Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Yes, I have been avoiding you.

I haven't written in many days, and for the first time in my meager blog's history, my absence was deliberate.


Today, as I was about to make a comment on another blogger's absolutely magnificently poignant post, I stopped myself.


Because I have to come clean here. I have to tell you about the fight, and the reason I have been ignoring you.


So here goes.

J and I had spent the day running wedding errands. We left the house around noon, and we finally stumbled home around 8:30 or so. We were looking forward to a quiet evening, sipping drinks in the backyard. J grabbed a beer, and I made a martini for the occasion.

We began chatting, and laughing, and then the conversation turned more serious. We started a real discussion about our careers, and our future family... Those adorable babies we will call V. and H. (Because I totally have their names picked out already! And they are so cute! In my brain!)

We do a lot of talking about V and H. Because we love them already, and we want to make sure we are providing them the best life possible. And that they like vegetables and Thai cuisine. And that they don't watch too much television, but not NO television, because that would be very restrictive and unrealistic, and hey man, we are conscientious, sensible parents. You know, to our yet-to-be conceived offspring. V and H.

One day last year J came home and proclaimed: "We will not have babies until we have 6 million dollars in the bank*." And then my eyes bugged out of my head and I argued that, J, 6 mil* is a lot of cash. Surely we could be less aggressive?

But then J convinced me that once we had that seed money, we could live comfortably, and have much more flexibility. So I went with it. Today, We save nearly 40% of our paychecks each month. We live below our means (save my penchant for expensive martinis and Coach) in order to achieve our lofty goals. And we both feel good about that.

Now, J is getting his MBA. It is a legitimate expense, but we can handle it. And since J is in school, and working full-time, he came home one day recently and proclaimed that V and H were on hold until he was nearly done with his Master's. His reasoning was sound: he wanted to be completely available to those babies after work.

With all of this happening, and V and H remaining a gleam in our eye until, er, 2010 or so, I reasoned that I should be in school now. I want an advanced degree, and why not be in school together?

Which leads us back to this idle Saturday night, in which we discuss options. Options that always seem to assume J is the constant, and I am the variable. I can continue in my job now. Or I can quit my job. Or I can get another job. It's all good.

And, that, right there, is the problem for me.

I have many faults, Internet. I am often too whimsical and idealistic. I procrastinate. I can be selfish and lazy and petulant, sometimes all in the same afternoon. I hate to share food. I am extremely unpleasant most mornings. And sometimes, just sometimes, I set lofty goals for myself - aloud - and then I forget about those goals, because, you know, something else came up. And that last sin is unforgivable, because it injures the validity of my word. It may perpetuate the notion that I am the variable. I may call you back when I say I will. But I may not. I may say I will study for the GMATs daily, but may pop in The Tudors DVD instead.

But see here: throughout all of these meaderings and foibles, I have never stopped believing that I am destined to be something.

I will score well on the GMATs. I will get an MBA, and eventually a PhD. I will publish a novel. We will be wealthy. We will raise nice children. We will make an indelible mark on this world.

I believe I matter, even if you don't. Even if I am but one blogger in a slew of 632 billion.

It follows then, that my career should matter. My job should matter. The long and short of it is: I should be a constant too.

Hello, me, over here, on the blog? I'm not killing time. I am not just pittering around in this job to throw in the towel when I have babies. I'm not. It's not me. I aspire to be a mother. I aspire to be professionally successful. I want both. And I will not forfeit either aspiration. And this blog? Believe it or not, I think it is legitimate. Even if you don't. I practice my craft here, and eventually, I am going to be published, on like, actual paper. I have before. I will again.

I should interrupt my rant here to tell you that my future husband is a wonderful, kind man, who wants to give me (along with V and H) everything I want and need in this world, and he is willing to work damn hard for it all. He is a good person, with a heart that breaks Dr. Seuss-like measuring devices. This whole fight evolved from a tragic male/female miscommunication.

