Saturday, February 13, 2016

How We've Stayed Married 31 years, 8 months, 18 days (so far)

1982 (I think)
I remember when I got married my brother had already celebrated his 10th anniversary and I thought, “Oh my God, they are soooo old.”  And here I am heading towards a 32nd anniversary in May.  Married much longer than I lived at home.  I hope someday to look back at year 32 and think “We were only half-way there.  Such innocents!”

With Valentine’s Day tomorrow, my blog brain has been wanting to touch on ‘Secret to a happy marriage’.  Except happy is such a namby pamby word.  Secret to a long marriage?  Secret to a lasting marriage? 

First, the individuals are what make the difference.   Obviously they have to be strong, caring and respect one another.  

Second, is expectations. If we both had super high expectations, all the time, expecting perfect meals, no gray hairs, constant fun, constant loving attitudes, constant agreement, we would have given up long ago.  The two individuals have to recognize imperfections as valuable, and just, not mind.  Get over it.  In my younger years I minded a lot more that my life wasn't like the pictures in my Goodhousekeeping magazine.  Let it go.  

Third, agree to disagree. If we had to have constant agreement we wouldn’t have gotten married.  We are as different as two people can be in politics, activity level, television show selection, hobbies, you name it.  We rarely agree  and when we do we both pull our heads back and look at each other in amazement.  But we figured out long ago that it is OK to not agree on stuff.  It is ok.  My kids would tell you we argue about everything.  I’m sure life would be easier if we didn’t.  But we have learned over the years, how to not agree. 

This post could be ten times as long if I was to mention everything that makes our marriage work.  We’ve been in counseling,  done the requisite date nights, certainly have weathered ups and downs and don’t expect those to end. And though we do have fun, love each other, and I do cover my grays lol, these things aren’t the key element.

When I narrow my thinking down to the one thing I would say has kept us rolling merrily along, it is very simple: Doing something nice for your spouse when they aren’t expecting it.  Yes there are beard hairs in the sink that gross me out, yes he ate the last piece of fried chicken, yes he just made a crack about my reading too much.  But then he brings me a cup of coffee (after making it, with whole beans) without making a big deal of it, or he insists on a hug when I'm mad, or he scrapes the snow off my car in the parking lot at work and warms it up without telling me.  Maybe I take the dog out when it is his turn, or my willingness to offer to rub his shoulders, because I know they hurt, even though I still feel grumpy.   It isn’t big stuff that is the glue.  It is the simple things that make you feel worthy.  Makes you feel like this person, unlike most of the cold hard world, is looking out for you. They are looking out for you even though they don't have to.  And when they surprise you with kindness, all the crap that is in your craw evaporates, and you move on for another few days, feeling pretty good.  Those days turn into years.  Perhaps that isn’t the romantic ending you were expecting, but if you need this information, it is what I have to offer.  In my marriage, it is being surprised by kindnesses that give our relationship life.


Sunday, February 07, 2016

Love Letter to The Library

The library is like that life-long friend, who no matter how many years it has been since you've seen them, you feel right at home the minute you walk in.

You know if you are in a strange town you can go to the library and feel at home.  There are only a handful of things to figure out and clearly marked signs to help you. Where are the newspapers? Where are the new releases?  In five minutes you have the lay of the land.  You can pick a seat and observe humanity and think 'I bet Charlotte Bronte is right over there in the Bo-Ce aisle'.

You can wander through the children's section and probably see bright colors, a fish tank, and shorter book shelves.  And if you look for Boxcar children, they will be there.  Some places, like some friends, are safe places.
If you were a small-minded person like me, you could quickly judge the town you are in. Magazines: Do they have 'Writer's Digest'?  If not, backwater.

Class-neutral.  I was recently at the Oak Park, IL library for a length of time and I saw such liveliness. Hipster families of three in their matching Northface coats, skinny jeans and black frame glasses. Sweat-shirted group of possible gin-rummy players with badly died hair, 20-something Asian girl in a tailored red wool coat. A young mother, her five-year-old daughter in twenty-year-old Little Mermaid boots.  Coughing older gentleman in parking deck attendant uniform. Vogue Model look-alikes who were speaking a Russian-ish language. Three young boys with a curly-red-haired grandma, all of them frowning but rushing purposefully to hit the elevator button first.   

None of them looked frazzled, confused, or lost.  

My therapist (used to have one, currently I just imagine what she would say) would say I love the library because it was the one place my father told me from about the age of six that if I asked him to take me there, he'd never say 'No'.  He probably regretted that promise more than once, after a long day at work, coming home in our only vehicle, and being greeted by 'Can you take me to the library, Daddy?'  This original Carnegie library is so old I could only find a sketch of it online:

My sixth grade self would tell you my stack of books that never ran out, that one summer of Pringles and pale legs in our silent living room, it cemented our friendship.  This newer building was built around the time I was ten... (the 70's)

The Milner library in my college years -- I wasn't much for studying there, I preferred to be in my uncomfortable dorm bed for that, but I liked to go there, smell the books, listen to the murmurs, write my boyfriend long letters, and generally experience a bit of safety. Staidness. 

There was the day in the Winfield Public Library when I was still pregnant with my first that I discovered the non-fiction section on 'How to be a Writer' and the universe aligned.  Within a few days of reading everything their meager selection offered in this section of the Dewey decimal system,  I realized at the old age of 24 I had missed my calling, already gainfully employed in the computer industry. 

There was the St. Charles Public library where I was a storytime mommy and me virgin.  And then the reunion when I moved back to my home town and renewed my relationship with that building, mostly taking preschoolers to storytime and occasionally sneaking over to the adult side, new releases only because they were within hearing distance of the kids section, to find something to read. Four sweet words. This is also the era (90's?) when I discovered the library could keep me regular.  Gastro-intestinally speaking. A mystery for a smarter person than me to solve. 

Generally people think the library is old school.  It is not. It is the original solution to short attention spans.  If someone invented the concept today they'd be billionaires.

I go there to write. 
And listen.
And get audio books for long trips, watch violin quartets, visit the book sale room, visit old (books I have known) friends, find out about local events on the community bulletin board.  Shots taken at my hometown library recently...

I view artwork exhibits, listen to community speakers, attend reading groups. I've seen my niece's American Girl Collection on display. I've figured out who lived in my current house in 1898, 1908...  I've searched paper college catalogs when I was thinking about where to go to college.  I've met people who became good friends (Leslie).  Have I mentioned its free?
I strongly believe the library has a place in our futures just like in our pasts. And as long as I live, I will feel at home there, no matter what city, no matter what age.  Libraries are a good familiar.  As much as I love change, I also love a good familiar