Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Float on Your Raft Down the River

I am in love. With my husband, of all people. After nearly a decade of marriage. Imagine that.

"Who's that new page?" I asked my co-worker, watching this guy with long sexy hair glide across the library.

"I think his name is Will."

"He's kinda cute," I remember saying.

I remember specifically saying "he's cute" because it was so unlike me to make a comment like that about someone I don't know. I'm not the kind of chick who ogles much. I'm usually too wrapped-up in my own inner thoughts and neuroses to even notice other people until they start talking to me, and even then I tend to not view people through a sexual lens.

You know the stereotype of bisexuals fucking around a lot and not being too picky about their sex partners? I'm not that kind of bisexual at all. I've never met someone like that, as is the case with many stereotypes.

I'm a monogamous bisexual, with a low libido and high standards.  Not exactly a horny bitch. Sorry to burst your porn-inspired fantasies. I've had my share of sex partners, but I also made a conscious decision to remain celibate for five years in my twenties so I could "find myself". What I ended up finding is a Hitachi Magic Wand. I now understand why doctors once prescribed vibrators to female patients with the common ailment of the time, hysteria. My magic wand certainly helped me find inner peace. Or maybe that's just my G spot.

When I was single, once I decided to have sex with other people again, I was more apt to let you get into my pants if you said something clever or funny than if you were just physically attractive. Looks were never as important to me as intelligence and an awesome sense of humor.

Then I met Will and I discovered that sexy complements clever and funny. I totally lucked out.

I was thirty when I first saw Will in the fall of 2001. He was twenty, but I would have guessed more like twenty-five. I've had more than one person tell me they think Will is "an old soul". He exudes the confidence and wisdom of a much older person. I remember when Will started working in my department every Friday afternoon, we would talk. I was at the end of a relationship with a woman named Kristin, and even though it was a bad relationship, a terrible, horrible, no-good awful relationship, it still never occurred to me to cheat on her. I might be crazy, lazy, moody, messy, and certainly neurotic, but I'm loyal as hell.

I don't get adultery. I mean, if you want to fuck someone other than your partner, either ask them if they want to swing, or break up with them and move on to someone else. Don't be a selfish prick, or yoni, whichever the case may be.

Kristin and I broke up by the beginning of 2002. She started sleeping on the couch of the one-bedroom apartment that we shared with our three dogs and six cats. We had a few more months left in our lease agreement and we were too broke to break the lease. So the first time Will came over to my apartment, I was still living with my ex-girlfriend.

One of the things I admired about Will from the start is his open mind. He never once asked me if I wanted to have a three-way, something too many of the men I had previously dated assumed I was into because I'm bisexual. Will was always a gentleman.

I'm no lady, though. I did everything wrong.

You know how when you break up with one person, you're supposed to give your heart a little time to heal before you move on to your next relationship? Or, at least, the first person you sleep with after you break up with someone is just your "rebound" relationship and nothing everlasting?

Not for me. I broke up with Kristin and within a few weeks Will asked me out on our first date. He had just turned twenty-one, he informed me, when he brought our beers from the bar to our table. "It sure is good to be able to buy beer legally."

Oh my God, what am I doing on a date with this kid? I thought to myself.

I had turned thirty-one the previous November. After breaking up with Kristin in January, I told myself I was done with dating. I would never get married. I'd adopt a kid and be a single-mom. I'd work at the library and publish novels and raise my kid on my own. It sounded like a happy life. I was ready for it after way too many tumultuous relationships.

Then this hot twenty-one year old guy asked me out. We had a beer. Watched a movie. Headed back to his place. He played guitar and sang to me in his bedroom.

"Listen to this one," Will said. "I just figured this one out today."

He played "Lay Down Sally."

It totally worked. He was in my pants within minutes after finishing the song.

Every day I've been with Will I have felt like I can be myself. I've never known another person who makes me feel so comfortable and confident. It's easy to love other people. What's hard is to learn to love yourself. I not only love Will, I love myself around Will. I love us.

Despite my doing everything wrong, we got it right. We married, had Katie nearly two years later. It's become an incredible life.

And I still have trouble not thinking it's all just a dream that will slip away some day.

Not only am I a low-libido, picky bisexual, but I'm a total Debbie Downer about everything. It's a wonder anyone ever slept with me.

The reason I have trouble accepting the reality of my wonderful life is because I didn't plan it this way at all.

Remember, I had decided to not marry, to be a single parent, a career woman. I did not NEED romance in my life. In fact, romance and flowers and greeting cards and forced holidays celebrating love make me gag. I'm too cynical and frugal for all that nonsense.