He said: Do whatever you want to do! You can work or not work, whatever you want to do.

I heard: I don't value your professional contribution. It's really not as meaningful as mine, dear. Ya geddit? I am the constant. I am the breadwinner. You are the variable. You don't work? Cool. You bring in money? Even better. But, you know, whatever.

And. That's not me.

Later, I said: Well, what if I do quit my job, and work full-time as a freelance writer?

He said: You don't just become a freelance writer. You have to know people, and you have to really work at it. You won't make money overnight.

I heard: I don't believe in you.

You see what happened there? Disaster. J was being practical, and I was being idealistic. We were communicating on two completely different wavelengths.

You can imagine his initial shock and confusion when I subsequently burst into tears and walked inside the house, where I sat in the kitchen for an hour, sobbing. I ignored his pleas to stop crying, to come into the living room, to please talk about this. The pleas became angrier. Stop twisting my words! He roared, as I reiterated over and over that he didn't believe in me, that my blog was ridiculous, an inconsequential pasttime for a stupid, silly girl, who should just accept that she is merely mediocre.

Sigh.

This is communication breakdown at it's ugliest. And our worst fight to date. I eventually retreated upstairs to the bedroom, bleary-eyed. He stayed on the couch until about two AM, when he crept into bed, explaining he couldn't sleep: he was having dreams that I was having savage dogs attack him.

Yeah, that's pretty much what it felt like.

The next morning we woke early, both wounded, guarded still. We talked and talked, words chosen carefully. We tried to get it right. And we did well. Though even after J assured me that he loved my blog, that it did matter, I still couldn't bring myself to write anything.

But I'm glad I wrote this, even if it was just for me, and J. I feel lighter now. And I am convinced that it does matter, if only just to me, and J, and you, and a few other people who happen to google "orbs" or "politicians" and stumble across me. It's still something.

Also, the fight? It was a good thing, although it left us both vaguely sick for days. Now we understand each other just a bit more. I know if I say I am going to do something, well then, it needs to be done. That's just good practice. I also know how important it is to J that I get it done. Something as seemingly benign as never baking the banana muffins I swear I am making at least weekly (there are Tudors episodes to watch!), well, it shakes his faith in me, ever so slightly. And he needs to trust that I am a wife of my word. There are two of us in this relationship, after all.

Both constant.

* Numbers have been grossly inflated. Writer enjoys hyperbole.

6 comments:

Brighton said...

As a mom of four who after 16 years is FINALLY returning to my profession of teaching- I get it. I so totally get it. I cried when I read Amalah's post, because I've been that girl in the burrito joint, mascarra running down her face. My husband and I have very similar problems with communication- usually ending up with me sobbing and him scratching his head in utter confusion.
We speak very different languages, and the fact that I have always had to rely on a man while raising these four kids has been difficult- even now.
I hate to say it, but I am resentful and I HATE that I am so dependent on him. But, I also know that we are a team and that sometimes someone has to warm the bench (even if you are holding a baby while on it!) while the other plays. In the end we all share the trophy : )

Amy said...

I came over here from your comment on amalah.com. Thanks for this post. I've been married for 6 years and we're still figuring all of this out -- it might take us the next 80 years or so. I like the constant/variable terms. When I was on maternity leave and complaining about how boring it was to not be working and interacting with adults, my husband would always say "but you can do whatever you want!" I've had a hard time articulating EXACTLY how unhelpful that comment is, and now you've given me the words. So thanks! Keep writing, it's definitely appreciated.

Homevalley said...

Thanks so much for the comments! I couldn't believe how timely Amalah's post was for me. I think it is so wonderful that she's started this dialogue.

Brighton, your comment makes perfect sense. No babies yet for me, and already I am struggling with the resentment. I have asked J occasionally, would you do it? Would you stop working and allow me to be the breadwinner? And his honest answer is always no, he wouldn't. He still wants to be a professional too. He wants that, and I want that, and hopefully we can keep our heads on straight and make it work. We are a team, same as you and your husband.

