Here is the question.
How do you achieve balance in a relationship without one person turning to say, “It’s fine. Go ahead. My dreams and goals can be on the backburner for now. I CAN WAIT.”
There are times when I wish it could be so simple. That in a wonderful old-fashioned way it was possible to say, ” The ultimate dream is our happy family. As long as we have enough to get by on, do we really care how we work out the logistics?”
And even if both involved parties agree upon the final destination of A Happy And Fulfilled Family Life , how do you get to the finish line together without one feeling shortchanged? Is it a measure of love you really need or is it huge dollops of sacrifice and forbearance?
How much love would it take to make you give up your dreams? Given that there were concrete dreams beyond marriage to begin with?
I am an awful fit for traditional notions of marriage. I don’t really possess the sort of soft, supportive values it seems to require. (Note how I make marriage sound like a Victoria’s Secret bra)
Too opinionated, too unwilling to bow or bend, too unwilling to give unless I can take as freely, too exacting and too demanding. I am passionate about the things that matter to me, the very things that contribute to my emotional and intellectual welfare. I am singleminded and ruthless when passion has a plan.
I look at successful couples with children and think, “Whats your secret? Yeah, the one you aren’t bottling and selling?”
Or are they also squabbling over who was supposed to take the trash out last night? And I bathed the kids yesterday, so its your turn SO THERE. Maybe they are.
My life would be immeasurably simpler if I could lean back (I can never lean back. I always lean in) and say, “Honey, go make your millions. Follow your dreams and I’ll be around.”
Maybe I have seen too many awful relationships where the common quotient seems to be an unspoken, seething resentment. An unsavoury Hillary Swank – Chad Lowe prototype where the quietly resentful “I sacrificed and contributed to your success” is cut with a crass “Yeah, like you were going to run for President anyway.”
Maybe I have seen far too many men and women of my age, of my generation, give up. Whether they chose to work or stay at home, WORKING – duh – they have somehow lost the sparkle in their eyes. Maybe it was their inability to negotiate any real power in their relationships. Maybe they believe that this is as good as it gets?
(Why is it always women rather than men that will settle for a confinement, a regulation of themselves?)
Call me Alpha Female. Call me a bitch. But I won’t do Plus One. Or Mrs.
I can’t be the add on wife at an expat club, drinking martinis and sporadically screwing the tennis instructor. Oh…WAIT A MINUTE NOW:-)
Its not about Stay At Home or Out At Work. Its not about women’s rights. All of this applies equally to men.
For a minute, lets talk about how an appetite for life can be too large to be contained. How the need for contact, stimulation and social engagement can drain and rejuvenate you simultaneously. How you can wake on somedays popping with energy and great ideas and the possibility of actualisation. How swiftly you will be crushed by depression when you feel you are treading water and going nowhere. How the sense of hopelessness can feed the dark spaces of your mind and just when you think you are NEVER getting out of bed..
You do. And if you’re lucky, you might just find a spark that never died out; that won’t allow you to give up.
My only real promise to myself was to always feed that spark – and to remember that what a lot of people call selfishness is also self-love.
I have made my peace with the fact that compromise will always be an uncomfortable word for me. An uneasy fit if you will.
I want to continue taking chunky bites of life around me and wiping the zest of my chin.
I want to stay the young girl who was always afraid of dying young, who felt like she had to take it all in, make sense of it all in some way before she was hit by a bus. It petrifies me to let go of the urgency, to let myself be waylaid into a “ach..later” mode of thinking, where tommorow never comes.
I really want to say that mothering is the most fulfilling thing in my life, and at times, sure. It fulfils me to the point of bovine floatation.
Then there are times when it does nothing of the sort and I pick up socks and wonder what the hell happened to the Me I Knew.
Unalloyed blessing, it ain’t.
And maybe its an odd thing to say, but I want to pass on a greed for life to my children. Not sacrifice, not compromise, not apathy in large doses. Not a notion of love or devotion which always sees their needs, their energy de-prioritized.
I want them to grab their happiness with both bare hands, ignoring that it will be difficult at times, ignoring that it might be to the detriment of all that is traditional and accepted, cherished and convenient. Ignoring that it might make the significant other in their life a bit cranky for a while.
I want them to realise sooner rather than later that they will only care about truly making someone else happy when they are reasonably fulfilled themselves.
As for the balance issue – could I be happy with a man who wasn’t comfortable with my taking the wheel? Letting me be on top? Come on, I’m letting you pick the smutty metaphor here.
Absolutely no damn way.
Who will big enough to make room when there are many ambitions and plans jostling for space with family life? I can’t say just yet.
Having woven dreams for a decade now, we know how to do it without dropping a stitch. The challenge is really to keep wanting the same design, to be happy with our creation. I’m leaving that to time, talking and a belief that there is way without losing ourselves somewhere.
In the meanwhile, if someone is selling that secret recipe, I’m buying.
There’s no time to lose, I heard her say
Catch your dreams before they slip away
Dying all the time
Lose your dreams
And you may lose your mind.
Ain’t life unkind?
– Ruby Tuesday, Rolling Stones.