I took time out of life yesterday to sneak away with my great friend (notice I do not use the word "good" - she is GREAT), Janine, for lunch and a movie. Both of us being devotees of iPic, we were able to kill both those birds with one well fed, pampered stone.
Feet up in our squishy, reclining chairs, legs cloaked in soft blankets, Merlot and good food shared between us, we settled in to enjoy This Is 40. We were prepared to laugh for two hours. What we got was so much more.
If you go simply by the previews and trailers you expect the typical Judd Apatow compilation of spot on humor, yes some of it sophomoric - even sophomoronic - and a few well timed tugs at the heart strings.
In This Is 40, he aims well past your funny bone and, if you watch it with honesty, hits you right in the soul with your own brutal truths.
Picking up with Pete and Debbie - the side characters from Apatow's Knocked Up - as they both turn 40, they begin to acknowledge the things in their lives that we all try our best to avoid, all the while being eaten alive by them.
Our marriages have grown stale.
We have a love/hate relationship with our spouses, our children.
We seeth with resentments and hate the feeling, yet somehow feed the resentments instead of freeing them.
One day bleeds into the next and we feel trapped.
We fantasize about killing our spouses. In a gentle, painless way, of course.
We are fiercely overprotective with our children.
We hate ourselves for hating our lives because under the resentment we know we love our lives and the people in them.
Having the entire theater to ourselves, Janine and I were able to laugh as loud as we wanted, curse in chorus a few times, and protected by the safety of darkness and trust, own up to each and every scene where we saw ourselves, our marriages, our children, our lives.
We laughed as we acknowledged the truth behind hotel sex, how it happens freely, is more adventurous, and how we all have uttered the words, "Why don't we do this more often?" And "Why do we fight so much?"
We fist bumped during Pete's and Debbie's car ride to their weekend away as they spoke hilariously and candidly about their daughters. We have both had those conversations - where you laugh and admit how much you hate/love your kids - what little bitches they can be. Bitches who drive you insane. Bitches you could not live without. Bitches who are the very air you breathe.
And we have all lived the trip home where you feel yourselves being sucked back into reality. Where you have to "leave" one another at the door.
We faced the truth that sometimes the last person you share something heavy with is the very person you can trust. Not because you don't trust them, but because letting them down or failing in front of them is unbearable.
We hide in our own homes. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. A closed door and silence is so hard to come by that we lust after those few minutes in our closets, or in Pete's case, on the toilet.
We watched as the parents struggled with the protection/trust violation feelings when you check your kids' text messages, iChats, emails. Those kneejerk reactions to jumping in because we desperately want to protect them from some slight, some perceived injustice only to discover they are handling it just fine on their own, need to learn from handling it on their own, and that sometimes the people they actually need protected from are US.
How many of us have put voice to the feeling that our marriage has somehow transitioned into some brother-sister type of relationship? That the passion is gone? That we desperately want it back but have not clue one as to where to start?
There was the acknowledgement that in every marriage there is "one who punches." Not literally. Figuratively. So true - there is always one who doesn't hesitate to do the heavy lifting, call things as they are, drag those uncomfortable realities into the light to be looked at honestly and dealt with, one who takes on the world without blinking. Picks the fight that needs picked. Whose fallback position is strength, not fear.
There was the truth in wanting to let go of the past, free resentments, move forward with a clean slate. And the reality that that is almost impossible to do. Not because we like the feelings, but because we are humans and one of our greatest gifts - that of memory - is also one of our greatest hinderances.
The words uttered by Debbie about why she works out and takes care of herself rung so true. How she desperately wants Pete to want her, to look at her that way. All the while he is shoving cupcakes in his mouth and farting in the bed.
The biggest take away amid the laughs was that 40+, and all the brutal truths we face - are survivable. That we have to be willing to peel the onion and get into the layers that have brought us to where we are, where our marriage is hiding, how we have let outside forces erode our passion, our lust for life and each other. How we are responsible for our behaviors, and that the answers to many of our questions about our spouse's behaviors lie within them.
