Thoughts on marriage

wedding pic1

Part I.

I don’t think I was ever one of those people who planned their dream wedding. There’s so many misconceptions about love, romance, and happily ever afters. I think the biggest is that no one ever lives happily ever after, not really. Because life isn’t happy all the time, and a relationship isn’t happy all the time, and moments aren’t happy all the time. I think marriage is a lot like paying taxes: everyone expects you to do it eventually, but no one prepares you for the reality. In spite of the fact that millions of people have done the same thing before you, you’re not given an extensive education on the subject. You go in blind, hoping for the best, not necessarily prepared for the worst, but you try anyway.

It’s interesting to think about the reasons why people get married in the first place. There’s all the right reasons of course: meeting someone you genuinely want to spend your life with, meeting someone you want to start a family with, wanting someone to love and share all the good and bad moments with. There’s a beauty and an almost fantastical ideology behind love. It’s probably the only thing in this world that can make us feel like, in the right moments, that we’re living in a magical place. But other reasons people get married is to avoid something that is uncomfortable to them, primarily the idea of ending up all alone.

Most people feel their best knowing they have some level of independence. But human beings are highly dependent creatures. We want to know that if we need help, someone will be there to support us. Whether it’s physical or emotional, we rely on others to keep us content, healthy, and safe. Despite this need for human connection, there’s so many cultures in our world where people are largely left to fend for themselves. We’re a species that needs others, and yet when someone (typically an adult) is in need, we want them to deal with it themselves. One thing that becomes apparent as you enter into adulthood is that there’s very few people who are there to support you in all the big ways.

When you’re young and in school, you often have a wealth of communities to be a part of, and people who will offer you support simply because of your age, and consequently, lack of ability to be more independent. There’s an emphasis to make sure kids have community, an education, and activities to be involved it. Adults have to carve these things out for themselves, and depending on location and circumstances, that can be a challenge.

That’s not to say that adolescence is an inherently more enjoyable time in one’s life (even though some people may indeed feel this way). Ironically enough, the freedom and independence that adulthood can bring can be liberating, scary, but ultimately something many of us wouldn’t want to give up. For me, it’s less about wanting to be a kid again, and more about wanting to bridge a gap. I want the independence and self-sufficiency that I need to develop as an adult, but I also want to have access to many of the (often free) programs I had as an adolescent, many of which made it easy to do things I loved while meeting other people.

The transition from adolescent years to adulthood raises an interesting question: does independence have to equal isolation? What would an America that emphasized a greater sense of community and support among adults look like? Can we value independence and ingenuity while also acknowledging that none of us can handle life’s hurdles alone?

Part II.

I think that, in some ways, marriage (and committed relationships of all kinds) are one answer to the problem of adult isolation. But is it enough? When I was in school (even in college), I noticed an attitude toward romantic relationships that was quite different, and maybe a bit more negative, than the attitudes people have when they are no longer in school. When I lived in my dorm, there was one girl in my hall who didn’t socialize much with the other girls in the building, but her boyfriend visited her often. I knew more than one person who expressed that it was unhealthy for her to spend so much time with her boyfriend without making other friends.

Naturally, no one could know what her social life was like outside of the dorm. Perhaps she had enough friends. Perhaps she was in more of an adult mindset than her peers were. When I was in high school, there would sometimes be a level of animosity if it seemed like a girl was choosing her boyfriend over spending time with her friend group. In school, everyone wants to be dating someone, but there’s almost this unspoken rule that platonic relationships are key in order to have a healthy, balanced social life.

But in the adult world, past the college stage, keeping up with friends becomes less realistic. People have jobs or they are dealing with unemployment. Some people are getting married and others are getting over breakups. Some people are having children. Suddenly, a person is spending most of their time with their significant other, only this time, it isn’t “unhealthy” or odd or antisocial, it’s just the norm. Spending time with a significant other and family makes sense. There’s a change in lifestyle and, consequently, a change in social expectations.

Adulthood comes with a certain expectation of self-sufficiency. A person is expected to have a career that can support their lifestyle: one that probably includes paying for their own housing, food, car, healthcare, clothes, etc. It’s the whole reason our parents, schools, and communities raise us, so we can eventually obtain all of life’s essentials and luxuries on our own. There’s also an expectation that one will enter a long-term, committed, typically heterosexual and monogamous relationship. This person should also be self-sufficient, having a career so they can afford housing, food, clothes, etc. Then, there may be an expectation that this couple will have children, whom they will raise until they can be self-sufficient themselves.

It’s a cycle. But are we doing this thing right?

Part III.

