Sometimes those commercials hawking the latest male enhancement, arthritis, or cholesterol medicines make me wonder why risk taking the drug at all? There are these warm and fuzzy hallmark images smiling in the background while the announcer is speaking so fast you can barely understand what he’s saying but certain words are recognizable, “possible death”, “stop taking immediately if”, or “…lasts longer than 4 hours seek your doctor”. Smiling people, possible death. Huh? And this is supposed to be good for me?
I used to hike as a kid. I had some harrowing experiences but for the most part had a blast. Hiked as an adult in Washington state on soft ground amidst glorious beauty. It was almost a religious experience for me. The smells, the sounds, the cool air, everything so green and lush. I loved it. Since moving back to California much of that stopped. I don’t know why. But it’s been ages since I’ve done a mountain hike. I really want to get back out there and Martin is game so I’ve been looking up hiking trails online. I read the descriptions and see the images and I’m completely sold until I read the reviews. “trail was hard to stay on we kept getting turned around.” or “Be careful it can get tricky just after the big bend and can be dangerous, wear good shoes!” or “Make sure you’re skin is covered because just about everything green on this trail is poison oak.” Great. The last thing I want to do is get lost, fall off a cliff, or brush up against some poison oak. And then there are the mountain lion sightings. Geesh. I move down the list of hikes accessing the beauty to risk ratio and find myself in a conundrum.
Today Martin and I went over a list of 20 expectations we had for our spouses in marriage. It’s a part of that book we are working through. His list was very much what you would expect to see. Keep the house tidy (I’ll help), cook a couple of times a week (I’ll help!), be warm and loving, let me have some “me” time to play golf, deal with problems instead of letting them fester…stuff like that. We were also asked (in our book) to write out what our likely reaction would be if our spouses didn’t meet those expectations and then we were told to share and compare.
In creating my list I found myself reviewing my previous marriage and realizing how that experience colored my list. I wrote everything that he didn’t do that I desperately wanted. Pray for me. Be faithful. My sentences explaining how I would react if they were not met described the last two years of my first marriage. It was emotional. I can remember how it was when I thought things were good. But so much of it I have forgotten. I think for my own good. I had to move on and away from the pain. But it reminded me of the death. And that made me sad.
It also reminded me that I did not meet my ex’s expectations and it got me feeling like a failure again. I know. I know. I can’t believe how it comes back sometimes.
I’m sitting in my living room right now listening to my awesome Pandora station. It’s not too hot or cold, my little dog Lucy who I love is nestled close to me. My kids are in their beds after a great, full day. And I’m at peace. I will go to bed when I want, eat what I want, and if I don’t pick up a glass, or my sweats off the floor no one is going to say anything about it. I will not fail anyone this way. I won’t fail anyone alone. I’m afraid of failing again. Letting someone down so profoundly that they would walk away.
I look at Martin’s list and how he might react if this list were not met and it hit me. Whoa! I could fail. Each item was like a huge IF THEN statement of what COULD go wrong. It was scary. But I’ve always said you have to be willing to risk to really be alive. Life is messy and all that. But when I first saw the list I was truly gripped with fear. Honesty is key so we took time and discussed each one thoroughly. It took three nights.
And as I ran earlier today I thought about why Hollywood movies end after the couple decides to be together with the big kiss. Up to that point it’s all about the romance. Do I like this person enough to be on their team? Once the player has been signed then the real work begins right? (It’s no longer a romantic comedy now it’s a drama or a comedy but rarely does it still have romance.) It’s where real life begins.
Whether we formally write out a list or not we all have one in our heads. We have expectations and if we give ourselves time to think about it we know how things would generally go if those expectations weren’t met. There are meals, laundry, cleaning, bills, raising children, jobs and vacations to consider. Lots and lots of potential powder keg circumstances.
I for one am really glad we did this clarifying activity. Even though I was afraid of it at first.
It’s as if we are the stage now where we are past the initial I love you. I love spending time with you. Everything I’ve seen so far says go for it so now, lets take this one step further. What are you really looking for specifically? Am I able to meet your expectations? Do you and I have realistic expectations? Is there anything on these lists that is a deal breaker? Interesting.
Lucky for Martin and I we know each other so well that there were only a couple of items on each of our lists that we said there would be moments of struggle, momentary lapses now and then, or reminders needed.
And so I guess it’s a little like the warning label on the medicine bottle informing you before you take the pill so that you don’t make a very serious and life threatening mistake. Or the hiking review that gives you a clearer picture of what you are getting into if you go on this hike. It helps you make a more informed decision and helps you to choose the best hike for you. 🙂
Realizing that things WILL go wrong is half the battle in forging toward a good, solid marriage. If you’re expecting perfection you are not going to get it. After the initial flowers, candles, the dinners out and long goodbyes, you will be faced with this person waking up in the morning with messed up hair who doesn’t want to do what you want to that day and forgot something they were supposed to do for you the day before. Real life. Real challenges. Mundane sometimes painful but very precious.
It’s like the musical sequence in the movie UP. That couple had dreams. Big dreams. And they had a wonderful romance their whole marriage, but real life entered into the picture when there were bills to pay, babies that wouldn’t be born, and sickness. In the end though even though they didn’t realize all their dreams they had chosen their mates well. Because ultimately in the midst of real life they continued to treat each other with tenderness. After hard work were precious afternoons laying on a blanket in the park. And they discovered it IS worth the risk despite what COULD go wrong.