Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Thoughts on Marriage, Tigger, and Eeyore

My darling daughter married the love of her life this past November. We like him; he is smart, funny, and he really, really loves her - not the 'her' that everyone else sees, but the fiery, passionate, completely determined little girl we raised to become a fiery, passionate, intelligent woman. What drives her is a thirst for knowledge - and a determination to achieve, to become, to create. I love that in her. It's how I used to be and what I still - occasionally - strive to be.

I don't know how to tell her that marriage isn't always going to be that way.

When Mike and I were married, he was Eeyore and I was Tigger. We formed a contract about our marriage ( I had come out of an abusive marriage and was determined never to end up there again). Life was hard - we lived on $8000.00 a year, with 2 kids and one on the way. We fought and sought other jobs to keep the family moving steadily upward, both in income and in experiences. We had passionate sex, quite frequently; it was the expression not only of our love for each other, but because we rarely saw each other, due to our jobs.  Even when we worked together on the ambulance, we had passion - but we were so closely aligned that, depending on the call, one or the other would take the lead in the call, while the other supported. We didn't fight over calls, like most married emergency service workers did. We didn't have to. We knew each others' strengths and weaknesses, and the best one for the situation always took lead.

When Mike got hurt, all of that changed. His damage was not only physical, but mental and spiritual. The endless pain and the daily drugs took a toll on him that simply can't be explained. But, more than that - he had always defined himself by what he could DO. And suddenly - he couldn't do anything any more. Couldn't be a firefighter. Couldn't be a paramedic. Couldn't even hang blinds (his part-time job) or fix cars. It hurt to move. It hurt to not move. He became a mean, nasty, angry bastard, even occasionally violent.

It was daily painful for him to hear sirens and not respond; hard for him to even drive past the fire station or go to EMS base. He didn't want to be that soul-sucking guy who, unable to function, hangs around his old haunts, still trying to be a part of it all, and making everyone else distinctly uncomfortable. But yet, after 28 years in Emergency Services, he couldn't let go. It was tearing him apart.

So, yeah, part of why we moved was to give him a whole new life, away from the sound of sirens and car crashes, the smells of smoke and that copper-scented smell of blood and open guts and the occasional putrid gangrene, the cordite smell of gunshot wounds. At first he didn't want to do it - at all. He was scared of new things (always had been, which is why Tigger had to bounce him out of it). He didn't know anything about farming or farm animals, except our little backyard garden and the times we worked on Peggie's farm when she was out of town. He didn't want to let go of what was hurting him so badly.

So I made him. I forced him. I didn't give him a choice. I was hard and cold and mean and pushed him right out of his comfort zone, and into a whole new life. Those who truly know me, know what a hard-and-cold, awesomely brutal bitch I can be - and I was. On purpose. You see, to me, Tigger was a compleat asshole, always bouncing, pushing, demanding, and forcing people to go along with him... yet somehow it always turned out right, with Eeyore grumbling in the background, always looking for his tail, always seeing the dark side.

Now Mike works in all weathers, snow and ice, hail and storms, heat and tornado threats. He doesn't work long; he can't. But the animals are fed, the grass is cut, the chicken run gets built, the wood for the woodstove gets cut, all over time. He fences like a rancher, strings barbed wire like a pro. He has a lot of new tools - come-alongs, a 4-wheeler, a wood-splitter, a complete woodworking shop, etc - that most ranchers don't have, that make his job easier, and keep him able to do these things. I thrust him into a totally unfamiliar, hostile environment - and made him adapt to it. And excel at it, in spite of himself.

We haven't slept together in 8 years; mostly because we can't. I have a nice pillow-top mattress upstairs in my BR, and he has a hospital bed in his BR on the ground floor, where he sleeps in a  V  position.  There is no sex, and hasn't been for 8 years. Oh, there's occasional hugs and cuddles, but his mind and his body cannot feel those things any more. No pills and no injections or roll-ons can help with what the pain and drugs have dome to him, continue to do to him. My life is all about working to pay the bills, and planting things, growing things, and taking care of him. Yet - oddly - it is a good life now, with a lot of intellectual bantering and debate, and a lot of (partially-drug-induced) stories about cows taking over the world, subversive meaty terrorists plotting in every pasture.

This is not the marriage every girl dreams of, "growing old together", etc. This is not the Cinderella fantasy of marriage. This is two people who still remember what they committed to, and who are doing their damnedest to keep it alive, any way that they can. Sure, it would have been easier to say, "Screw this and screw YOU!" when he became not-Mike, became someone else entirely. And don't think that I didn't think about it - I'm not noble, and it was HARD to make the right choices, to do the move and everything else on faith, and believe - insist - that it would all work out OK.

How do you tell that to two fresh-faced, eager and happy people who have just started their life together? You can't. You don't dare. If they knew how agonizing it could be, they might never take that step at all. All you can do is smile happily and let them have their moments of joy - and hope that they will be strong enough to stand together when the hardships come.

Yes, I am still Tigger, bouncing happily thru life, pretending that everything will work out for the best, smiling and joking - and I am still that asshole underneath, determined to make things work out. Mike is still Eeyore, grumbly and dour, with occasional humor and smiles that peek out through the pain. Some days it's OK, and some days better than OK, and some days it's hard. But that's life. Real life, not the storybook world.

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