How much is a love experience shaped by the trappings of life at that moment? The life stage you’re in. The hard/sad/awesome stuff you’re going through. The level of maturity your heart and head are at. People talk about connections — soul, heart, mind, spirit?, humor! — but just how much of all of that is about…timing? Different lovers you meet don’t necessarily result in different kinds of connections because of who they are, but because of who they are at that moment. And who you are at that moment. And how ya got there.
Is this why there is such a magic/aura/myth about first love? Because, in its most glorified form, first love takes place early on in your formation as a human — teen years, early 20s, young adulthood — though each of those, obviously, is different and beautiful and anguished in its own way. But all in all, those are magical times, even as just a singleton. Add the explosive reactants of loving and of being loved, and the reactions are that much more formative. Is it, too, about the new pathways your brain is forging in that first relationship? Is each following iteration a follow-on glide down the already formed pathway? So the first glide — or cut, depending on your perspective — is the deepest. Could we almost call it the first learn?
What about, then, effort and time? Relationships — romantic and otherwise — need time to bloom and to breathe. They require you to stop rushing about and to give them some attention and love. (Much like a garden, a pet, a catch-up dinner in the WMA.) To plan an actual evening away from duties and responsibilities, even if that requires planning to travel an extra three hours back and forth that day (for. real.). Cause it’s worth it to you. Maybe that, too, is a matter of the timing of your life. Relationship-building requires you to be the type of person ready to put in that kind of effort, and a person with some breathing room in your calendar to devote to the growth of a relationship blossom.
Sometimes I get stuck in Feeling ruts, trip-falling hard on a crag that makes me plunge SPLAT into an emotion puddle. I look up and get up, shake off and keep on walking, but soaked, drenched, in allll the feels. It takes me a whole evening-night of bleary-eyed blogging to dry off sometimes.
One big puddle tonight. And I’m bleary eyed and stubbornly sad indeed, and wondering about these age-old questions again again again, again.
This surgery’s been a long time coming, though we didn’t know it.
Mark hurt his (ring) finger about a month ago, playing frisbee. He dove for a catch (read: threw his body toward the unforgiving earth with too much confidence in his youth and flexibility) and dislocated and fractured his lil digit.
At first, we thought it was just a dislocated joint, especially because he had “popped it back in” right after the crash. It took an x-ray three weeks later to reveal that he had popped it back in…just not to the right place.
The joint (first one up from the base) was popped out about a finger’s width on top of the rest of the hand, and the bone connecting the two joints was chipped, too. The way the surgeon described it, it seemed like the three weeks’ delay had been like a desert storm on that lil chip, wearing away at it until it was no more. Here, questions abound: where did the fragment go? Does it get reabsorbed into the blood stream? Is there a lot of erosion going on in our bodies, normally? If so, what’s doing all that jostling in there? I didn’t know how to phrase these questions appropriately and quickly enough to ask.
So the surgeon reset Mark’s joint (as a “let’s just see if this works” measure) and scheduled the formal surgery (because we were pretty sure the measure wouldn’t work) for the following Thursday. And since the resetting, Mark was told to keep his hand elevated above his heart — it prevents undue swelling — and thus, the multitude of photos of the Markling in the perpetual worshipful-hand-raise pose.
After that first manual resetting, Mark was in a lot of pain. A desperate, helpless, sleepless kind of pain that demands all your attention but only intensifies when you offer it. He texted me all through those first two nights, unable to sleep — midnight… 1 am… 3 am… 5 am… It was heartbreaking, and I was completely useless to help. We tried getting the surgery moved up, but no luck.
The surgery day finally came, and as it approached, Mark’s fear grew and grew. It was kind of astounding to me, because I have an almost unnaturally blase attitude toward medical procedures. Needles, blood-giving, surgery…it’s all NBD to me. All the opposite for Mark. He despises needles, hates the thought of steel objects penetrating his dermis, fears physical pain above all else. Don’t tell the terrorists, but he would last zero seconds under torture…
The fear was palpable and uncontrollable. I was even getting frustrated with him — the fear becoming bigger than a matter of the finger and the pain itself and triggering questions of character, of faith. Why is he so afraid/what is it that makes me not as afraid? At the core, I trust in the medical establishment and their ability to make me better. Does he not believe that? Is this a trust-of-establishment thing? Why does he always expect the worst? Is it a God thing? Does he not believe that God has this under control? Is he even praying?