Amy, thanks for the kind words. I wonder if men and women will ever figure it out... Probably the best we can do is be kind in our relationships, attempt to understand each other, and maybe in the future avoid these serious discussions during vodka-consumption.

the_real_jc said...

Long time, no see... couple things:

1) I love your blog. It is the real deal. I have been MIA for a while, but now I am back.
2) I totally didn't think 6 mil was an exageration until I read the disclaimer, and even now i'm not so sure...
3) Is the Tudor's a good show?
4) My first guess on names: Harry and VAginia!
5) On a serious note: You two have as much in common as any couple I know... that being said, you are also different in many ways.... but different in the best kind of ways.... the kind where you've both learned a lot from each other, and come to see new outlooks on things and how the one one thinks. While still keeping your own personal identities, I think you've really evolved because of each other. I can elaborate over beers at Cheap Shots some time (after which you will both yawn and need to go home at 8pm... but I digress). But I think you've evolved to become, as that one lady but it, a "team." And honestly, you're the best damn "team" I know. The kind they should write how-to books on and maybe even make a Lifetime movie about. You're two of my favorites...
6) I feel like a chick... we probably will never speak of point#5 again.
7) Another serious note.... why don't you guys just go pop out some little goblins right now.... let the real jc move in and become their "mentor" while you are both out taking over corporations and dominating the working universe? I will teach Harry and V the ways of the world (eagles football, Lost, how technology works, how to pick up chicks in europe and online, santucci brothers pizza, recycling, etc). For payment all you have to do is give me a room, let me eat all your food, and match 80% of my current salary (tax free of course).
8) If you guys can handle a 31 year old man defiling your furniture and leaving your place in shambles, you're going to make stellar parents. Who needs kids now? Next time you need parenting practice you know who to call!

That's all I got....

Anonymous said...

I actually have to say that it is a two-headed problem more than anything else. The two culprits being selfishness and ego.

You did a good job of sticking up for your man, as any partner should, but over the long haul your self reassurance will not be enough to sweep this under the rug. I am sure he is caring and giving and a dream to be around, but this type of selfishness and ego has to do with his role in the relationship. You are ultimately inferior to him, he is the breadwinner.

Too many woman take that indifferent path, allowing themselves to accept the way things are and just letting it float to the back of their mind. Moments of frustration or emotional stress allow it to rise to the surface and flare up every so often, but ultimately it just goes away and silently eats. That is the problem, it eats and eats and eventually devours the relationship from the inside out.

Don't let it come to that, you are both equals in this and your equality should be recognized and accepted. If you are not going to take this on now, when can you? I know plenty of men who take the "stay at home" role, regardless of earning issues, ego, or self-pride and they thrive. No feelings of pride and self worth should come between what truly makes you happy. If a career makes you happy and a career makes him happy then there has to be a legitimate compromise. Are you always going to be the one to bend?

Many relationships are built that way and if you choose it for yourself you had better accept it now. You don't get a redo because when you try, it will be too late in life. Too many years will have passed and the effort will ultimately be futile because in the end he will always trump your goals and attempts to achieve. You also don't get to complain later because you brought it upon yourself. You see it now, subtle, but it is there and the next time around it will be less subtle. This is the moment to address it because you see it right in front of your face and it won't change unless you change it.

I hate to be so dramatic but you have been talking about your wedding for quite some time. These are the issues people should work out before they get married. These are the issues that cause resentment years down the road and ultimately pad the stats. You both need to get over yourselves and figure out the right way to handle this because it will come up again. With two strong and motivated personalities coming together it is only a matter of time.

This is not a communication issue, you fumbled through the communication issue and you communicated to the root of the problem, now you have to solve the problem. Otherwise you have to accept the role you have allowed him to give you.

Homevalley said...

I appreciate these comments so much, and intend to revisit this topic in another post, rather than the comments section. Anonymous makes a lot of interesting points. I need time to mull them over.