Lately I find myself dreaming a lot in the morning. I wake up early, when my husband starts stirring, which is much earlier than I care to rise. I feel a little annoyed for a nanosecond until I realize I’ve been sleeping again and he is waking me because I need to get up. It’s seven. I have forty-five minutes to get ready and make lunches while he cooks eggs for the girls and gets them to dress for school.
The first of two dreams this morning was about raisins. A friend who is happily and recently divorced was enjoying some large black ones and I was saying, “Oh I don’t like raisins,” to which she rolled her eyes and held out a handful as if to say, “You think you don’t like them but you haven’t tried these.” I tried them and realized she was right. They were delicious and could potentially replace my love of prunes. And I might be able to put them in the girls’ lunches.
The next dream was more complex. There was a big sprawling party outside. Friends were there but my husband was not. In fact it seemed as though I was single. In the dream I didn’t remember if I was married or not. I wasn’t thinking about him. I was a free spirit.
It was a beautiful day. We were near the water. I was talking to a man who seemed nice. He was tall, dark haired with glasses and looked as though he might be part Asian. He seemed smart, very kind and a little soft in terms of personality. His sense of himself wasn’t sturdy.
Something happened with a bird. It was like a pelican but more colorful, large but unrecognizable, and close enough to get a good look. It was on the ground briefly. The sight was extraordinary and I was very excited to pull out my phone to check my bird app. “I use this more than my bird book these days,” I said and the man seemed impressed.
We were sitting on the ground, on a blanket, and he leaned into me as I was looking for the bird on my phone. I knew what he was doing and was surprised when I leaned back. Our bodies were touching in several places, legs, arms and feet and I could feel a palpable energy coursing through me. It was exciting. I felt admired and adored. I could tell he was falling for me.
He asked me something. Who was I there with? He knew something about me from our mutual friends, J and S. I told him I came alone but that I was married, adding as if just remembering these facts that my husband and I were separated. That was when Dave nudged me awake.
I didn’t want to wake up. I never do, but I forced my way back into the dream, curious why I had said I was separated. Was I lying or was it true in the dream? I was aware that I didn’t like the way Dave wakes me up. I don’t like a lot of things. Marriage is hard I tell people. No one is perfect.
The man in the dream wasn’t perfect either. He was a little over eager, ordinary in his looks, and I didn’t know much about him. I sensed a boring job. Science. Looking back I can see that he was like Dave in some ways and opposite him in others. But he liked me a lot and was not shy about it. I felt his excitement being around me and that was different. Maybe I miss that feeling.
Or maybe marriage is something one has to rediscover, like the raisins. There are so many different kinds. If the reason I think I don’t like them is because they are dry or sour then maybe the sweet juicy black ones can change the story I’ve been telling myself.
The story I tell myself about marriage is that it’s hard. It’s hard to maintain the excitement we feel as young lovers or the enthusiasm to keep working things out that seem impossible to ever really fix. That’s the thing. The idea of fixing it is the problem. It’s like the idea of fixing myself. I can work on things and there’s definitely room for improvement, but the issues I’ve been dealing with my whole life are still with me.
Last night we had a fight that upset us both. We managed to let it go before dinner and reassure the girls at bedtime that we love each other before talking it through alone. It was a magnificent talk. It was a conversation I am proud of because we both spoke deeply about our feelings and listened to each other, coming to the same conclusions and shrugging at the things we know we can’t change or undo.
The beauty of the hard work of marriage is that there are new things to discover and work through that you don’t know anything about on the day you marry. It takes years to get that tired of someone and used to the things that are annoying. It takes time to accept the things we can’t change because in the beginning we thought anything was possible. It was all in front of us. Now we look back, pat ourselves on the back for managing to stick together for twelve years and hope we can keep going for another twelve, or twenty or whatever we really want.
I read a great quote about marriage last week from someone who has been married thirty years that went something like, the reason we’ve lasted is because neither of us wanted a divorce at the same time. That made me laugh and say I hope we’ll be that lucky.
Sometimes I feel madly in love and at others I want to throw it all away. Start fresh with the man on the blanket. But last night was a great discussion that I will treasure for a long time. We’re parents and that’s an equally hard and imperfect situation. There is no such thing as a perfect parent or a perfect childhood, just as there is no perfect marriage (or raisin for that matter) but we still expect ourselves not to make mistakes. It felt good to acknowledge our shortcomings and forgive each other, and resulted in a good night’s sleep.