I have a hard time floating on the raft. The other day, a friend of mine suggested whenever I feel my anxiety creeping up, I close my eyes and imagine I'm floating on a raft down a river.

"Fuck that!" I said. "I'd rather swim."

I like to be in control of my own body. My intuition tells me most sexual abuse survivors have control issues. When someone uses your body for their own sexual gratification, like a toy, an object, once they release their grip, you feel like running away, hiding in a cave, no one having access to what is now under your control.

The problem is, life happens. As much as I like to feel in control of my own body, life is beyond my control. Will and I wanted to have six kids. We are blessed to have one. I felt sorry for us, for awhile. I worried that Will would want to find someone younger and more fertile than me. A pit of anger swelled in my belly when friends would complain about their children of unplanned pregnancies.

Why can't I have a bunch of kids? Why is it the ones who don't want them get them, and the ones who want them don't?

Our daughter Katie is eight. I rarely even think about my subfertility now. Once it was such a burden I carried in my barren body. Now I'm fine with it. I love our one, fantastic child. Being her mom is amazing. It wasn't what we planned, having an only child. But it's what we got and it's better than we could have imagined.

I need to give up making so many plans and just lie back on the raft and enjoy the ride. I read a meme the other day that said, "If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans."

Isn't that true?

I am not a rich and famous Pulitzer-prize winning novelist. I am not the matriarch of a big family. I am not as independent (and in control) as I thought I'd like to be. But it turns out I like the raft better than I thought I would.

I used to work with a woman who said whenever she felt stressed, she imagined herself floating in the dead sea. She was one of those adventurous kind of people who take action and meet goals and chase dreams. A Jewish woman who was born under Soviet, and therefore atheist rule, she moved with her family to Overland Park KS, and then, a few years before she turned forty, she moved to the place she felt most at home: Israel.

It's a good thing she was such a go getter. Turns out, she didn't have much time to finish her bucket list. She got stomach cancer and died at the age of forty.

But you know what? Last I'd heard, she was happy. Wouldn't you take short and happy over long and suffering?

The other day I was feeling sorry for myself. I was standing at the reference desk at the library, starring off into space. Someone could snap my picture and put me in one of those demotivational poster memes. I'd recently applied for two full time jobs, one in my own department doing the same job I'm doing now, just more hours, and I didn't get picked for either of them.

The reason I had decided to go back to work full time is because I was getting sick of sitting at home, waiting for the rejection letters to pop up in my email from agents I'd asked to read my manuscript, hoping to get it published so I could get on with this plan of riches, fame, and honors.

So I was standing there at work, feeling sorry for myself because I didn't get what I thought I wanted, because life didn't turn out as planned, when a little old man wobbled with his cane toward my direction. I smiled at him. For the most part, I love old people and little kids. It's my peers I have the most problems with.

"May I help you, sir?" I asked.

"Yes you can!" He said.

During our conversation, this old man told me the reason he likes to read mystery novels:

"My wife passed away. She had dementia. And she had diabetes for thirty years." He said, like he was just happy he had a chance to know her. He raised his hand and knocked a knuckle on the top of his bald head. "I gotta keep my mind sharp," the old man said, then he wobbled away, and get this--I swear he was whistling.

I stopped smiling when I realized that I'm a complete asshole. Here's this old man, he lost his wife, he totters around the library looking for ways to keep his mind intact, passing the time til his time comes. Here I am, relatively young, healthy, happily married, wonderful kid, comfortable life, feeling sorry for myself, worrying about what other people outside my inner circle think of me. This old man has lost the most important person in his life, but he hasn't lost his whistle. Why can't I be that grateful?

Why do these thoughts run through my mind so persistently:

My boss must think I'm too much of a spaz. Why else wouldn't she give me the full time job?

My co-workers must think I'm pathetic if I can't even get hired in the same department that I'm already working.

These agents know no one wants to read my depressing shit. Why else wouldn't they accept my manuscript and offer me a deal?

While these thoughts are soon forgotten:

I love my husband. My husband loves me. I love us.

I love our daughter. I love our family.

How wonderfully blessed I am.

Forget about your plans. Accept what you have and make the most of it. Find comfort in the people you love and the people who love you. Live and love and laugh like you mean it. Don't worry where you are in life. It's not a race. It's not always comfortable and it doesn't always make sense. But it's better when we focus on love to overcome fear. When we learn to be grateful for what we have, not envious of what we lack. When we trust the Universe or God or Us or whatever you call that energy that connects us. When we say, OK, and hop up on that raft and float along the river. 

I'm not there yet. Are you? 

Maybe the trick is to hold hands with the people floating down the river on their own rafts, until their support is enough you're ready to let go.