They Do It On Camber Sounds, They Do It At Waikiki, Lazing About The Beach All Day, At Night The Crickets Creepy, Squinting Faces At The Sky
I graduated as a Bulldog in 2002. I was married soon after that. There's never been a time where I was one or the other. For some reason those two accomplishments have been inexplicably linked in my head. It's kind of the same way when you're growing up and your friend and you had the same birthday. My friend Hanna was like that. She was born four days after me and we were forever celebrating our birthdays together. Whenever you had one, you had the other. That's like little 'ole me, the end of my time in school meant the beginning of my time being a married woman. I never had that period of adjustment, so to speak. It's like I left my dorm room and walked straight into our house together.
Sometimes I wonder if I missed much by not having more time on my own. I contemplate all the opportunities I missed by getting married to Greg so soon after that chapter of my life had closed. I really do not possess the answer to the question because it's a question I never really considered until much later on. I assumed I would be getting married young. After all, that's what my mother had done. That's what Shelly had done. That's what I assumed was my expected of me. I was reared with the notion that, above else, you honored God, but just below that you had to honor your family. God and family--that's all there was to it, you know? As independently-minded as I was (and still am), I had no doubts that I wanted to find somebody to settle down with at the first jump. I didn't want to dilly-dally around. I certainly did not want to get caught an old maid, someone who had to say to themselves that they had a chance to be happy, but never took it. That would have been a fate worse than death. That would have been almost sacrilegious in execution. I reckon that could have been the problem too. I was raised fairly often on my own. I was used to being in my folks' considerable house on my own for long stretches of time. I took care of myself when my daddy took my mother with him on his business trips. I fed myself, I clothed myself, I subsisted on my own after a certain age.
And I hated every minute of it.
As much as I was learning the value of self-sufficiency--paving the way to my being my own boss (hallelujah to that)--I was also yearning just as much for someone to have dinner with, for someone to talk to at the end of the night, for someone to care how my day went. A gal can only talk to her parents about such things for so long before it becomes painfully obvious that the place where they are at isn't exactly where she is at in life. A gal can only spend so much time unburdening herself to her friends before they eventually have to hang up the phone or go home themselves. I wanted someone who would just stay, someone who would just stay for me.
That's the main reason why I pushed so hard into finding someone I could settle down with. It's why I pushed so hard with Patrick. It's why I pushed so hard with Robert, Ryan, and the guys I seriously dated in college. And it's why I pushed so hard with Greg eventually. I wanted one aspect of my life to be settled once and for all. I didn't even want the possibility of being alone to be an option. I wanted it to be one sticking point in my life that was taken care of. I has this fantasy about married life being like a vacation on the beach that lasted a lifetime--nothing but sun, shore, and taking it easy while you spent your hours in utter bliss. That was actually what I thought. I'd seen how my parents had done it, how easy they had had it. I assumed it would come that easy to me. I somehow glossed over all the yelling that went on behind closed doors. I somehow missed how jealous my mother could get when she had gotten riled. I somehow ignored how silent my daddy became when things weren't right between him and my mother. All that mattered was that they had stayed together and had done a fairly decent job in raising me. I wanted a husband. I wanted a child. I wanted the complete package because when you're part of a package, you don't get set aside on your own. You're guaranteed to go along with someone or someones else. That's the way it works and that's what I wanted for myself.
When I used to run away for hours or maybe the whole day, when I used to hide underneath Torry's house so my parents wouldn't find me, I used to think about that image in my head. I used to construct my perfect family. It would always involve a doting husband, perfectly obedient kids, and a clean and well-run household. I used to imagine that's what I was running to. I imagined I would stumble into this great family and they would take me in as one of their own. They would tell me that the hospital had made a mistake and I truly belonged to them, not the overbearing witch of a woman who formerly had been the one I had called mother. I would think how much I would miss my daddy in that scenario, but it would be alright because my new daddy would be four times better. That's how I justified running away. I didn't belong with my former family. I belonged with the ideal family of my dreams. It was my mission to get to them.
In some respects, I retained this idea of a perfect family as I grew up. The only difference was as I got more mature--started dating, started having sex, started having to make the hard choices of life--I started substituting myself in for the mother in the dream instead of the daughter. It didn't happen all at once. I don't know if I could really point to one day that I suddenly saw myself as the mother, but fairly soon it was obvious that I wasn't so much still running away to this family but desperately trying to create it in actuality. It was like as if I thought I could transfer the image in my head straight off the page and into three dimensions.
I would have my day at the beach yet.
Here's the thing, though. It's not a day at the beach. It's not even close to that. It's more like a year at the beach. Yes, there are going to be days when the sun's overhead and the water's the perfect temperature. Yes, there are going to be days when it feels like all you are doing is sipping sangrias on a blanket somewhere and wasting the day away. Yes, there are going to be days when the sun rises slowly on the horizon and the morning's perfect and everything's perfect. But there are also going to be days when the wind's whipping your head around something fierce. There are also going to be days when the tide is high and threatening to wash everything away. There are also going to be days when the last thing you want to be is outside, but you have to because, hey, you're the one who chose to spend the year at the beach. That's what the idealized picture of my family failed to take into account, when the bliss ebbs away momentarily.
