Wending Our way Forward
I have this recurring conversation with my dear husband — God bless his soul. It roughly goes like this:
Setting: it’s been days of sort of just living, keeping up, treading water.
“I know you love me, but do you still like me?” (Sub-text, where’s our spark??)
“Of course! Don’t be ridiculous.” (Sub-text, I’m bracing for the coming 3-hour conversation.)
What follows is a variation of a theme. I innumerate the ways I feel less interesting and spontaneous and cool than when we started dating, which clearly point to my deficiencies in keeping our spark alight. Mike offers a mix of reassurances and reasons why we aren’t who we used to be, so not to fret. He also insists he’s clearly a poor communicator, because why else would we be having this conversation again…and…again?
Our latest installment of throwing our relationship under the microscope was a doozy. On the other side, I’m trying to be more confident and simultaneously less complicated.
Confidence. The wash of the daily, weekly, monthly routine can erode a lot of things. In the comfort of a routine, especially welcoming with two small humans to manage, your ability to be spontaneous is eroded. As a couple task-masters keeping tabs on all the threads —work schedules, dentist and doctor appointments, vet visits, grocery shopping and meal planning (oh! and cooking said meals so you can sit around the dinner table at the same time), karate schedules, appropriate and equal school-room presence between the boys, laundry (good GOD the laundry!), extended family connective tissue, Mike’s running schedule, personal yoga practice — our ability to see the joy in the current thing is eroded by the next thing. As an eternal critiquer of self and situations involving self, my focus on how things went not-as-expected erodes my confidence. It has a cumulative effect.
Uncomplicated. As parents, we have collectively decided not to over-complicate our boys’ schedules. We have a one-activity-at-a-time guideline that we try very hard to stick to. You wanna do karate? Awesome! Now soccer seems interesting? That’s cool, let’s hit the pause button on karate and reassess after the soccer season. We want to leave space for them to come home and not feel so overwhelmed by the day’s activities that they have no energy to go outside or into their room and play, imagine, experiment, wallop one another in Super Smash Bros., veg. But as a couple our schedules fill and pull us in different directions; we allow other things to usurp our time and energy, and I let them pile up between us like little stones. Mike knows that personal interests are important to maintain individuality, and occasionally he convinces me that it’s even good for me! But how he comes back to us is in an uncomplicated, relaxed, re-energized way while I welcome him back with a litany of what went awry while he was out. Not cool! I should meet his uncomplicated re-entry with a mirrored, breezy approach.
I think one of the ways I get things all wrong in how I feel internally and what I verbalize to Mike in these conversations is that it’s not about what’s behind (either way down the path, or literally right behind us). I mean, it is, but it really isn’t. What’s behind is foundational, structural, scaffolding for what’s now and beyond. This is what he’s trying to tell me from his side of the conversation. Our journey as individuals, our transition to parents, our losses and gains have shaped us into who we are today, of course! But maybe the spark of the new relationship and discovery of one another several years ago is not gone, it lit a new spark as we transitioned from one part of our path to a new one.
What I’m missing is not gone — I’m looking for the wrong thing. And when I’m looking for the wrong thing, I’m missing what’s here now. What is here now is a collective dull headache and slight dehydration from a great night of laughter, storytelling, imbibing, and good food.