Love is Not Smothering…with a Pillow
No one has ever accused me of being overly romantic or sentimental. And frankly, you just don’t know, when push comes to shove, if you will make it through the endless night of the man cold without rolling over and gently, but firmly pressing your memory foam pillow to his face, until the tuberculosis-like hacking and wheezing of snot becomes a blanket of comforting warm silence. You just never know.
I’ve spent most of my life getting this love thing wrong. I’m an impatient person, so I rarely waited to be asked out on a date. As soon as I spotted the most unlikely suspect for a love match, I was on the case. A drunk? Awesome – I could work out my daddy issues. Religious zealot? Super – we could have wildly guilty premarital sex. A polygamist at heart? Fan-tabulous- really adds that competitive edge that we women lack.
Even at 46, I’m pretty sure I’m still relatively clueless in the love department. Getting married and having a child seems rather accidental to me and on occasion, a little surprising. I stopped believing in the one after I met a couple or ten of those. As much as I’d like to re-write the narrative of my courting and marriage, it was a linear story, if not slightly awkward. Sounds unromantic, doesn’t it?
If you’re young and gravity hasn’t taken its toll, your love is unwrinkled, shiny and new. I didn’t marry young. By the time I even remotely imagined settling down with one person, I was quite cynical – and tired. My future husband was easy – even-tempered, kind, consistent, sober, funny and smart. I felt happy when I saw him and while I worked out all my relationship angst, he remained a calm and generous partner.
When I hear love songs or read the occasional romance (just for the sex scenes, of course), I wonder at this idea of fiery, sustained passion – this desperate feeling of not being whole or being a sacrificial lamb to love. And now that I’m at the mid-point of life, I’ve forgotten what that felt like. And it’s a damned good thing. Like the flip side of any emotion, passion involves drama and I just cannot do drama. It’s exhausting.
Lately, we’ve been trading off maladies, neither one of us ever in top form. My eyes, the flu, work irritations, scheduling conflicts. Our daughter is flourishing, although suffering from the micromanagement of people parenting an only child. We discuss house projects and schedules and relatives’ health. We laugh a lot. We drift in the tide of daily trivialities, closer and farther, farther and closer.
On occasion, I’ll look at him as if from a stranger’s eyes and my heart fills with gratitude and warmth and yes, love. Our life is a smorgasbord of joyous times and dull moments, tedious conversation and that of two people who can’t wait to tell each other something. Familiar sweatpants-wearing couch potatoes and formal, polite strangers. People in their 50th year of marriage or awkward newlyweds.
There are always those occasions that make me wonder if we are supposed to be more intense, more romantic, but those gestures, those sentimental soliloquies happen throughout the year. I nearly wept with joy when he fixed the washer last week, flinging my arms around him in a spontaneous gesture of gratitude. We thank each other a lot – not just for big moments, but for the little kindnesses that make our life together easier, more pleasant and more enjoyable.
As I’ve grown older, although not exponentially wiser, I like being with someone who makes me want to be a better version of me. Not because he’s critical or judgmental, but because he’s a good person who deserves to be with someone who doesn’t take him or our life together for granted. Maybe that’s what love is for me. It’s not a sacrifice or a roller coaster ride or fiery, exhausting passion. It’s how I show gratitude for this fellow traveler who likes walking next to me, no matter where we journey.