It’s been expressed for years now that in the U.S, about half of all marriages end in divorce. Do I think this is a bad thing? No. I’m twenty-five years old. I don’t want the same things that I wanted when I was twenty. And the things I want when I’m thirty may be entirely different than what I want now. People change. People and relationships should be allowed to change. I don’t see the divorce rate in this country as a failure. I see it one way our culture’s obsession with self-sufficiency has actually paid off: no one feels the need to stay in an unhappy or unhealthy marriage out of fear. Fewer people in the history of humankind are left to worry that without their marriage, they have no means of meeting their needs for basic survival.

In the grand scheme of things, I probably know relatively few married couples. And I know even fewer who have relationships that I’d aspire to emulate. Too many people, from the outside looking in (and with an enormously limited amount of information) seem to be in unhappy marriages. There’s a lot of reasons why people get married, and usually those reasons are on the extreme ends of things they hope for and things they fear.

But why do people who are unhappy in their marriages stay married? New relationships are always more exciting than those that have been established for a while. Unhappy people might stay married for their children. Another reason is, again, fear. Leaving a marriage means going into an unknown future where one is scared, uncertain, and of course, alone. That fear of loneliness can influence a lot of people in their most life-changing decisions.

One of the reasons early adulthood is so stressful is that it seems everyone wants, and feels they are expected to, achieve all of the adult milestones at once. People want to have their careers and their love lives in order by the time they reach the age of thirty. But that first decade of adult years is more often filled with trial and error than certainty.

Lots of people reach their mid-twenties and find a good relationship, maybe have their first child, but are still figuring out their careers and finances, and many are still supported financially by their parents. Others have their career path figured out and a decent level of financial stability, but haven’t found the relationship they want. Few people seem to have both of these areas balanced out in their twenties, and nothing is set in stone or “finished” because these are areas of growth, Relationships, careers, and one’s sense of self are constantly evolving.

When I was younger, if I thought of marriage, I probably thought of it as a simple, singular, and even somewhat isolated concept. But now, I can’t think of it without acknowledging how it connects to other areas of adulthood. I don’t know for sure if I want to be married. But I do know that I want to be financially independent first. I know I want to find new ways to do something I love while meeting new people. I know that I want to be free to grow, change, and evolve without the weight of other peoples’ expectations influencing my choices.

I know that if I do get married, I don’t want it to be because I’m afraid of being alone. And I don’t want it to be because people think it’s odd that I’m not spending all of my time with a significant other, much like my school peers thought it was weird if someone didn’t spend more time with their platonic friends.

Part IV.

It’s a complex idea to navigate; the concept that we should be these independent beings, but also that we should be partnered with someone. This idea that we should be able to handle paying bills, feeding ourselves, and keeping a roof over our head on our own, but also that too much independence is considered strange.

There’s a lot of potential in the human ability to be independent while maintaining a need to rely on others. If only our society could learn to allow these needs to intersect instead of prioritizing one over the other at different times, tipping the scales to opposite extremes and constantly leaving people to feel as though they are failing at something–the paradox of either having too much independence or not enough of it.

One’s ability to support themselves with food, clothing, and shelter are needed for survival. But marriage? Marriage is but one solution to the complex problem of loneliness. Our views of family, relationships, and community rarely extend to support those who are not married. It leaves few other options. But maybe people who aren’t married need more options to feel like they aren’t alone in this world.

I think that in many ways, (consensual, healthy) marriage is good for people. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for everyone. I don’t have much of an answer to the question of whether or not I want to get married. I’m twenty-five. Ask me again when I’m thirty.

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Phlegmatic

Read my lips

And they’ll tell you nothing

The inner workings of my heart are classified

Pick them apart, and you’ll get lost in my quandary

.

Behind these walls, I am descending

Into a dream

My emotions coded into visions

My silence won’t be your interpreter.

Hopeless

It’s not that everything is hopeless. I know it’s not. I know I’ll find another star to wish upon. But I had a dream wrapped around my heart so tight, that when it was time to let it go, I was left gasping for air. I couldn’t function, or rather, I didn’t want to. I wanted to lie under the covers and never greet the sun again. Some days are just like that. But I return back to normalcy the way I can’t help but return to the ocean’s surface. Sometimes hope meets you half-way, even when you ask it to leave. It doesn’t want you to stay buried under the covers. But my hands are empty, the ghost of a dream remaining, my heart still aching. And I keep recounting the steps I’ve taken to see all the ways I went wrong. I keep looking ahead, not knowing what steps I’m supposed to take. All I can do is keep my eyes on the horizon, waiting for a new star to find me.

April Showers

April2

Jeremy ran a hand through his dark brown hair. He drummed his fingers along the polished, wooden table and sighed. The diner was mostly empty this late at night. The light hanging above the table seemed extra bright, especially in contrast to the pitch black darkness outside the window. When he looked out, all he saw was his sleepy reflection staring back at him.