And if you are brave enough to peel that onion, honestly look at each stinky layer, throw away the truly putrid ones, and hold fast to the ones that add much needed flavor, you will find at the core the love that has gotten you two this far.
Because I can tell you: This IS 40, and 46 going on 47, and 54 going on 55, and 80, 90...
Watching the inauguration is always a moving experience.
If done with an appreciation for all that has gone before, and a hope for all that will come ahead.
Our country is one of long held traditions, deep held beliefs, and the steadfast commitment to exceptionalism. Even when all evidence shows how often we fall short of that target.
We are a country divided. Divided by hatred, divided by fear, divided by misinformation, cognitive dissonance, and inner narratives that refuse to be open to facts.
We do not all agree on the issues of our day. We have never always agreed on the issues of the day. Slavery, women's rights, equal rights, wars, conflicts, gun control - the list is long and will continue to grow longer as we move through the days, years, millennia to come.
And that is ok.
Our ongoing experiment in a democratic republic is challenging, exhausting, and worth it. In the movie The American President, these words, spoken by the Michael Douglas as the President, ring true:
America isn't easy. America is advanced
citizenship. You've gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's
gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words
make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of
his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours."
You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your
country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens
exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend
that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about
the land of the free.
We are never ALL always going to agree on anything. Our life experiences, geographic locations, and upbringing all play into what we think about the issues facing us.
But we all always have to be commited to trying our best to be our best to do our best.
The founding fathers who gifted this nation with its Constitution, its Bill of Rights, did so with the best of intentions. But they also did so with the information, perspective, and proportion of the days in which they lived. What they set down was a blueprint. It was designed with hope, idealism, and purpose. It was meant to be a "living, breathing" document, one that could be changed with the times, amended as lives grew and the world expanded. Our times are so very different from theirs. Our challenges, our reach, our dangers, our technologies, our potential far beyond anything they could have imagined.
But our hopes, our idealism, our yearning for and towards that American exceptionalism remain the same.
My hope is that those who continue to wallow in hyperbole, and the chewing with their mouths open of the sour grapes of another lost election, will stop wasting their energy and join in what we need to be doing.
And it is not about their long cried slogan of "taking our country back."
One has to wonder if Pat Robertson's ass gets jealous of the shit that comes out his mouth.
By now we are all used to the opportunistic, money grubbing, speak-for-God snakeoil this man sells. He never lets a tragedy go unmined in his quest for publicity and more gold for the 700 Club coffers.
Sadly, his words fall on the ears of millions of impressionable, cannot-think-for-themselves, buy-what-he-is-selling ears. The unwashed masses so convinced of their own sinfulness that they will prostrate themselves before this charletan and believe him.
His latest verbal ass nugget?
Blaming "awful looking" women for problems in their marriages. As if every married man has kept up a regimen of six pack maintenance, manscaping, romance, and hygiene.
Take one walk through any Walmart in this country and you will see exactly how "awful looking" the married man can be, too. Those beer guts, dirty fingernails, fetid breath, and trucker hats are just SO hot.
Does Pat have even a remote point? Sure. I have long talked about taking care of one's self in the context of keeping the fires burning, the passion alive.
BUT THAT APPLIES TO BOTH SPOUSES.
The notion that only women must maintain some mythic level of attractiveness is offensive. Both partners should care enough about themselves and about their significant other to invest in their appearance.
But then they should also invest in their insides as well. Are you even remotely interesting to talk to? Do you stagnate, just content to spin your wheels in place, learning nothing new, having zero to contribute to meaningful dialogue? Do you grunt a greeting to one another at the end of the day and then invest what remaining consciousness you have in marathon viewings of Hillbilly Handfishing or Real Housewives?
Look, despite even the most concerted and focused of efforts, our bodies will eventually succumb to gravity and time. Wrinkles will form, things will sag, fat will accumulate. Our tight twenties are fleeting and we are too stupid during those halcyon years of taut flesh and effortless metabolism to truly appreciate what we have while we have it.
