Vacation: All I Ever Wanted

IMG_4122Josh and I just got back from six days of vacation together, without the kids. We perfected the amazing and lost art of doing nothing. We lolled on the beach with our books, drank fruity drinks and took our time at the breakfast buffet. We sailed, we parasailed, we snorkeled. We actually talked to one another and no one interrupted us. Sometimes, we didn’t talk much and that was good too. We felt happy, relaxed, full, sexy, smart and witty. In a way, we rediscovered our marriage.

When we fell in love and I started thinking romantic thoughts like “This is the person I want to be with for the rest of my life,” I didn’t necessarily know to qualify that statement with, “as long as it’s just us.” That’s because, in those magical sweep-you-off-your-feet moments, minutes and months, I only knew how awesome we were as a couple and I couldn’t really conceive of how that might change when our twosome morphed into a threesome, foursome and then finally a fivesome.

So we got married. That glittering thread of love spinning between us grew, connecting us, wrapping us up with each other. We were tethered together and the line was strong and taut but still soft as silk. We gave each other space and the line let out just enough, but the distance between us was still a manageable hop, skip and a jump into each others arms.

Then, BAM! We had kids and suddenly that line seemed to stretch across miles, canyons, continents. It had to hold, one, then two, now three little beings. Over the years it’s started to sag and fray a little. The two of us work valiantly from opposite ends to keep our precious darlings safe and sound all the while juggling commutes and carpools, work conferences and teacher conferences, school lunches and client dinners. Now and then, in the midst of the insanity, one of us might look out across the distance, over the tumbling toddler, her curls bouncing, the skipping 8-year-old with her neon green retainer, the cartwheeling 11-year-old blinking madly over her new contacts, trying to catch the other’s eye. But it’s tough to connect when often we’re spiraling away in our own little orbits of stress and exhaustion, desperate just to gather ourselves rather than seek out each other.

Those six days reminded me that Josh and I are good together. The thread between us is still there and when it’s just the two of us, we can allow the other to be themselves. That’s both good news and bad. On the one hand, it means that we made the right decision when we married, that we really do love each other at the core, and that’s worth a lot. I fully believe that once the kids are grown and out of the house, we’re gonna have the time of our lives together. On the other hand, the here-and-now side of things, we have three kids to raise and the truth is, we often have a hard time seeing beyond them so we can behold each other.

Here’s what I know: you can’t work on loving someone — either you do or you don’t — but you can work on connecting with the someone you love, no matter how stressful life gets or how many kids you have. I’m going to work more on connecting, despite those darn kids and the lack of a tropical beach setting. Don’t worry, I’ll set reasonable expectations for myself — there’s only so much I can do without sand, sea and sun, abundant cocktails that make me think I should wear a bikini 24/7 and three adorable but needy, loquacious, squabbling offspring.

There’s one last reason why I think we have a good shot at this thing called marriage: Just before Josh proposed to me 14 years ago while on our first beach vacation together, we saw a rainbow and he took it as a divine sign. We saw three rainbows this time. I like to think we saw one for each of our girls. I know it’s kind of cheesy, but if that’s not a sign we’re meant to be, in all of our grace, gusto, bluster and beauty, then I don’t know what is.

Things Are Going to Start Happening to Me Now

the-jerk-steve-martin-bernadette-peters-1979_i-G-67-6722-2LUA100ZI realize that my last post did not cast my husband Josh in such a great light. A few things about that:

1. It was not my intention to make him look like a jerk, although I did make him look like a jerk.

2. Guess what? I too have been a jerk during the past 13 years of our marriage. I just haven’t written about it publicly. Now that I’ve started this blog, that’s all about to change. In the immortal words of the ultimate jerk: “Things are going to start happening to me now.”

3. It’s often with the ones we love the most that we let our fears get the better of us. We just need to learn to trust the love over the fear. That was really the point of the post.

4. Josh and I still love each other. In fact, we’re going to Hawaii next week, just us, no kids. I expect there will be some sailing.

5. Lastly, Josh read the piece before I published it and while he didn’t exactly relish the idea of me hanging our dirty laundry out for everyone to see, he was supportive of my need to do so, from my perspective, in my words. Gotta love the guy for that. And I do.

In Sickness and In Health. Except If I’m Sailing.

It starts Sunday mid-morning with a mild queasy stomach ache thingy. By 2 p.m., I have to lie down; my 9 p.m. I’m alternately hanging my head and then my butt over the toilet all night long.

By dawn I’m exhausted and the stomach bug is as unrelenting as it was 8 hours earlier — fever, chills, body aches, head ache, fever, cramps, gas, vomit, diarrhea. The day looms large ahead of me: A scheduled Oakland City workers’ strike means my big girls won’t have camp that day. Which means I’ll have all three home, all day, while I puke and poop my guts out. I cry some more.

At 5:56 a.m. I look over at Josh who’s also awake and also probably didn’t get much sleep. Then I remember that it’s his first day of a sailing course he’s signed up for. He took his first sailing course two years ago when I was 39 weeks pregnant with Lilah. Turns out the timing of this next round is just as sucky.

“I know it’s your first day of sailing class, but I can’t stay here on my own. I’m really, really sick,” I moan.

Silence. Maybe he didn’t quite hear me? Or maybe he’s still waking up? Then I realize I’m not going to hear what I need to hear, which is:

“Oh, honey. I’m so sorry. I know you had a rough night. Of course I’ll stay home if we can’t find a sitter for this morning.” Sympathetic eyes, hand squeeze. “Can I get you anything? Do you want me to call the doctor?”

Instead he says:

“I’m sorry you don’t feel well, but I can’t miss my first class otherwise I won’t complete the course this week and there’s no other time for me to do it and I don’t even know if they give refunds.” I think I just threw up a little in my mouth. No, really.

I’m so mad and so hurt I don’t know what to say. Plus I’m crazy dizzy and dehydrated and crampy. The next hour or so is a blur. Josh manages to get our neighbor over in the morning to play with Lilah until the nanny comes and a friend to take Ella and Ruby to a water park for the day. The kids are covered.

But that’s not the point. I have the whole rest of the day as I fade in and out of feverish consciousness to mull over the point. And the point is, he should have offered to stay home. That night, with me doped up on Imodium and NyQuil, we have a big blowout. We get to the crux of the thing when I say:

“I just wanted you to say you’d stay home and take care of me!”

And he says:

“Well, I didn’t realize how sick you were and I didn’t want to give up the sailing.”

We calm down. He sits on the edge of the bed; I sit on the toilet. I’m still startled that after almost 13 years of marriage we can end up in our own little Corners of Despair. Him worried about taking time for himself; me anxious that I’m totally on my own when he does. Big sigh.

Here’s the upshot: I wanted him to take the opportunity to be the kind, sweet man I know he can be and offer to take care of me. Then I’d have had the opportunity be grateful and let him know that of course I want him to go sailing; I just need to know that when I need him, I’m the priority.

Five days later I’m still sick, Josh has apologized a couple of times and I’m coming around.

Marriage. Does it ever become a no-brainer?

Note: After reading this post, a friend of mine said, “It’s so easy to forget how separate we remain from the people we most love, trust, and treasure.” So true.