Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth

You have my heart in your teeth.”  I finished a book a couple of weeks ago with this sentence in it…the story was pages of letters, emails actually, exchanged between lovers in the chapters of this novel, with both characters making brave choices to move forward into a new relationship together and away from their spouses and families, and relative ease and comforts and normalcy of their lives.  Away from the familiar and towards the unknown…it was one of those sentences that made me stop and think about the words…  What does that mean?  I had read before about some of the descriptions of hell, that there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, neither of which appeals to me at all, but this sentence, it made me think of a lioness, how she so tenderly carries her babies in her jaw but minutes later can rip an antelope to shreds…same teeth, different desire…

When you first fall in love, or lust, or even simply make a connection where the chemistry feels right, particularly after a recent break up, there is a tenderness about you, so inexplicably gentle, that you wonder where all your anger and sadness or disappointment disappeared to?  You think about what you are about to do, or try, and ponder how you could be so brave to, yet again, put your heart in somebody’s teeth.  It’s a monumental decision, and yet with stars in our eyes and fiercely throbbing hearts, and often sweaty palms and pulsing private spaces, we hand it over…butterflies in our bellies, smiles that makes our toes tingle and our eyelids twitch, losing our words and losing our minds in a brain fog of wonderment…Here you go, we toss it, take my heart in your teeth

People fall in love all the time everywhere. We see it in the pages of  US magazine, on Extra and Access Hollywood on television, we read it on google news, and couples-news often has its own “trending” space on social media,  and it looks so easy doesn’t it?  Even people we have seen go through public and seemingly humiliating break ups manage to wipe their tears and dust themselves off and try again.  People leave their wives and husbands or partners or the parent of their child and move on, trying to find a better fit perhaps?  What it means mostly is that they have decided to stop trying to make something fit that never will, with the hopes and dreams and excitement that this ‘new one’ will fit perfectly.  This could be wrong, but it’s my opinion…

I’ve come to accept that only in Cinderella was there a perfect fit.  Only a fairy tale can lead to happily ever after and a fit like no other.  I’ve grown old enough and lived enough now to know and accept and understand that life is messy, and often, not at all what you want to happen, happens.  I’ve grown to realize that no matter how comfortable it feels in the beginning, even when it’s as if you are walking on a cloud, after a while, sometimes a longer while than other times, you’ll get a blister.  I guess then comes the question; do you use a little Neosporin and a  Band-Aid or do you head right to Nordstrom and get new shoes?  When we feel so wanted and so wanting, we think it will never fade, but when we feel superfluous and bitter, we wonder, “how did THAT happen?”  “when did THAT happen?”  It’s one of the few things in life that I think is equal for both men and for women.  Men have their hearts ripped to bits just as often, and just as painfully, as women do.  We women might just express our sorrow with a bit more drama and fuss, and perhaps are less private about such matters, but men suffer crippling sadness as much and as often, of this I am sure.  We all do it all, to all.   They give a girl an inch and she demands a mile, they change-up all of their dreams to accommodate and appease her, and still end up lost and alone and feel used up.  We women can feel like we went from having our hearts in their teeth, to feeling that we’ve been torn to pieces and left in a heap of bones and gristle…I think for both sexes it becomes confusion and questions about how what (or who) you once wanted so badly, and made all these choices and changes for, is no longer what you enjoy and you are left utterly dissatisfied with the changes.  You wonder, ‘well, how did I get here from there?’ & is this going to ever feel better?  is it ever going to feel again like it did in the beginning?  Hope and desire are BIG feelings aren’t they?  You put all your eggs in one basket when you mix want and lust with hope and dreams.   It can be a beautiful recipe, or an epic Pinterest worthy fail.

