Monday, November 9, 2009

Lasting Relationships, Changing Times

I got a catch-up email from a childhood acquaintance who found me online. She wrote that after nearly twenty years of marriage, she and her husband are still ‘fond’ of each other.

Although it was stated positively, it seemed a slightly backhanded turn of phrase. But it wasn’t more than a few weeks later that she mentioned that for every one of her birthdays, for every Christmas, and for every Mother’s Day since their son was born, her husband has written her a love letter.

That’s a lot of letters. Wonderful letters. She has a whole box full of ‘em. And that, it seems to me, says a lot about a relationship, about a marriage, about what ‘fond’ means to her. And they’re still married. They still make the choice, every day, to spend their lives with one another. That says a lot right there.

I wonder if she knows how lucky she is?

Part of me is jealous. Part of me is just beginning to realize how completely I don’t understand the process.

But I’d like the chance to learn.

I spent a wonderful couple of days recently with a beloved cousin who’s the closest thing I have to a sister. She spent a measurable portion of that time pointing out how completely clueless I am. We’ll skip the part about my hair (I pull it straight, back and up; she says I should wear it curly, loose and down.) And the clothes (I like to be put together, and comfortable. She says I need to go more casual, lower, and tighter.) And the lifestyle: I’m a bit of a hermit…well, occasionally downright anti-social. (Although another friend pointed out last year that I’m not anti-social, I’m just discerning. It’s all about the spin.) My cousin wants me out on the dance floor. Or at least out of the house.

But aside from all that, she’s convinced that I don’t even notice when, in spite of myself, other people (read “men”) notice me. That I never have.

She’s not the first one to point this out.

(Every since she fell madly in love & got happily married years ago, she’s wanted the same for me, bless her. If there were any less distance than the thousands of miles there usually are between us, I’m sure she would have managed it by now. She’s a real go-getter, that one.)

But left to my own devices, I seem to be falling short. And according to her (and everyone else I know) it IS for want of trying.

So maybe I shouldn’t have moved to a town the size of a very small private college and opened a business directed almost exclusively to women and children.

At first I was too happy and busy to notice that I was single. Too relieved to be in one spot for a while, enjoying a five-minute commute and coming home to my own bed every night instead of getting on another plane, and waking up in another hotel room, in another time zone, on my way to another meeting with another group of overgrown boys pushing and posturing their way to the top of the corporate heap.

When it did finally hit me, I looked up and realized that everyone around me was either “newlywed or nearly dead.” Or already married to their high-school sweetheart, a shiny happy little family with two-point-three kids, a dog, and a SUV (yes, it’s that kind of town), so the point immediately became moot. I got on with my life.

In my defense, I have met BOTH the single men in this town, and one of ‘em still has all his own teeth. (That might be exaggerating a tiny little bit. Not much.)

For a couple of years there, it was a little hard. A little lonely. A little desolate when all of your friends are married and their idea of a good time on a Saturday night is a Little League game and then pizza with 30 screaming kids at Gianni’s. I’ve been to more than my share of birthday parties, and ballet recitals, and really awful amateur theater productions. And I’m still not old (or desperate) enough to hang out at Mission Ranch. (Sorry, Clint.)

But lately things have been changing.

Toddlers are turning into teens and heading off into the wide world, leaving their doting everything-revolves-around-my-children parents at loose ends.

Friends whose weddings I remember are getting divorced. For some it’s a relief, a blessing. For others it’s not. For all of them it’s a change, a huge upheaval in life, and a sudden (or not so sudden) veering away from, or sometimes back to, the road originally plotted.

Even more tragically, in the past few years several dear friends have had terrible losses—spouses, parents, and most tragically, a child. A beautiful, beloved, magical, only, child.

So all of a sudden, almost ALL of my friends are single. Suddenly they ALL have time to play—all the time. They all want to go out, or to lunch, or to dinner, or the movies. And can’t figure out why I don’t always have time for them.

Because in the meantime, I’ve filled my life with other things.
I’m busy.

But maybe I’ve changed, too. I’m ready to meet someone special. Now. Someone to share my life with, someone to laugh with, someone to dive, and dance,  and travel with. Someone to cook for. Someone who can fix the door in the my office. Someone who loves horses, and dogs, and curling up on the couch in front of the fire.

Someone who writes love letters to me.

I suppose it’s natural at this time of year to be thinking about the things that change. And the things that don’t.

For now, I’m single. It would be nice if I wasn’t.

But I have cousins who are like sisters to me, a mother who’s a saint, and the best extended family anyone could wish for. I have a sweet, funny dog who’s always glad to see me and sweet, funny, wise, wonderful friends. For all seasons.

Family and friends. And faith. My life is full. And happy.

And I’m giving notice that there’s room for more.