So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish

We received our divorce decree today.

Over the last six years I have, understandably, developed a number of strong opinions about marriage, and someday I’ll figure out how to express them. Not surprisingly, a number of them will not be as positive as I might wish.

So today, while I’m thinking about it, and before I loose those on the world, I want to go on record with all the things about my marriage I’ve enjoyed and am grateful for. In no particular order, then:

  • Having my very own taste-tester to let me know whether the salsa (etc.) was safe or too spicy for me to eat. And while we’re on the subject:
  • Being taught that I enjoy Mexican food (really, I can’t imagine how I ever thought I didn’t). And being introduced to pho, although I wish more places made it as well as the place we went to in Arkansas (go figure). Oh, and frozen yogurt. And street meat. And bourbon!! And discovering that my all-time favorite wine region is… Michigan. Yum.
  • Having a husband who’s a better cook than I am, and who has vastly improved my understanding of such subjects as seasoning. (This list isn’t all food, I promise!)
  • The best in-laws a girl could have. Their first and last words to me were expressions of love and support, and I am sad that they are no longer family I can look forward to visiting yearly, but I’m happy to have the memories of the time we did have.
  • The opportunity to experience different parts of the country in-depth. It was always funny when people tried to sympathize about our criss-crossing moves. No. I was thrilled to go to Maine and Vermont, places I’d always wanted to go but might not have made it to, and certainly wouldn’t have lived in, on my own. And even though Kansas wasn’t a place I would have chosen, I’m glad to have lived here, too.
  • Our long at-least-weekly walks in the first couple years. Having someone to walk with me – and distract me by talking about the houses we passed – was the essential component in finally getting my 3-year-long ankle sprain to heal. And also, the opportunity to learn at least a little more about health and fitness… and finally learning how to ride a bike.
  • Being introduced to a couple of handfuls of musicians I wouldn’t have discovered on my own, some of whom are already staples of my listening, some who are yet to be fully explored.
  • Having a car mechanic, a computer technician, a plumber, an electrician, a general contractor, and all around mechanically handy person in the family. I’m going to miss that.
  • Cross-country road trips. I grew up in a very flying-oriented family, so road trips weren’t really part of my vernacular. I found, somewhat to my surprise, that I enjoy the long-haul driving. And that there’s something very meditative about an overnight drive that means I really didn’t mind taking the 3 a.m. shift. And that the real joy is in the back roads.
  • Some of the nerdy cultural touchstones I can’t imagine not being familiar with – Lord of the Rings, HP, Eragon – were things I was first exposed to by my husband. When you’re planning to name your (hypothetical future) children after the characters you admire, it’s safe to say those things have made an impact.
  • When your sanity depends on proving that you can be loved, you get much better at identifying and cultivating the most likely sources – and cutting out those relationships that are harmful. For both of those reasons, but mostly the former, I will never again be as sad or as lonely as I was before my marriage. I learned that I already had more and better friends than I’d ever realized, and my ability to connect with new friends has increased exponentially. The effect this has had on my life cannot be overstated, and it is something I have not yet ceased to regard with wonder.
  • The opportunity to test – and prove – my childish hypothesis that I can survive anything.
  • Being forced to focus on and work through my issues, as fast as humanly possible, along with the crash course in how to consider others’ feelings and needs. I’ve said it a dozen times, I’ll say it hundreds more: I feel like I took the 5-year shortcut to 20 years of growth. And I value that enough that if given the chance to go back in time and change history… I might just sit back and let myself go through it anyway.
  • And I’m grateful, too, for the vast increase in love and patience that makes that acceptance possible. Don’t think letting yourself suffer sounds like love? I think it is. I think it’s a rare and powerful compassion that says, “I understand you, and I know that although it won’t be easy, you need this. And I know you can handle it, and I wouldn’t dream of holding you back and denying you what you need, just to give you the illusion of comfort.” Because as much as we might think we’d rather do without trials, our Before is never as easy or comfortable or happy as our After. Staying permanently in “Before” isn’t something I would wish on my worst enemy. So I think that perhaps, if you aren’t grateful for the hard times you’ve had, you haven’t yet learned all there is to learn from them.

Considering all of this, there’s one thing that keeps echoing through my head, one thing that seems in a funny way to sum it up best, so I will say it: “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

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Friends & Family

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately: what a blessing it is to have true friends, and what a long journey it is sometimes to find out who they are.