There is weeping and gnashing of teeth in the hell that is the sorrow of a break up or an unhappy ending.  There are certainly feelings of failure, whether you were the instigator or the one tossed, I mean failure is failure is failure.  There seem to almost always be feelings of rueful despair, and so much self-doubt…what did I do?  did I do the right thing?  We can wring our hands night after night and wake up every day with stress and an upset stomach or we can just accept.  Accept things as they are, not contemplate whether things are good or bad, they just are what they are.  I suspect most of us have been in this exact predicament, & those of us who have not, well, lucky you!  BUT…much like a rainbow after a storm, as cliché as that might sound, there really is light at the end of dark tunnels,  there really can be happiness after grief, and new wishes after woe…it’s remarkable really, how resilient the human heart is.  How sad and aching we can be during a loss, a death of dreams or unfulfilled promises, is still a death, I mean loss is loss is loss, and yet how healed and excited we seem to feel, or think we are, when we stumble upon new emotions and new dreams, I mean love is love is love…you just have to be brave enough to put your heart in somebody’s teeth…

 

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Nothing but everything…

I am the daughter of a great romance.”  This is a line I have often used to describe how I see my parents’ marriage, but the words aren’t mine, it’s a song lyric by Dar Williams, and it’s the truth.  It’s really how I see myself as their adult child and deeply appreciate the love I see my parents have, and have always had, for each other.  My dad recently said to me that they didn’t have stars in their eyes, they knew it was part business, part romance, the plan that is, their plan in the spring of 1966, to make a life together.  Tomorrow, 6/11 is the 50th anniversary of the day they were married…In a little church, in a little beach town, on a little island, with very few people in attendance, and a little diamond on my mother’s finger, and a little bit of money saved for their future…it was all very small but they created something so big…

The way that my Dad sometimes looks at my Mom is both devastating and divine; Divine in that I get to bask in the glory of a real life love story, and devastating in that I acknowledge, every single time he says, “she’s the best wife I ever had” that no man has ever treated me the way my father treats my mother, and it’s likely no one ever will.  It sometimes makes my heart hurt.  My chance to share my life, someone to grow up  and grow old with, with a partner for a lifetime, has passed me by.  When I dwell on that I feel crushed, but when I think about how lucky I am that I got to have THAT for parents, well, I feel blessed beyond measure.  Despite my own failures at love, marriage, relationships, family, partnering, coupling, merging, combining, I got to be a part of something wonderful, and that they are still in love and still creating a life together, is really something special.  They were friends for several years but only dated for several weeks before their wedding.  That they knew in their early twenties what mattered to them, and how to make it happen, still boggles my mind, as an unmarried woman at 48 who has yet to figure out either…

They started out with nothing, but together turned it into everything.  They each had a car and they each had a job and my dad had $100 saved.  They drove to Williamsburg for their honeymoon and told me the other day that the motel cost $6 a night.  My mom, ever the organized, found her ledger from the first year they were married and texted me the other night that their entire honeymoon cost less than $133.  Geez, I thought, I’ve spent more than that at the liquor store when I’ve stocked up for a dinner party…and from THAT they have come to THIS…comfortable in their retirement, their smart choices with living well but never beyond their means, never having debt, never wasting money on interest or fees, budgeting monthly so they always could pay cash for their cars and always had money for unexpected expenses…they did, and do all those things Suze Orman would be impressed by and which financial planners applaud and encourage, and so many of us, myself included, fail to master.  Every time my mom tried to help me organize a household budget and sort out my finances, or untangle a mess I got myself into with bills, she always sadly said, ‘it takes two,‘ two people to be partners in life and love,  and I know she must be right, as I’ve always been a one…

Two people could not be better suited for one another than my parents, who like the same music and have the same ideals and beliefs and philosophies on most everything.  While my mom prefers a Reese’s peanut butter cup and my dad prefers a Mounds bar, their likes and dislikes and habits and ways of doing things are otherwise very similar.  Two non-foodies, non-imbibers, dinner party decliners…the list of things they don’t do is really long, but you know what they do do?  They work together for hours in their yard and take walks at night around their property and look at what they have and what they have created, and then they rock together in a teak glider and look at planes as the moon comes up.  Some might see it as a boring life or too simple, with not enough “action” but I see it as comfort and joy.   Two people who are comfortable together and with their choices and joyful in the results of their planning and hard work and commitment.  It is near impossible to compare any relationship to another, but my parents’ relationship in particular is so unique, to compare it to anybody’s is out of the question.  I barely understand how it works so well but I am part of their family and their plan and have seen it with my own eyes for my whole life, two people really in love and really perfect for each other.  Truly a match made in heaven if ever there was one.

