Friday, August 14, 2009

Reversing the Telescope

I’ve reported in earlier entries about the struggles I’m going through this year to find enough time with my partner, Ma’ikwe, as she focuses on building a house and I focus on earning the money to pay for it. [See my blogs of July 29, 2009—"A House Divided" and April 19, 2009—"Stretching the Ties That Bind".]

As I drove out to Virginia Tuesday (13 hours alone in the car) I had ample time to contemplate this dynamic and how I could better cope. I achieved a breakthrough of sorts about 600 miles into the trip when it occurred to me that things would look a whole lot better if I simply looked at them through the small end of the telescope instead of the large end.

Let me explain what I mean.

When we got married in April 2007, Ma’ikwe and I made a big deal out of taking control of the ceremony to create our own definition of commitment. I realize now that I failed to look deeply into rhythms of married life and unwittingly brought into the marriage some unintended baggage about what marriage is “supposed” to look like. (So much for taking control). Most married couples live together. Ma’ikwe and I never have. While we acknowledged that prospect going into the marriage (she was going to continue to live in New Mexico while I continued to live in Missouri), it got more complicated when Ma’ikwe moved to Missouri in July 2008.

While Ma’ikwe moved to the same county as me, she didn’t move to the same community. I live at Sandhill Farm and she moved to Dancing Rabbit, three miles distant. While three miles is demonstrably closer than 900 miles, it’s not at all simpler. It used to be—when Ma’ikwe was living in the Land of Enchantment—that when I was in Missouri I was essentially focused on Sandhill; when I was in New Mexico, I was focused on my marriage. Now, whenever I’m home, I’m dancing between the two.

Prior to Ma’ikwe’s moving to Missouri, I was either with her every day or in a different time zone. Now I’m juggling. And it’s just occurred to me (finally) that this isn’t fitting with the pattern of marriage that I’ve been imprinted with from childhood. Married people are typically together every day, unless one spouse is on a trip without the other. Well, Ma’ikwe and I are typically not together every day, and there’s been heightened tension about being close, but not together.

Looked at from the fat end of the telescope (where everything shrinks), my marriage was too small. Even when we're both in Scotland County, Ma’ikwe and I are together, on average, only two days a week—which is pretty paltry spousal contact when compared with most marriages. I wasn’t being a good partner, I was getting out of sync with my wife and we were spending a significant portion of our precious two days each week wading through the misunderstandings and reconnecting (rather than simply enjoying each other). Ufda.

Tuesday, it occurred to me that I had the option to "reverse the telescope" and start seeing those two days through the small end, so that they looked bigger, rather than puny. Laying aside the traditional pattern, I could just as well choose to see how blessed I was to have two days a week with someone who loved me and truly cared about me (which was excatly two days more per week than what I had prior to Ma'ikwe & I getting together romantically in October 2005). I could more regularly celebrate that I have a wife who is fully present with me and who consistently enjoys my company.

Having been proud and excited to have crafted my own ritual around marriage commitment, I see now that I neglected to appropriately recalibrate my expectations of married life. Oops! Loving and appreciating what one has is a far better strategy than lamenting that you don’t have more of it. (It amazes me that Ma’ikwe has put up with this shit from me as well as she has—she must really like me.)

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