|Stripping Away The Layers by Rachael Shankman|
This year has been hard. We've had a lot of deep letdowns, and not a lot of tangible gains. Just the other evening, as we sat near the fine art museum overlooking the fountains, I asked, angrily, when the last time something unexpectedly good surprised us, just *happened*. "April?" Patrick offered. "We got a good tax return," he added, kind of lamely. This year seems to have been a real downer. I've applied to roughly 75-100 library jobs since completing my degree -- which, yes, was a good thing, so I guess I can say June was a good month since that's when I finished my coursework -- and while I've had a few interviews, it is incredibly depressing to apply to so, so many, and hear from so, so few. I know the tune's worn out now, but these degrees we flay ourselves for seem so worthless sometimes. I've pretty much let go of the dream of staying in Richmond, finding a happy little library job in my beloved city (all those library jobs I've applied to reach as far as Oregon, Washington, a fantastic place called Wisconsin). Disappointment stacked on disappointment, along with a rising sense of panic, because I am truly trapping myself one way or the other at this point. We have an IUI scheduled this cycle, and if it works, I'm trapped in a job I am desperately unhappy in, because while I am desperately unhappy, I also have two months of saved available paid sick time, and that is nothing to scoff at, since getting a new job would require waiting for a baby much longer, thanks FMLA (and, you know, New Job Etiquette). Get a new job? Closing the gate on the baby road for a year+ at minimum. Have a baby? Trapped in job where I am simply not fulfilled (though one would hope a baby would offset that a little -- but babies also don't fix all of one's outside problems so I assume at the end of the day, I'd still be unhappy at work -- though of course then at least work wouldn't be the Biggest Thing Happening in my Life to Care About). It's been a year of limbo, the stick dropping and dropping. 'What do you even want anymore?' I can ask myself plenty of times. Oh, sure, there's no good time to have a baby, but there are most certainly bad times. I'm lucky to have paid time off stored up, but even when I know I am lucky, I still hate that it also acts as a chain. Of course, life isn't simple. Everyone has chains. Things tie people down one way or the other, you have to sacrifice some things to get others, etc.
See that horrible paragraph? It starts out a little flat, works into sad, works into anger-panic. That's been the ebb and flow of this past year. But the thing is, the part about nothing really surprisingly lovely and good happening in forever? It's not true.
I think back a lot to a reading that we had at our wedding from the Quaker text "Faith and Practice":
“Marriage is to be taken seriously, but not always in grim earnest; its problems take perspective from fun, adventure and fulfillment, and joy and sorrow are mingled together. We rejoice in success, but we must also be glad that we can console each other in failure. ‘With my body I thee worship’ is to many a blessed phrase: but while some find a perfect physical relationship easily, others reach it the hard way, and it is not less precious for that. It is wonderful never to quarrel, but it means missing the dear delight of making it up. Children bring joy and grief; some will have none and will miss both the joy and the grief. For some, there is a monogamy so entire that no other love ever touches it; but others ‘fall in love’ time and time again, and must learn to make riches of their affection without destroying their marriage or their friends. Let us be thankful for what we share, which enables us to understand; and for the infinite variety in which each marriage stands alone.
We are thankful, then, for the pleasures, joys and triumphs of marriage; for the cups of tea we bring each other, and the seedlings in the garden frame; for the domestic drama of meetings and parties, sickness and recovery; for the grace of occasional extravagance, flowers on birthdays and unexpected presents; for talk at evenings of the events of the day; for the ecstasy of caresses, for gay mockery at each other’s follies; for plans and projects, fun and struggle; praying that we may neither neglect nor undervalue these things, nor be tempted to think of them as self-contained and self-sufficient.”
The thing is, we're seeing some of those things through right now. It is a lot of consoling in failure, job-wise, self-wise, other-wise. Why I chose a reading that explicitly talks about not having children I don't know, but in a way, I'm glad I did. But I was wrong up there, sitting on the bench by the museum. We've had seedlings in the community garden that we turned into vegetables for a summer and even now into October we're harvesting. When we think of relocating, it is with a certain careful joy -- we could start a small farm for ourselves, we think, consolingly, and yet with a certain amount of triumph, as if to tell ourselves, we don't want to do this, but we might, and we will make it a good thing. There have been the unexpected nights when we went out, or stayed in, and we have hiked around the trails near our home too many times to count, ducking the early morning spider webs and pointing out the largest ones that are still undisturbed when we bring the dogs that early. Life has been hard. Marriage has been easy. (I heard/read someone say/write that recently and can't remember who. But it sums it up perfectly for me.) I can mope about the fact that 2012 has kind of blown, or I can try to focus on the good things. 'This isn't killing you,' I have to tell myself. Because it's not.
There has been grim earnest. But we have had joy, too. Just in being. During our treehouse vacation, I read Let's Pretend This Never Happened aloud to us by flashlight and we laughed long into the nights, hooting. Even the parts where Lawson struggles with miscarriages, I was at first like, Iiiiii'm gonna skip this chapter, but then I read on, and laughed. Laughed anyway. Laughed because. Laughed despite. Just laughed.