My mother met my father when she was 15, on the island where she grew up (and her family had been since 1863) and where my dad’s parents had a summer-house.  My dad started working as a carpenter on that barrier island after the great storm of 1962, and got engaged that year to a different local girl, and this by the way is one of the most oft told  stories my mother shared during my childhood when I would ask about how they met…but he broke up with this girl and broke off their engagement when she took the $100 he gave her ‘to start their life together,’ and bought a guitar.  My mother, practical as ever, who still has the stainless cookware she got when she got married, always liked to tell us that story, and always added vocal emphasis to the “and she used that money to buy a guitar!”  I think she liked to remind my sister and me that she was a better match and catch for my dad, pretty AND practical!  He got drafted into the Army when my mom was a senior in high school and later in the winter of 1966 after his military service was over, and he had traveled all over Europe and thankfully for them both, did not end up in Vietnam, he came back to the little island he loved and rented an apartment on the block next to where my mother still lived with her parents.  He was on 11th Street and my mother was on 12th Street and they went on their first “real” date in April of 1966 and got married 8 weeks later.  AND ARE STILL MARRIED, and STILL LOVE EACH OTHER, and I get to have them as my parents!

I can honestly count on one hand the number of times I have heard my father raise his voice.  My father is the epitome of cool, calm, and collected.  I tend to hold things in until they are so bottled up and suppressed that I burst like a shaken can of soda, this, I do believe, I get from my mother.  I like balance but am also very emotional and I sure get my two halves from both of my parents.  I have known many people  who had, and still have, very bad “feelings” or ideas about marriage because the example they grew up around was dreadful.  Their perspective of what it means to be married, or part of a couple, and truly committed was terrible because of their parents.   I’ve known women who had fathers who were drunks, or perpetually unemployed or underemployed, who were not providers and on whom nobody could depend, or crass belligerent oafs, and who simply have had a lifetime of bad ideas on men.  I’ve known men who had mothers who were lazy, needy, and couldn’t cook or didn’t like to clean or were very un-motherly and un-affectionate.   I’ve known a number of people who shared stories of falling to sleep at night, quietly crying, hearing their parents fighting in the kitchen…I never heard any of  these people talk longingly or lovingly about finding a mate, a spouse, a partner with whom they could share a home, a future, and a life…It seems to me when you have parents who care deeply about each other, and have great respect for one another, treat each other with kindness and compassion, you can’t help but to long for love, for better or for worse, or happily ever after, and til death do us part…it’s all I knew…

My parents’ marriage, and frankly the life they have created together, is enviable.  Something I always believed in, saw as good and worthy, and yet always beyond my reach.  For some reason, confusing and positively baffling to my parents, I have been unable in my life to ever find that kind of true balance in a relationship…an extra crunchy Jif to one’s Welch’s concord grape for example…my parents really seem to be perfect for each other in every way…and if they are not? if it has all been a trick? well they have created an illusion, a most believable ruse, that they are.  If my father does not truly and deeply love and appreciate my mother, and if she does not truly and deeply love and appreciate him, well it’s the biggest bamboozle of my life!!! Sometimes it’s embarrassing, to be their grown daughter, still in such a state of flux, still single, and never successfully creating, not even coming close to, what they were able to do together…like the great line from Nora Ephron, “I’ll have what she’s having”  is how I have often thought of my mother’s life with my father.   We are very different, me and my parents, different in far more ways than we are alike, but, where we are similar is I guess where it matters, I guess really it’s all that matters…we put aside our differences all the time because of love, and I see now that they must have always done this with each other.  Love always wins.  They are good people, my mom and dad, and that strong moral compass that guides me is surely one of the best gifts they ever bestowed to me.   They deserve this happiness, this peace in life…  They expected nothing and yet created everything…