Friday, August 29, 2014

Pants on Fire

Sean and I were in the car for no more than 6 or 7 minutes - long enough for me to have fiddled with my hair and my sunglasss, checked my phone, found the right song. And then the itch. I fought it. Fought it. Resisted. Nonononono. But who am I kidding? It's a miracle I've lasted this long, and most of my "triumph" is due to poor memory. So I blurt out to Sean - has he noticed any weird clanking noises coming from my car? Is it driving weird? Because I accidentally backed over a pilon a couple of days ago and dragged it a bit of a distance.

I hadn't really meant or wanted to confess this. In fact, at the time of the little incident, I told myself quite firmly that this would stay between me and Ruby (my car). But secrets have always chafed. As soon as it was out in the open, Sean assured me that my car was fine and that it would take so much more than a little nob of orange plastic to upset Ruby, and that I needn't have confessed. But he knows better. He knows that it wasn't about the car. I'm just pathologically incapable of holding things back, which is weird considering I have no problem whatsoever abiding my vows of confidentiality at work. But in my own life? I'm not a secret keeper. I tell Sean EVERYTHING. Everything. Poor kid. He knows my worst thoughts and doubts, he knows the things I dislike most about myself, he's well-acquainted with my demons. And I wish it was just that, but I can't keep anything from this kid. I might take weeks to find the perfect gift, wrap it lovingly, hide it expertly, but about 10 seconds later, even if it's still days or weeks or months before the occasion, I'll send him to retrieve and open the present just to ease the tension. Because for those 10 seconds, the secret was KILLING ME. And it's not even a bad secret! Even things that aren't lies or secrets get spilled. I don't omit, either. It might be harmless and witness-less, but if it happened, then I'm owning it. All the clumsy, stupid shit that I wish no one knew or even guessed - but then, if I truly wished that, then couldn't I find a way to keep it to myself? Or is Sean such an extension of my own self that I don't even distinguish the boundary between he and I?

I know not everyone has this problem of oversharing, but what I really want to know is, am I the only one? And the great thing about asking is knowing that if you're like me at all, you'll have to speak up. To hide it would be impossible.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Medical Tourism

We "wasted" our summer vacation on a painful surgical procedure in Cleveland, but we're not bitter :)

Destination: Cleveland, Ohio.  The kind of city that makes border agents raise their little eyebrows and ask "Why?" and then red flag you anyway for your return trip. Because they know what we now know: there is no good reason for going to Cleveland. It's a gritty city, mostly forgotten by time and progress, abandoned in places that should be built up, untended by its elderly population who still fly tattered flags and display sun-bleached, cat-scratched lawn gnomes, but where youth have fled, no grasses are mown, no cracks repaired, no cars purchased this century. It's the kind of place where, if you deign to use a public restroom, you make sure your travel companion stays firmly within "screaming distance" and then you don't sit, you hover, and hope you're up to date on your shots. It's the kind of place where hotel staff don't feel pressured to conform to normal hygiene standards, or use the proper contraction for "is not."

Ohio is a drunk-uncle state. Not particularly wanted or respected or remotely useful, but for reasons no one can now remember, part of the family, and kind of hard to eject. Everyone else is rightfully embarrassed that Ohio keeps showing up to Christmas dinner, as it were, and asking for handouts while they're there. You see, Ohio has no shame. Its major exports are begging and pleading, with imports of all the pity it can muster. "Please let us build the Pro Football Hall of Fame," it will whine, "no one visits us unless they're forced to!" And so America the great occasionally throws Ohio a bone - the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a booming Olive Garden franchise, and a couple of world-class medical facilities just to round out the experience. They've crunched the numbers, and it turns out people who are suicidal with back pain are more likely than healthy people to be willing to come to Cleveland, and now they've built an industry to support it. There are private clinics springing up between boarded up pawn shops, and dirty "extended stay" motels and neighbourhood Applebees to go along with them, because patients usually bring a caretaker, and so a beautiful thing called "medical tourism" is born, and Ohio is all over it like a tramp on chips.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

There's Nothing Wrong With Ohio.