He tapped two fingers against the old fashioned Jukebox that rested in front of the window. The musical devices adorned every table, but they were rarely used. Each one had a selection of songs from a variety of musicians, including Elvis, Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald. Most patrons at this fine establishment preferred to listen to their iPods, if they listened to music at all, and it was often a way that people, young and old, chose to kill time while they waited for their food. It was easier than trying to make conversation with friends and family. It was easier than trying to pretend one’s day was interesting.

At least, that’s what Jeremy assumed. He’d never owned an iPod, or any similar device. He’d barely owned a cell phone. He had a laptop, though. It was sitting beside him in the dark, orange booth. He always had a laptop.

Across the diner, there was an elderly man reading a newspaper, sipping coffee, with headphones over his ears, bobbing his head to a beat that Jeremy couldn’t hear. The man was listening to his iPod.

Someone cleared her throat. Jeremy looked up to see April. Her wavy, dark hair and her pea coat were wet from the rain. Her lipstick was the color of red rose petals, and her dark mascara was smeared, just a bit. Whether it was from the rain or from tears, he didn’t know, and he wasn’t sure if he should bother to care. She said nothing, but her eyes were pleading, her sincerity almost believable. He nodded his head, gesturing that it was okay for her to join him.

She sat across from him, folding her hands over the table. She looked at his hair, his neck, his wrists, anywhere but his eyes. Her lips parted as though she were about to speak, but was interrupted when a waitress placed a stack of hot pancakes on the table, along with a small container of maple syrup. Jeremy smiled and thanked the waitress, wondering, as he often did, if she’d been working here since this place opened in the 60s.

The waitress’s name was Jenny. She flipped open a notepad, turned to April and asked, “What can I get for you, Dear?”

“Uh, just coffee. Thanks,” she answered. Jenny walked away and Jeremy poured syrup all over his plate of pancakes. He cut a triangle with his knife and grabbed three layers of pancake, dripping syrup, with his fork.

April smirked and nodded toward the plate. “Breakfast for dinner. You’re certainly set in your ways.”

He took a bite of the sweet pancakes and chased it with some nice, cold milk. “Yes, well, one of us has to be.” A silence hung in the air after that. He had nothing to say to her. Nothing.

Jenny came back with a cup of coffee and a bowl of coffee creamers. When she walked away, April opened a sugar packet and poured it into the cup.

“I know you hate me,” she said. She tour open another packet and poured. When she didn’t get an answer, she tried again. “You haven’t answered my messages all week. I got worried.” Seconds ticked by and the silence was palpable. She opened another packet, her final packet, and added it to her coffee before mixing it with a wooden stirrer. It was always three packets. After more silence filled the space between them, she added cream and then took a sip.

He just stared at her, looked her dead in the eyes, trying to be emotionless when all he wanted to do was cry. Or break things. Or both. Instead, he took another sip of milk. He leaned forward, holding her gaze, and spoke his words with intention, careful to pronounce every syllable.

“We had a good thing going, you and I. Picnics at the park, holding hands under the stars, sneaking out to come to this godforsaken diner, pancakes for me, a burger for you. But you had to go and ruin it,” he said. The tears were pooling in his eyes now and his hands were shaking.

She sighed and looked at her hands. “It doesn’t have to be ruined. I mean, it was just one kiss,” she said. It came out wrong, and she knew it. She sounded defensive and she shook her head, as if that could shake away the line that had been drawn between them. “What I mean is, I made a mistake. Gosh, Jer, it’s just, if the roles were reversed, this wouldn’t bother me the way it bothers you. Because you’re your own person and we’re not each other’s property.” She put her hair in a pony tail and placed her fingers on her temples, furrowing her brows. In a whisper, she said, “Things were never supposed to get this bad between us.”

He placed his fork on the table and laughed a bitter laugh. He knew she was telling the truth. That somewhere in the deep recesses of her brain, she actually believed that this was no big deal. Maybe if she dated someone, and that someone kissed an old flame–maybe if he himself had kissed another person, she really would just brush it off like a spec of rubble from her coat sleeve. But he couldn’t do it. It hurt too much.

She pointed to the seat beside him. “I see you brought your laptop. Is that all I am now? A fictionalized story for The West Wing? Another person in your life who has betrayed you in the worst way possible?” The West Wing was their high school’s literary magazine, and Jeremy often wrote stories loosely based on his real life experiences. It was how he coped with the betrayals, with his traumas, but those were stories for another day.

She reached across the table and took his hand. Hers felt warm, soft. It felt like home and he hated that. Tears were streaming down his cheeks now, and he was no longer hungry. He wanted to leave, but he was weak, and he held her hand tighter as if it were the only thing tethering him to this world. Maybe, maybe it was.