My current definition of a real friend: Continue reading “Friends & Family”

Notes from Maine: Each Day’s Journey

After driving for about 10 miles through a very pretty kind of nowhere in particular, the road curves around to the right and you suddenly become aware that you are entering a village. A blink-and-you-miss-it road turns left to the country club. Before you is the Commons, a medium-sized field with a gazebo (and frequently a craft fair or farmer’s market), rimmed on two sides with a lot of old wooden houses and a crab shack. It is balanced on the right by the Traffic Triangle, grassy and adorned by a stone statue of an as-yet-unidentified man. Continue reading “Notes from Maine: Each Day’s Journey”

Gratitude and Apology

Last week at the office I made coffee, realized the creamer display was empty, refilled it, and spent several minutes unsuccessfully trying to get the box to fit back into the cupboard so the door would close. I finally gave up and resolved that I would mention it to the receptionist – duly apologetic, of course. Just then she walked into the kitchen to do the restocking so I mentioned it, she looked, saw it, and said, “Oh, thanks – I’ll take care of it.” Her tone was cheerful and there was nothing in the whole exchange that seemed to require a second thought.

Except five minutes later another member of the admin staff walked into my office. Apparently she had happened to be walking past as it took place and found it offensive. She thought my request was disrespectful – as if I thought it was the receptionist’s “job” to do that. She made a point of saying that she didn’t care about “whose job it is,” she just does whatever is needed, and would have kept working at the box until it fit. She then asked, in a tone that implied she already knew the answer and it wasn’t good, if I would have just left it that way [indefinitely].

Continue reading “Gratitude and Apology”

Microscope vs. Telescope

One of the most educational aspects of my trip to New York was the hotel. I was allowed to book somewhere I had particularly wanted to stay and was therefore very, very excited – which is not something one can often say about business trip hotels – in spite of the very divided reviews on TripAdvisor. It seemed that people either love it or hate it, with little to no middle ground.
 
I expected that I would tend more to the “love it” side, and indeed, here is a partial list of Things About My Hotel That Made Me Happy:
  • The atmospheric (aka dim) lighting. It made it like a nightclub for intelligent people.
  • Keycards that NEVER demagnetized, even when I accidentally put them next to my phone.
  • The tiny perfection of the room’s arrangement, even if it didn’t always adhere to “Anatomy for Interior Designers” best practices (i.e., if you can’t fit through a space 9” wide, you’ll have to climb over the toilet to get in the shower)
  • The Library Bar. It’s a Library! And a bar! Together! Genius!
  • A very effective air conditioner which did not rattle, thus soothingly drowning out Blondie’s “Atomic,” which could be plainly heard echoing up from the courtyard 7 stories below at 9:59 p.m.
  • Hudson Hall. The concept pleased me – Harvard/Oxford-esque communal dining made cool (and also fitted out with a beautiful bar).
  • Unbelievably delicious bread.
  • Louis-something chairs painted silver and upholstered in mustard suede – the perfect blend of uber-formal and rocker-chic.
  • Potentially snooty design, very casually helpful staff. Almost everybody I dealt with was somebody I’d want to be friends with, too. The combination made the whole place fun and cool rather than pretentious.
To be sure, there were things here and there that were escaped perfection by some little distance, but I greeted them with cheerful indulgence. It was much like when Junior captures the neighbor’s cat and starts pulling out all its fur, only to have his doting mother exclaim, “Oh, boys will be boys! You can’t expect them to behave all the time!”
 
But eventually some of these things needed to be dealt with, which was more of a hassle than it should have been, and all of a sudden everything snowballed. I was going to present you with Things About My Hotel That Made Me Furious, but honestly, the list goes on and on. You know how it is – once you see one flaw, you see them everywhere. Eventually it overwhelmed all the positive feelings I started with until my whole mood and demeanor collapsed under the weight. 
 
I had to force myself to refocus. Get out of the room with patchy internet, and go sit in the Library Bar with a book. Don’t think about paying $19 for a nectarine (don’t ask), just take another helping of the spectacular bread. I was never able to get back to that early, effervescent delight, but at least I wasn’t angry all day.
 
The thing is, I still really do love parts of the hotel. (As a product, not an experience. I can’t help viewing all this as a lesson in Marketing and Brand Promise failure. But I digress.) And I knew almost from the moment I stepped inside that loving it would be the product either of them having a really good day, or my willingness to make allowances, my ability to ignore the less-than-ideal details and revel in the concept of the place. The hotel does not fare well when gone over with a fine-tooth comb, but if you zoom out a bit and add a bit of romantic blur to the picture, it’s irresistible.
 
From a marketing perspective, it’s great that the standard of service has been raised so much and customers have gotten so pampered, but expecting, and demanding, perfection isn’t the best way to enjoy it. Nor is it realistic. Things will never be perfect – and neither will people.
 
There’s an old saying that you choose on a daily basis whether you will be happy or unhappy. And we know that love is a choice too. Turns out it’s the same one.

Oh.

I just noticed for the first time that I have eight people following this blog. Oh. You mean people actually read it? Terrifying. Must now try not to freak out.

But, seriously, guys, thanks for the support.