the years go by in our marriage, fighting has become more difficult. Not the mode of fighting- we actually fight more cleanly now- but the real problem can be obscured, the stories conflict, the memories are two and not the same, the argument is less linear and wants to wind like that python around our necks until we are both confused and angry, neither feeling heard. Keeping the argument about what the argument is actually about is harder every year, as more history builds and inevitably there is more detritus left in the road.  That almost unbearably sweet adoration of falling in love isn't present every moment anymore, definitely not when we argue, and the empathy that must take its place is hard to find when we are both feeling distracted, which is almost all the time. It's exhausting work when the long road of it lands on your shoulders, as it is prone to do occasionally. At times the work of marriage is infuriating. I want to move the mountain of everything and just be loved.

You aren't supposed to weigh the categories of a marriage: who says I'm sorry more often? First? Who does more chores? Who gives more back rubs and head scratches? Who puts aside their frustrations more to be there for the other? Who sacrifices sleep or work or other people more for their wife or husband? But I do. I do. And sometimes, when the scales feel weighted, I get a horrible, horrible feeling that the world MARTYR might be starting to glow from my forehead, like a scar from He Who Cannot Be Named. And that makes me feel angry, and being angry makes me feel desperate, and feeling desperate makes me sad, and feeling sad makes me cry, and crying makes me feel alone and frustrated and cold. This is how women freeze. My kind, we do it slowly, with blue steel inside. So to thaw, I force myself to remember three great things my husband has done, three loving things, and if I can't think of any recent ones, I get a stomach ache. 

Signing off One Glass of Champagne at 11:37pm, 

your dutiful reporter of honesty and marriage, 

in good times and bad,
maggie may ethridge

if i can't think of one, a standby is always that he accepts that i write these kinds of posts with the utmost grace and unselfishness. 
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