Don't mistake me. I'm not saying Greg's the most difficult person in the world to get along with. Far from it. If anything, the majority of my problems with him stem (stemmed?) from the fact is that he's possibly too accommodating. Greg's been great. He continues to surprise me with how patient he is in putting up with the various limitations I'm discovering about myself. He continues to love me as much as one person can humanly love another human being, even though I haven't always reciprocated the effort. He continues to be somebody I have great pride in showing off as my one and only. I'm saying that it's impossible to stay in love with someone the same way for the rest of your life. There are going to be ebbs and flows, there are going to be sunny and rainy days, there are going to be days when you're together and when you're apart even if you're sitting only a few feet from one another. There are going to be days when you simply are all out of love momentarily.
That's where I think waiting a few years might have helped me out more. Here I am, twenty-nine now, and I've never really been on my own as much as I'd like to think I was. I went straight from my bedroom at my folks' house, to my dorm room, to the house I shared with Greg off-campus, to the house I share with him now. There's never been a point where I lived on my own. There's never been a chance for me to really experience that kind of independence and freedom. One of my favorite sayings has always been, "nobody's the boss of me." I've always been that way. I've always taken charge of any situation or group as soon as I felt I needed to step up to that responsibility. But even with all my familiarity with being the boss, that still implies there are others around. Nobody's the boss of one. Nobody can be in charge of something if he or she is the only person in the room. So while I may be great at leading the way, I've never taken to be the voice of one very well. I've always been more comfortable being the voice of many or being the voice of everybody. Even my time at my parents' home, though it was spent alone, it was always with the understanding that they'd eventually be back. I was only their house-sitter by blood. I was never living in that house alone; I was always living with them however far they may have been at the time. Even while I was feeling lonely and unwanted, I never felt like I was out of their jurisdiction.
Maybe more time on my own was what I always needed.
Maybe all those times running away served more than the purpose of getting away from my mother. Maybe it was an expression of inner desire to be on my own, even if it was only for a short spell.
After my birthday this past weekend, this is the theory that has been winding its way around the dinner table with my husband. We should have never gotten married as young as we did. We both agree that we were right for one another, but we both needed more time to season on our own. All that bullshit that happened between us--Greg moving out for awhile, the talk of divorce,... Chicago--we both agree that it was all a result of having the marriage feel forced upon us and not really something that we were both still agreed to. And, while it isn't how we feel any longer, there was a time there where it honestly did feel like we were more obligatory and contractual peons to this marriage than willing participants. I for one felt like I was staying more out of a sense of not wanting to give up than any actual fondness for the marriage. It had become all too difficult when all the times before it had been relatively easy. I still had that image in my head about a day at the beach.
It took us a long time to work out with our marriage counselor that the problem wasn't that we weren't suited for one another. The problem was we never found out who we were apart first. I never got around to establishing my image apart from Greg in those first few years. What was I then? I was a college graduate. I was a business owner. But that was it. Aside from being my parents' daughter before I met Greg, I didn't really have a strong image of what I was outside of my vows. That's what felt restrictive to me. I wanted to be Greg's wife, Mrs, Holins-Meier, with all my heart, but I also wanted to be so much more. I knew I could be so much more.
With Patrick and the others, it had been easy. The stakes had been really low. I was never in any danger of losing myself in being defined by the person I was with. Everyone else had let me be myself while we were together. But with Greg it felt different. It wasn't him, per se. But it was like the marriage had stolen the spotlight and it was leaving me as an individual in the shadows. I couldn't have that, not little 'ole me. LOL I had too much pride to be cast aside for anything or anyone else. I needed some way to regain that bit of self-worth. I just did. I couldn't let the marriage get the best of me or else I'd be under its thumb for the rest of my life. That wouldn't have made me happy in the long run; it very well might have led to Greg and I getting divorced in earnest eventually. I... we needed a way to let the marriage take a backseat to our own lives for awhile before we could know where to place it in context with our other roles and our other lives.
We needed to leave the beach for awhile and let it regain its mystique again, you know?
I understand more now. I understand that my graduating from UGA was a big deal in and of itself, that it had nothing to do with my getting married. I wasn't a complete person because I was married and a college graduate. I was a complete person because I had gone through school all on its own. And I was a complete person because I had gotten married. They were both huge accomplishments and they should have both been celebrated with gumption as separate events. Somewhere along the way, like those birthdays, I let the concept of being married be the only accomplishment I celebrated. I should have taken more time to reflect what a huge milestone it is to get a degree which states I am academically, socially, and spiritually prepared to tackle the world. If I realized that earlier on, it would have caused me to make different choices in those first few years with Greg. I would have struck out on my own more, forming more of an identity without him. It would have caused me to appreciate who I was more rather than feeling like I was less than half of a person without him around. Perhaps if I'd built up more self-worth I wouldn't have felt like he was controlling and overbearing because I would have seen his wish to be closer for what it was, a sign of his love for me rather than a manipulation.
I've come to realize I love my husband with all my heart. But I've also come to realize that, hell's bells, I love myself just as much. That's when you experience real happiness, when you can honestly say you're a complete person with or without that special someone in your life.
That's when the world truly starts to resemble a day at the beach.