When travelling, it is of utmost importance to obey the laws of the land upon which you enter. In Qatar you can't expose your knees or shoulders. In Thailand you must wear undies at all times. In Blythe, California, you are forbidden from wearing cowboy boots unless you actually own at least  2 cows. Use of or even just possession of confetti is illegal in Mobile, Alabama, and in Los Angeles, silly string can earn you a fine of $1000 and\or up to SIX MONTHS IN JAIL. You can be fined in Australia for swearing. You can do hard time in Arizona for shooting a cactus. I don't know why you'd shoot a cactus, or even wish it harm, and I certainly don't want to find out what happens when you tell your hulking cellmate that you got 25 years for cacti-related offenses. At the very least, your prison nickname is going to be pretty lame.

So in a way, Ohio is doing the courteous thing by providing helpful poems to help tourists obey the laws of their land. "Drive sober or get pulled over" being a popular one quoted over and over along highway billboards. Getting pulled over actually seems like the best-case-scenario when driving non-sober, so it's a funny consequence to emphasize, but it gives you an idea that they don't really approve. And in fairness, it's hard to find something that rhymes with "a steering column through your solar plexus!" (drive sober in your lexus? praise god you're not in texas?)

Another favourite was the ubiquitous "Click it or ticket" buckle-up campaign, although it's hard for me to imagine that we still live in a world where stating this is necessary. You may as well have declared "murder is frowned upon here" because honestly, in 2014, who the hell is driving without a seatbelt? Anyone? Actually, I think I personally would get more use out of the murder-is-bad reminder because I don't think there's any event in the world that would cause me to drive unbuckled. You get in the car, and without even thinking about it, you're just buckled, it's that automatic, happens in less than 3 seconds. Even if there was a dire emergency, it would take longer to think "Will I save time by  not buckling up?" than to just do it already and get on with it.  Even if you had a large piece of scrap metal protruding from your chest, making the seat belt strap less than comfortable, you gotta think: a) why didn't I call an ambulance? b) I'm already in pretty serious condition, so let's make double sure we don't add a steering column to the problem! c) I'm already bleeding out, so I suppose a little seat belt chaffing isn't the end of the world d) it would be really silly to get pulled over for this while doing 178km\hr to the hospital. So I think it's safe to say that we're all buckling up, and if there truly is some moron out there who isn't, I'm guessing a snappy poem isn't going to enlighten him (and neither will a ticket). But murder? Well, I consider myself basically a lamb and only sometimes a lion, and rarely ever a homicidal bitch. But I suppose I can imagine a scenario in which case I am feeling like someone needs to die. I've been angry. I've been chip-deprived on day 3 of a heavy flow. I've made pie crusts by hand. So yes, the feeling is not unknown to me. I don't think I'll ever act on it, but every now and then, a gentle reminder wouldn't hurt.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Love and Dirty Bandages.

I was in the shower, but not under the spray, howling like a crazed, feral animal caught in a trap. Big, gasping moans, guttural screams, panicked sobs. I was fresh from an agonizing and mutilating surgery and was paralyzed in pain. My husband, Sean, stood holding my towel, unable to help. My body, overwhelmed with hurt, was shutting down.

We should have been in Paris. We planned to arrive in time to imbibe champagne for my birthday, and then to walk along the Seine in summer,  eating buttery food  by day and watching the city twinkle around us at night.

Instead we went to Ohio, "medical tourism" we're calling it, to see a specialist who carved me up, and left me looking like a Walking Dead victim. In bleak moments I wonder where those hunks of flesh have gone. Burned up, I suppose. Meanwhile, I am a half-eaten burn victim, screaming with every step, trying hard not to let anything touch any of my exposed parts, trying to stop the angry blood vessels from spilling, trying to soothe the regenerating nerves, trying not to catch glimpses of myself in the mirror. Instead of the Eiffel tower, I have my own bloodied sheets and not much else.