I tried, really, to be patient — though I broke down at the last minute and mini-yelled at him to “Stop meeping!” right as we were walking into the surgery center. Worst, ever. I know. He forgave me, gracious even amidst the fear.
We met with the surgeon and discussed what the procedure would be like. Mark was small and shivery in his flimsy hospital gown and high-fashion hair net. We tried to watch Food Network to distract him from the gloomy chill of the pre-op area, analyzing cupcake flavors and laughing at the made-up drama of food competition TV shows. It was hard, though, because the surgeon had just told us that it would not be a good idea for Mark to travel right after his surgery, as we had been planning to do. Mark’s brother was graduating the next day, so we had planned to head down to be there.
It makes so much sense, in hindsight, that we would have to stick around at home and let Mark rest over the weekend, but we just had no idea what it would be like. We are — luckily — both pretty inexperienced in hospital procedures and figured that as long as I did the driving, it would be no big deal for us to travel. Wrong-oh. The surgeon looked at us with the single eyebrow raise almost visible through his tight facial control, questioning our common sense, and advised that it would be best to take it easy all weekend, hang out on the couch, watch TV, and administer meds as necessary.
It was disappointing… But I came to be grateful for the dashed plans, because this meant that both our schedules were completely free for the time that we had expected to be away.
Those four-ish hours in the waiting room flew by… I was busy texting updates and emailing prayer requests, reaching out and asking to be touched. My fear bubble had grown, too, because fear is infectious — I was feeling grave and sad and sending out pings in hopes of receiving some back. And receive I did.
People came through. Events like these, I realized, clarify who makes up your community and family. People called, emailed, texted, visited (!), letting us know that they loved us and were praying for Mark. Mark’s family even came up on Saturday to see Mark after his surgery and to grab a meal with us. Afterwards, Mark smiled like a goon and said, “I love my family,” at which I cracked up cause, like, duh.
The surgeon came out, showed me before and after x-rays, complete with new bits of bone and pins poking through. He said that the joint was able to bend all the way to normal range (110 degrees, for those of you counting), so we’re hoping that with physical therapy, Mark can reset the doc’s PR for best recovery.
And thus began our four-day weekend of resting and worrying and relaxing and an uncharacteristic amount of cooking on my part. Like seriously, I have never cooked so many things in the span of four days. Who even am I?
It was a weekend of fitful sleeping, for sure, what with the medicine schedule and the jingle-jangle of Rogue the dog’s midnight prowls through the living room. But we did things we’ve never. done. before as a couple: hang around the house for hours, cook multiple meals in a row, (re)watch seasons of TV shows old and new, sit on the couch until my back hurt, do zero things of productivity. Like, normal people weekend activities. I know we were caring for an invalid here, but it felt kind of luxurious to me, in some ways.
And I got a teensy little taste of what it means to serve selflessly — like, putting my needs and wants on a back burner somewhere and thinking first about somebody else. And I noticed that the caretaking got easier over the weekend as I got more used to it. My selfish sharp edges were dulled a little in the face of real need and a very polite customer. Mark was an easy patient, grateful and eager to get better.
He has his post-op appointment on Tuesday, the day after tomorrow. And as our super-weekend winds down this evening, the Sunday feels are real. We’re sitting here, both back in our respective productivity modes as I blog with a vengeance and he puts the finishing touches on the wedding website. But for the first time in a long, long time, I feel really refreshed from what was actually a pretty stressful weekend. Ironic, yep. Such great ups and downs we’ve traveled in the span of these past 48-or-60-or-whatever hours — counting in chunks of four-to-six as the prescription bottles dictate, constantly asking for the enumeration of pain levels (on a scale of 1 to 10, how do you feel?), cooking and eating real meals, laughing at the antics of Michael Scott (and falling asleep to an anime episode…), taking stock of one another and feeling grateful for the way things are and not how they could’ve been.
Will have to keep you posted on how we fare through next week and the next; I’m sure the chronicles of physical therapy will bring more ups and downs. But as of this moment, I sit here, grateful for the weirdness, the normalcy, and all the cheezy blogposts in between.