But we can transition with grace, dignity, and effort.
Every woman AND man needs to look in the mirror and ask themselves some hard and fast questions:
Do I look like I care?
Would I be attracted to me?
What have I learned lately? Do I even know about three current events that don't include the words Kanye or Kardashian?
Do I convey that I am interested in my spouse? Or do I contribute to the vicious, and very common, circle of I-don't-get-what-I-want-so-he/she-won't-get-what-he/she-wants-because-I-don't-get-what-I-want...?
Pat truly has some balls. Shriveled with age to be sure, but to open his maw and put the entire marital peace onus on the woman is as ridiculous as everything else about which he waxes crapsodic.
Look in the mirror, Pat, and wipe that brown residue off your lips. How AWFUL LOOKING IS THAT?
It has been 22 years since Rudy and I walked into a pristine wedding chapel atop a cliff and walked out husband and wife.
The setting was idyllic. Kauai. Balmy tradewinds. Gorgeous sunshine. And the ignorance of bliss. Or the bliss of ignorance.
Either way, we were what every newly wed couple is: in love, hopeful, a little deluded, and convinced that all days will be what that one was: PERFECT.
Like all couples we soon discovered that love is not a cure-all. It does not protect you from all harm. It does not keep storm clouds at bay. It doesn't make it all better. And it certainly does not exist in some pristine vacuum a la Corinthians 13. 7-8.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
With a divorce rate of 50%, we have all been witness to the fact that love cannot bear all things, believe all things, hope all things or endure all things.
Because love is subject to the whims, capricious nature, quirks, foibles, eff ups, laziness, and callousness of human nature.
And when those things get in the way, when loving another person stops being fun and we realize that "Oh shit, this requires effort," people have a tendancy to leave in search of those perceived greener pastures where everything tingles, skin is flushed with excitement, and someone will always think we hung the moon.
At least temporarily.
Because that is the problem. No one can sustain that "new dating perfection" we all front. Two people, no matter how hot for one another, will eventually succumb to getting comfortable. It happens, because at heart what we really want is acceptance for who we are, not who we can pretend to be.
That, my friends, is the key to 22 years. Yes, respect, adoration, awe, commitment, courtesy - all those things are there, they must be, but there is more.
When life has thrown us lemons, we stuck. When the horror of losing our first pregnancy hit, and mascara would not adhere to tear drenched eyelashes, I realized he loved me without it. When a hurricane took everything we had and we endured not only loss, but separation, isolation, insecurity, and uncertainty - we turned towards one another, seeing the ideals we thought we were about crystallize into reality. He realized I wasn't with him for his paycheck, the nice TV, an island setting for our life. I was with him even if it meant owning nothing and living in a tiny hotel room with a baby.
We have weathered storms both real and figurative. Some out of our control, many of our own making and choices. We have survived distance, heartache, separation, aloneness. We have endured placing our marriage on the back burner in pursuit of a good we deemed greater than our selfish wants: our daughters. We have survived falling in and out of love. Because every couple who gets this far in the game knows that loving and being in love are worlds apart. Caring that someone doesn't get run over by a truck is love. Being in love is far more complex, unpredictable.
As Alan Alda's character said in Four Seasons, "There are times you hit lows and you can't stand things about each other--like
the way her teeth click when she eats, the way I smell my sweatshirt before I
put it on. Sometimes we drive each other crazy. And then there are times we go
through a period like the one we're in now. It comes over us like an unexpected
wave. Puppy love. I can't wait to see her, and then when I'm with her my heart
beats faster. You'd expect it with a stranger, but not somebody I've spent half
my life with. It's wonderful."
Oh, how that sums it up.
The sixteen year old girl in me is constantly at odds with the 46 year old woman. The sixteen year old wants to be in love always. The 46 year old knows the realities. The 46 year old knows her partner is states away and cannot dote, woo, and cater at the drop of a hat. The sixteen year old stomps her feet, daydreams, and fantasizes.
