I have so much: a one-eyed dog, a pink bike, a Quacker in Nowheresville, and shoo-in status as Mother of the Year for the parenting of my teenagers. I am grateful out the ears. I won’t bore you with any more of those details; instead I’ll share just one real message of thanks today. I am thankful for big love.
My husband asked me to marry him this morning.
I said maybe. Usually when he asks – and he asks often, he’s romantic that way – I say yes. But not today. Today I am still in the turbulence of a Big Love jet-wash.
That’s what we have, a big love with big emotions and big hearts at stake. We’re pretty poorly equipped for it: two middle-aged losers at marriage their first go ’round, a little self-centered, highly emotional and with the kind of baggage that could have inspired Miranda Lambert’s song Baggage Claim (my current fave tune).
Some people have love, but not big love. Some people don’t need or want big love. It seems to me that for many of these people, life is perfect without the highest of highs, because they appreciate and are content with the consistency of a love without the lowest of lows. Maybe.
Not me. I want July 4th and Christmas rolled into one, even if the price is the occasional nearly-slain gladiator on the floor of a Roman colosseum. And I have that, boy do I have that.
How does one survive a big love? I’ve written on this before a la Couples Who Make You Want to Puke and the dreaded Relationship Operating Agreement (ROA) concept. Our ROA does help, as does the ground work we put in creating it.
Padded walls help.
Valium. Valium is good, too.
What helps most, though, is perspective and a good sense of humor. Take this week for example. Eric and I go weeks, sometimes months, without a ripple on Lake Placid. Well, it has ripples, but those are more the waterbed kind. Good ripples. And then something comes along, and BAM tsunami. It’s that sudden, and that random. I lived another life in a relationship with predictability, and with 24/7 bickering that my children still refer to with eye rolls. This is different. Different in an enormously wonderful and scary way.
This week, Eric did something that hurt my feelings. No biggie. He didn’t mean to. Three days later, he is contrite, and I realize both his good intentions and my contributions to the misunderstanding.
But this is big love. And it became a big deal. Except that what we battled over was not whether or not he did something wrong or whether or not I was too sensitive.
We fought over the crack baby. The crack baby is like a feel-good teddy bear, only more addictive. It’s not like a literal crack baby, which is a serious thing when it happens, and is real. This crack baby is like a make-believe Raggedy Ann stuffed with crack. The crack baby is our relationship. It’s the high we get from loving each other. He took my crack baby by his “action,” I took his by my “reaction.” Our whole damn fight was literally over nothing more than “make this stop and give it back.” Which would have happened in an instant if either of us had simply done that. Stopped.
Neither of us is a “stop first” kind of person.
It ain’t easy being this difficult. You could strive and strive and probably never achieve these lows. It’s a (dis)honor reserved for the truly noble. Yours truly. And my beloved.
We get apocalyptic, along the lines of, “my best will never be good enough for you,” or “you ALWAYS” and “so I’m never kind/caring/insert-your-word-here, that’s what you’re saying.” Nonsense shit. Grown-ups behaving like children. WAAAAH, GIVE IT BACK OR I’LL THROW A TANTRUM.
Sometimes one of us will pull out the ROA, and we’ll regroup and handle our non-issue appropriately. Other times one of us will try only to get whacked over the head with it. Usually, we forget in the heat of the extended moment. Oops.
When we are worn out, beat down, and busted, it will finally re-occur to one of us: we’re simply in withdrawal. The crack addict in me crawls to her feet from the fetal position, shakes off the DT’s, and surveys the damage. It’s ugly, but the sun is shining, and look! There it is – a worn baby doll on the floor. She scoops it up and hugs it, and it is gooooood. It is the crack baby.
And then we laugh, with some shame and a shared guilt. We are addicted to the ratty crack baby. We have just gouged each other’s hearts out over nothing, yet over the most important thing at the same time. Our relationship. Our fear of losing the feeling. Our unspoken terror of losing each other.
Talk about an attempt to self-fulfill a prophecy.
But what we do next is critical. We talk over the deviation from the ROA while our wounds are still fresh. We hold each other. We apologize. We forgive.
If we are having trouble stopping the tussle, we allow one holler of “calf-rope.”
calf-rope, holler v phr Also call calf-rope, cry ~, say ~, yell ~; also calf-rope exclam [Origin uncert] chiefly S Midl, Gulf States See Map Cf uncle Esp in children’s games: to give in, surrender; to capitulate. 1878 Eggleston Roxy 44 sIN, [They] pummeled each other in a friendly way until the challenger, finding that his antagonist had entirely stopped respiration, was forced to “hollow calf-rope,” that is, to signify by gestures that he was beaten. 1906 DN 3.129 nwAR, Calf-rope [kæfrop]. . . I give up, I surrender. “I’ll give it to him till he yells calf-rope.” 1908 DN 3.296 eAL, wGA, I’ll make him say calf-rope. 1933 AmSp 8.1.31 nwTX, In an argument, rassel, or any sort of contest, a fellow could acknowledge his opponent’s superiority, and usually stop hostilities immediately, by saying calf-rope. In extreme cases, however, the conquered was made to spell it. Ibid 49
From the Dictionary of American Regional English: http://dare.wisc.edu/?q=node/71
But the privilege of hollering calf-rope doesn’t come free. As with ending any of our infamous disagreements, we have to recommit to solving the issue (if there is even a real issue instead of just a crack baby issue), reaffirm our love and commitment to our ROA principles, and release the crap that is dragging us down.
Yeah, we have to let it go. Get the hell over it. Which isn’t always easy, because we’ve created a mountain of garbage out of nothing. But yet it is always achievable because of…
And laughter, with each other, about each other, eventually. Me sooner than Eric. Eric grudgingly a few days later, but loud and real.
Big love = epic adventures, big screen romances, and greeting card sonnets. It’s Disney princess. It’s The Notebook. It’s lightning in a bottle.
Not everybody wants it. It doesn’t come free. But I wouldn’t trade our passion for predictabililty. I’m crazy that way and imperfect to boot, and damn lucky to have someone as my partner who’s crazy and imperfect in just that same way.
Today, I’m thankful for the big love.
And, Eric, the answer is always yes.