“I know I messed up,” she continued, “but please tell me I’m not being put in the same category as all of those people who hurt you. Please tell me I’m not going to get the silent treatment from you for the rest of my life. I…I couldn’t bare that. I couldn’t live with myself if I lost you. We’ve been through too much.”

They were both crying then. He pushed his plate of pancakes aside and grabbed her other hand, holding them both, looking at her chipped, dark blue nail polish. She stroked the back of his hand, and as much as he wanted to be mad at her, he just wasn’t. At least, not in this moment.

“You were all I had, April. I trusted you, and you know how hard it is for me to do that,” he said.

Tears streamed down her face and she nodded. “I know.”

“So why did you lie about the kiss for even a second? Why did you kiss him at all?”

She squeezed his hands tighter. In his peripheral vision, Jeremy could see that the old man with the newspaper took off his headphones and was calling Jenny over. He met April’s eyes, the diner’s lights glistening against her teary pupils like stars. She looked down at the table and shook her head.

“We’re graduating soon. Going to different colleges. I was having self doubts. I worried that once we were apart, our relationship would be over,” she said.

He squinted and studied her. “So your magical solution to this dilemma was to kiss another guy? To make me lie awake at night, imagining you being happy with someone else? You could be with anyone April! You’re beautiful, smart, more normal and more sane than I’ll ever be. You’ll have no problem finding someone new. But me? No, no one is going to want me.

“You and I being together has been nothing more than a glitch in the Matrix. I’ve thought it was too good to be true, and now you’ve just confirmed it.” He was shouting now, loud enough for Jenny to look over in concern, so he lowered his voice. “I’m not another one of your charity projects. If you didn’t want to be with me after graduation, you should have just said so.”

She let her hair loose, got up, and went over to his side of the booth. With gentle hands, she lifted his laptop, placed it on the cleanest section of the table, and sat beside him. She smelled like lilac soap. He thought he’d want to leave the booth and never look back, but he stayed, wanting to stay frozen in this moment forever. Because beyond this moment, there was nothing but uncertainty.

“I kissed Luke,” she started, “because I have a long history of self sabotage. And I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to ruin the one good thing in my life. You. I know I haven’t acted like it, but…I love you, Jer.” It was the first time she’d said it. A civil war raged inside his mind because he’d never wanted to hear those three words from anyone else so badly. But she also cheated on him. She withheld the kiss, only for 24 hours, but still, keeping it a secret for any length of time was enough to make him panic. It was enough to make him think she could do it again.

There were so many things he could say in this moment, so many choices he could make, so many feelings he could express. So, he just chose to say what was on his heart.

“And I love you April,” he said. “And you don’t have to worry. I haven’t written any stories about you. I couldn’t, because you’re right. You’re not like those people who hurt me. You’re better than them.” He leaned forward and kissed her, soft, sweet, urgent, then sweet again.

She pulled away, took his hand, and sighed. “Then why do I feel like I’m worse?”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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Seasons

I don’t know why some people

Come into your life

Some for a season

Others for a lifetime

Helping you to grow and to change

Challenging you, hurting you, but hopefully loving you

And if they don’t love you, it’s time to say goodbye

To that season.

Sometimes what’s good for you isn’t black and white

Letting go isn’t always as light as a cloud

Sometimes it’s sticky like molasses

Sweet, making you reluctant, even as you’re messy

Even as you know you need to become clean

So strange to be in a world where we are shaped like clay

By each person who comes along, touching our hearts

Yet at the same time we are like steel

Unmoving, unchanging in our most real senses of self

I let go of my former self

I’ve broken free from so many phases

That are no longer me

Those chapters have been closed

Left behind with the seasons

But it doesn’t mean I don’t reread them

I reread you

And you challenge me, hurt me

Not intentionally, but not figuratively

Love me?

I don’t know if you love me

In any sense of the word, in the most basic sense

In the lightest

And so I’m not sure

I’m not sure if I’m meant to let go.

Fire

I don’t want to play with fire

Am I wrong to get so caught up

In the things that scare me away

From you? This has to be right. I

.

Want to do this right. Love slips

Through my fingers like smoke,

Like an elusive ghost; I need you to

Bring me to life, but don’t get too

.

Close in case this isn’t right. Where did

I go wrong? When did the poetry intertwined

With my heartbeat become constricting, my

Anxiety and neurosis preventing me from

.

Giving you my time, my affection, my body

One wrong step, one wrong move, I’m so

Afraid of the tiny mistakes that I never take

The big risks. Who are you really? Let me uncover

.

Your truths, untangle the mystery of what our

Future looks like. They say to trust your instincts

But I’m not sure mine can be trusted. They set off

Alarms with every new door that opens. And I

.

Freeze, pause, helpless over my fear of fire. The hell

With it. Touch me, press my back to the wall

Your lips, your touch, your heat, let it cover me

Let the fire I’ve feared for so long consume me.