The sixteen year old is dangerous. Because she rules the heart not the head. But then, I think the "sixteen year old" phenomenon is not exclusive to females. I think Rudy has a sixteen year old boy who misses exactly what I miss, when I miss it. And I think the adult Rudy wrestles just as badly with the puberty laden Rudy, trying to rationalize hard and fast realities with a heart that wants what it wants.
It wants to beat faster. It wants to block out the rest of the world and its responsibilities. It wants to lay in bed all day just feeling the beat of my sixteen year old heart next to it.
When our choices have played out, when Carson has graduated, when all three girls are firmly established and on their way in this world. When we finally see one another at the beginning and end of each day again.
Until then, we stand on the firm foundation of 22 years. 22 years of hoping, believing, enduring, and wanting.
We will last. Not just because of love. But because of everything love must be supported by in order to survive. Not the least of which is the adult head powered by the sixteen year old heart.
Happy Anniversary, Rudy. I am in love with you.
Happily ever after is a journey, not a destination.
Yes, yes, yes, I know - it's a little late in the game for that title seeing as we are now nine days into 2013, but considering this is the first time I have truly sat down to write in this new year, work with me: HAPPY NEW YEAR.
I hope this finds all of you well.
I was going to add happy and content, but given the fact that every person's circumstances are different and constantly changing, I'll go with WELL.
(After a trip to Orlando for Carson's team to participate in a very prestigious college showcase, we spent two days driving back in the minivan which was, unbeknownst to us at the time, a festering incubus of plague. We are NOT well.)
Happiness is fluid. I think we have seen enough examples in the past year to know just how quickly the happiness we all take for granted can be ripped from under us.
For most of us, our happiness is truly tied to others - our children, our spouses, significant others, relatives, friends, coworkers. The simple act of their breathing means that our own breaths, albeit subconsciously, come easier. It is only when they are threatened or unexpectedly removed from our lives that we realize how much of an anchor they have been. That without them, we are suddenly emotionally adrift.
Yes, I am thinking mainly about the shootings in 2012. So many lives taken, so many lives torn from their moorings.
Are guns the issue? Mental health? Paranoia? A festering miasma of all three? Who knows. I don't want your guns. I do want them only in the hands of those who respect them and don't live on a steady diet of fear radio, shock jocks, and conspiracy theories. Own them for your safety, your hunting, even your target practice. Just stop daydreaming about being Rambo and protecting us all from "the government" which if it so chose, would eliminate you and your precious stash with one well placed drone strike.
Just be happy. Stop looking for birth certificates, loopholes, shadows, and scapegoats.
Life is short. Quite frankly, life is shorter than we know. So drown yourself in the happiness you can find each day in your own life. A child's smile. Hell, a child's mess. Because there are 20 sets of parents in the northeast who would love to be getting flustered again over some spilt milk, a crayon drawing on the wall, red Kool Aid on the carpet.
Don't sweat the small stuff. We human beings have perfected the art of molehill mountain making. And unfortunately, until life kicks us in the junk with the steel toed boot of perspective, we don't realize what idiots we truly are in the day-to-day.
Example: Our lives got reamed out by some perspective in early November. We came to find out that our oldest child's relationship of over two years had turned abusive. Not in an instant, not overnight. In the analysis it had been what it always is - the systematic dismantling of a human being by another human being with zero self esteem and an abundance of insecurity.
Life changed. The things she had taken for granted, had been working towards; the plans, the goals, the hopes, the dreams - all ripped out from under her in the course of one heinously shitty week. Yes, out of necessity - as we told her, 20 or not, her safety was simply not a negotiable point with us. But no, she did not fight the steps taken.
Her junior year of college, to put it simply, has changed. It had to. New plans have been formulated, new directions charted out. And she is doing better each day.
I offer this not as a violation of her privacy, but because there is this sense that nothing untoward touches the Sharp family, that our lives are somehow "perfect" or "charmed." (To be honest, this post originated with an email I received last night from someone playfully asking how I am feeling - I have been REALLY sick - and how the "perfect lives of the Sharps are going?")