Except. Except I have discovered this new side to my husband. Sean has always been a very sweet and patient man, but the truth is, when it comes to love, we don't speak the same language. Sean is a man of few words and no emotion. Strike that. Seemingly no emotion, we'll say, because I know if he were here, he'd protest that he does feel. I just don't see it.  It seems that he is not moved by anything, not particularly passionate. He never cries, but he's also never overcome by joy. I am his opposite in every way. So though I never doubt that he loves me, we sometimes struggle to really express it to each other in ways that the other will recognize. Sean loves me by filling my car with gas and giving me the good parking spot and emptying the dishwasher. I love him by planning elaborate, romantic trips. And when I spring them on him, practically panting with excitement, he can often muster an "Oh, neat" but it always falls short of what I'm expecting. Which is just my way of saying: I do the things that I'd want, and he does the things that he'd want. It has taken time, but we are learning each other's language. We're becoming bilingual.  He's not much for sentiment. He's a doer, but those things that he does are translatable: I love you, Jay.

Now I have been reduced to being his dependent, and his patient, and a terrible patient at that. Sean has become my nurse, one more gentle and delicate than I ever would have guessed. We could easily have a nurse visit the house to take care of my wounds. The bandaging is a never-ending battle, but Sean insists on doing it all himself. He winces when I wince. He soothes me when I'm hyperventilating. He waits me out when I can't take anymore. He never flinches. The sight unnerves me, makes me horrified and sick, but he looks in my eyes and tells me I am beautiful. The smell, he assures me, is the bandages, not me. I worry that I haven't shaved, or plucked my eyebrows, and he tells me that I am natural and lovely. And I believe he believes it. He hasn't lost his temper with me, not when I've lashed out, taken the pain out on him. He calls me brave and strong.

He's gone back to work - a lawyer you don't hear about in jokes, the kind that does true and honourable work - and he worries over me constantly. It is I who must reassure him. I am managing with the apples and the drinks and the pills that he has left. I lie very still, pray for sleep, and count the hours til he is home. I assume that work is a reprieve for him, a small breath of fresh air, but he's still coming home, happy as ever to see me, to spend time with me, even if it means browsing Netflix again, and watching as I fall asleep halfway through a 22 minute episode of god knows what.  He brings me gifts, big and small, so I know that he has  been thinking of me. Recently I unwrapped a piece of costume jewelry from a store he knows I love. It is a pendant that I already own. I laugh. Maybe someone else would be annoyed that their husband hasn't noticed this piece hanging on her wall (if not her neck), but I know the truth: he saw it and knew instinctively that it was me. Perhaps subliminally he remembered it, but at the very least, he knew I would like it, and clearly I have. Twice.

We have this thing, he and I, a mutual distaste for schmaltz. We can never be too mushy. If he says I love you (which is rare unless post-orgasm), I typically respond with "You better." Now I hear myself saying "You must."

So it's not France. But it turns out to be kind of romantic, if you look at it a little cock-eyed. We have discovered new ways to love and be loved. And there will always be Paris.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Best Couple Ever

A little while ago I asked that you spare us a minute and vote for us in a contest my husband was inspired to enter for "Best Couple Ever."

Very sweet of him, and very sweet of you to oblige us.

I've found myself reflecting on this notion of the "best couple", a silly notion, and a title impossible to bestow because although voting is anonymous, some of our generous friends and family have let us know we have their support despite being from very fine couples themselves.

Love is not a contest.
Marriage, as you may know, turns out to be this incredible, complex little thing, each one so unique that you can never truly know what it's like if you're on the outside looking in, and even the two people in question can spend a lifetime trying to figure it out . Even as insiders we sometimes struggle to uphold the very values and goals that we ourselves aspired to in the rose-coloured vows that we took. Married or not, any long-term relationship takes some work.

Love and marriage do not exist in a vacuum. Ours exists within a framework of all the successful relationships around us, and even the ones that have come to pass. In fact, I think I've probably learned more from the "failed" relationships, my own included, because these have all started out in the success column and slowly (or explosively!) made their way into the black. Is it luck? Experience? Willingness to look the other way? Settling? Grit? Fate?

I am probably too old and too married to still not really know what love is. I only know how it feels: like I'll take the bad times because of the good. Like I'll do whatever work is necessary to keep that fluttery feeling. Like I belong curled up in his arms. Like my life is terrific without him, but way better with.

Are we the best couple ever? Probably safe to say we are not. But we are getting better, because every day I hold his hand, and every day we still choose yes.

I am the world's worst patient and Sean turns out to be a gentle and patient nurse. Ladies and gentlemen, I do not deserve him.