When my husband and I first met, we bonded over books, music and a mutual appreciation of suffering and psychotherapy. (That may sound, odd, I realize. But there it is.) We shared favorite books and bought them for each other. We made each other mix CDs. We told our childhood tales and shared our therapists' wisdom.
There was a deep ache in all of it that resonated in one another.
And beyond a shared pain that could be pressed with just the slightest touch of a fingertip, beyond that there was a shared hope. Such a joyous spark within in us, a faith even, that things could be better. Should be better. Maybe even better together?
How the stuff that reached down into our bone marrow and shook our protective shells loose, oh how that stuff made us wrap around each other and intertwine our broken arms and wounded hearts. You can laugh or roll your eyes if you like. But we were both damaged goods, fragile to the touch and quick to bolt. It's true. I'm laying it bare before you like a fool. And in each other we found shelter. We found safe quarters. Buddha help us, we did.
That was many years ago and we've each grown stronger. We're not quite so fragile. We've recovered from bad relationships and reconstituted ourselves into two successful people with a happy family and a nice house and successful careers.
All of that takes a lot of work.
Building a marriage, a home, and a family takes a lot of work. External work. Financial work and physical work. We've added a marriage counselor in the midst of all that to keep our relationship together at its core. We've just finished a major project renovating our yard. Totally new back yard and front yard. It represents a lot of money and a lot of shared decision-making. Also a lot of optimism. You don't spend money on a yard unless you feel pretty secure in life.
But all that building and buttressing and care-taking ... it all takes a lot of work.
Are you noticing a theme here? WORK WORK WORK.
How do you keep the soul of the thing intact amidst all that work?
Where has our vulnerability gone? Where is the rawness and shared grief? Where is the beauty of the mixed CD, the favorite book ... a childhood tale that neither of us has heard before?
Sometimes that magic gets lost in the day to day. Building a life is not exactly the same thing as a budding romance.
Lately my husband has been listening to classical music. I used to like classical music when I played the violin. But now I sort of hate it. It stresses me out. It doesn't speak to me and it has no soul. I like singer-songwriters and more contemporary or alternative stuff. He likes classical. We can't even make playlists for each other any more.
We don't share the same books anymore either. He's switched to audio books and I've switched to a Kindle.
But we do watch some of the same shows (but not all).
Marriage. It's an evolution. It's not all new and stardust and figuring each other out. It's easy to grow apart and feel like all you see is the differences. I don't like his music and he doesn't really have the patience to read what I'm reading.
What's closer to the soul than books and music?
I don't know.
Who are we anymore?
Where did we go?
Tonight he sent me a song by Gregory Alan Isakov. And he also sent me the lyrics. (He never pays attention to lyrics.) My husband is a musician and listens to the melody. I'm a writer and pay more attention to the words. Isakov has both going on, but more importantly, it was one of those moments in a long-term relationship where I was suddenly taken back to the beginning.
"Perhaps he still knows me after all," I thought.
We do know each other. Our souls speak the same language.
Music can do that.
Words can do that.
So for tonight, we're not talking about how many minutes we have to water the new sod or whether the new arbor vitae is tilting slightly to the left. We're not fighting with our daughter over taking her medicine. Or getting annoyed over who put what in the wrong place. (He did.)
So tonight we touched the soft places in the hidden corners of our hearts. Tender. Hurt. Hidden and real. How often do we neglect that secret self once we go from lovers steeped in discovery to spouses battling out turf?
Tonight I listened to the sound of our shared heart. Our shared hurt. Whoever it is we are underneath all the bogus trappings of propping up a life. Underneath it all, we are those two vulnerable people who dared to meet. Who dared to reveal ourselves to each other. To touch each other and uncover the soft places inside.
It made me remember a hairpin on his windowsill. Mine. How he told me he left it there on purpose so that he could touch it in the morning and think of me after I'd left.
It's a wonder how a little song can make you feel human again. Remind you that there's something beyond mortgages and deadlines and picking up the dry-cleaning. Something like love.