There is no perfect. There is no charmed. Do we have phenomenal kids? YES. If I die right now at this keyboard, I can take my last breath knowing that Rudy and I have raised three truly exceptional human beings in the imperfect world of ours.
Is our marriage perfect? Lord, hold on while Rudy and I take a moment to laugh...
Our choices, especially over the past five years, have been anything but easy on this marriage. Putting the kids first will never be a regret we have. Ever. But don't ever think this has been easy. Easy would be to let one day fade into the next assuming the other spouse is "there." That would be easy and dangerous. People under the same roof do this, how easy do you think it would be when thousands of miles apart? Rudy and I are both self sufficient, and at the end of the day we are also both exhausted. But taking one another for granted is proven poison for this relationship. We cannot afford to do that. The latter part of 2012 saw a redoubling of efforts and a recommittment to everything we hold dear in one another.
The result? Well, anyone who thinks you cannot fall back in love with your spouse is wrong. You just have to kick your sorry ass ego out of the way.
Let's see, as I am rambling and in a full disclosure mood about "perfection"... here's one:
I have lost 22 pounds in the past three months.
Yeah, for all of you who think the "skinny bitch" has it easy, let that marinate for a mome.
Yes, even those who see me regularly have been shocked to hear the number, because they DO see me and had no idea. Then again, I am not given to dressing in sausage casings even when I am at my "ideal weight," so I artfully decorated my ampleness when the slide off the rails of self control commenced.
I. AM. NOT. PERFECT.
I am funny. I am a good mother. I am a good wife. I am a great organizer, manager, friend. I am creative. I am smart. I do not know how to say NO.
But I am NOT perfect.
Am I back in my size 0 jeans? Yes. And I am happily back wearing stretch pants without the need to cover my caboose.
But none of that is a measure of perfection. If anything, the journey to kick the excess baggage to the curb has reminded me that there is no perfection. There is always going to be something I don't like about my ass, my thighs, my arms - The Ass IS Always Leaner In The Other Pair Of Pants, you know - so the answer is being happy with what I accomplish, with where I am, with where I am dedicated to heading.
My body is just that - MY BODY. It is almost 47 years old, shaped differently, responds differently than yours, hers, his.
And I am happy with it.
Yes, if you want to know how 22 pounds got evicted, shoot me an email - firstname.lastname@example.org - but don't come calling if you are not packing self control and willpower. There is no magic bullet, pill, shake, or powder to be disclosed.
It is, like life, about choices. Simple choices. And ownership of the results of those choices.
I had a long talk with a dear friend yesterday about choices. She is on the cusp of making changes in her life. Taking stock, wanting more, ready to take the leap - quite frankly being brave. How many people do you know in this world who are truly brave? (And please don't offer up the military, I am not talking about that brand of brave here. That exists in its own respected universe.) I don't know many. Most people are, as Thoreau aptly described, living "lives of quiet desperation."
Allowing one day to slide into the next, wishing it different, is not brave. Opting to be "paralyzed" by circumstance is not brave. Staring out the window imagining a different life yet doing nothing is not brave. Facing it down, taking risk to effect change, that is brave. What do YOU want to be different in your life? What do you want to DO? Now ask yourself, "What have I done to move even one step closer?"
As I look back at 2012 and ahead to the uncharted waters of 2013, I wonder what the days and months ahead will hold. I know that I must pursue what I want. It won't be magically delivered to me, Tinkerbell is not waiting in the wings with pixie dust. And if my feet don't move, all I can accomplish is keeping a small patch of grass from growing. Frankly, I'd rather blaze a trail through the weeds. Make the leap of faith.
2012 has taught me to savor the small - even the smalls that are irritating - because the bigs will come along and force changes I cannot predict.
One thing is certain, however... I am all in.
"Most people are on the world, not in it." ~ John Muir
Amen, John, amen.
Now, who's in with me?
Where could a leap of faith take you in 2013? Share...