Look, I only linked Act One of the whole episode so you don’t even have to listen to the entire thing. Though if you’d like, of course, you shore can.
This episode is all about propaganda. And how any good propaganda is actually quite poetic. It is beautiful. Moving. Emotionally sensitive.
There was a bit in there that said something like “emotion leads you to trust” — which made me wonder about MM and whether or not he trusted me more. Like if emotionalness is a function of trust in a relationship. Given a whole bunch of other factors, of course, [science-y jargon about controls, blah blah].
Early on, I noticed that you always say it
to each of your children
as you are getting off the phone with them
just as you never fail to say it
to me whenever we arrive at the end of a call.
It’s all new to this only child.
I never heard my parents say it,
at least not on such a regular basis,
nor did it ever occur to me to miss it.
To say I love you pretty much every day
would have seemed strangely obvious,
like saying I’m looking at you
when you are standing there looking at someone.
If my parents had started saying it
a lot, I would have started to worry about them.
Of course, I always like hearing it from you.
That is never a cause for concern.
The problem is I now find myself saying it back
if only because just saying good-bye
then hanging up would make me seem discourteous.
But like Bartleby, I would prefer not to
say it so often, would prefer instead to save it
for special occasions, like shouting it out as I leaped
into the red mouth of a volcano
with you standing helplessly on the smoking rim,
or while we are desperately clasping hands
before our plane plunges into the Gulf of Mexico,
which are only two of the examples I had in mind,
but enough, as it turns out, to make me
want to say it to you right now,
I stayed in midtown, right in the heart of Manhattan — Koreatown, actually. I never did walk by the UN building, but if I had, I certainly would have said hello for you.
the trip was really nice. I learned a lot at my conference (“editorial freelancers association”) and got to catch up with some old friends…from high school! so that was really weird and nice. it felt like reaching back to three lifetimes ago — through college, through high school in Charlottesville, then high school in Cincinnati (I used to live in Cincinnati!). with those friends, it felt (mostly) the same, which was nice. I mean, our lives are so different now from when we were in high school…obviously…but our friendship and our conversations felt the same, like old comfy…socks.
Mark and I did a lot of walking around. it was super tiring but also good. it’s fun to travel with him. I heard on the radio today about couples that are successful, and how the one factor across all these couples was the “awesomeness factor.” basically, it means that the likelihood of the couple’s continued happiness depends on how “awesome” they think the other person is, whether their beliefs are objectively based on reality or not. haha. basically, wearing rose-tinted glasses 😉
another cool thing was that the awesomeness factor had the tendency of making the person (the object of admiration) become as awesome as their admirer believes them to be. believing is seeing is being!
for you, too, I wonder if this helps.
how’s it been these days? are you still working at the airport? send me news of you.
Paul continued. “I’m saying there is stuff I can’t tell her, not because I don’t want to, but because there aren’t words. It’s like we are separate people,and there is no getting inside each other to read each other’s thoughts, each other’s beings. Marriage is amazing because it is the closest two people can get, but they can’t get all the way to that place of absolute knowing. Marriage is the most beautiful thing I have ever dreamed of, Don, but it isn’t everything. It isn’t Mecca. Danielle loves everything about me; she accepts me and tolerates me and encourages me. She knows me better than anybody else in the world, but she doesn’t know all of me, and I don’t know all of her. And I never thought after I got married there would still be something lacking. I always thought marriage, especially after I first met Danielle, would be the ultimate fulfillment. It is great, don’t get me wrong, and I am glad I married Danielle, and I will be with her forever. But there are places in our lives that only God can go.”
“So marriage isn’t all that it is cracked up to be?” I ask.
“No, it is so much more than I ever thought it would be. One of the ways God shows me He loves me is through Danielle, and one of the ways God shows Danielle He loves her is through me. And because she loves me, and teaches me that I am lovable, I can better interact with God.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that to be in a relationship with God is to be loved purely and furiously. And a person who thinks himself unlovable cannot be in a relationship with God because he can’t accept who God is; a Being that is love. We learn that we are lovable or unlovable from other people,” Paul says. “That is why God tells us so many times to love each other.”