When I first really came to know my spouse, we were both in a bit of a dark time in our lives. We were neighbors in an apartment complex in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A lot of our dating and getting to know each other had a slight overcast of reflection on life as the young adults we had been and some uncertainty about what it all meant. I recall a recurrent daydream that would come to me in those days where I felt like she and I were two young abandoned kids in a ruined city, destroyed by some war or cataclysm that was not understandable to us – it just provided a backdrop. As kids, we played, somewhat innocent of something more serious than we had the capacity or interest to care about.
In the past couple years, one of the things that I have struggled with is matching up what I see as my giving to her and wanting more back from her. I’ve thought about it from a lot of angles. In my worst moments, I find myself expressing the intention that she really doesn’t ‘love me’. I think of the material things I do for her. I think of the still barely faded, gut-wrenching physical attraction I have for her. I think of how readily and eagerly I go where she wants to go. I have abandoned much of things and places which I value. I struggle to match up these with something similar from her that I could tie to a visible sentiment of love.
There are other moments lately where I think I sense the outline of some broader truth that I’m missing. Or maybe another truth. In those early days of seeing each other, I emphasized to her that I didn’t want a mirror. I was looking or wanting others – other thoughts, other feels, other looks – which by being not me were a way of assuring me I wasn’t alone. I was lonely. I wanted to live in places where there were lots of (other) people. Now in a more mature part of our lives, I wonder if I’ve missed a little of my own sensitivity to ‘other’. I wonder if her being very obviously happy with our life is in itself something bigger that she gives back to me that I haven’t appreciated.
It’s a shade of truth that I can see as a blind spot for me. I’ve convinced myself over time to think that ‘one should want a good life, not necessarily a happy one’. I put that sentiment in quotes because it has become almost a religious little mantra for me. In the same way medieval people might look for little sayings and prayers for protection, I think there’s a part of me that says it as a protection against the worry that I won’t have happiness or, being more forgiving, that happiness is such a shallow thing that I am ensuring something deeper that I can trust I’ll strive for without quite reaching. How else to reconcile with existential fears of infinity?
I didn’t want to end this post on that thought, it seems way to self-centered in a way that goes against my real emotion in writing this which was about seeing the good that is my spouse being happiness and what that gives back to me.