Stories, Art, Food, Teaching, Travel, and the other Loves of my Life

Stories, Art, Food, Teaching, Travel, and the other Loves of my Life
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do / With your one wild and precious life?" Mary Oliver, "The Summer Day"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On Making Your Own Way:

I don't believe in any real rules for relationships. I think part of the reason they can be so hard and so good for you at the same time is because of the way they force you to get to know yourself more each day, you constantly have to ask yourself if you're okay with this, or that, or that. Things that maybe never would have occurred to you: am I okay with him answering business calls at ten pm, am I okay with our children going to Hebrew school, can I accept that I will never speak his mother tongue. And then, in the less selfish way, you have to think about whether or not your lover is having his or her needs met, and if not, can you do anything about it?

Relationships are hard because they're complicated, and they force you to look at yourself in all your failings, and recognize every single flaw. Right there, every day.

But they're so wonderful because they can also show you the person you want to be: not a more even-tempered, affectionate, higher-earning or gourmet-cooking version of yourself, but an honest view, the "maybe-I'll-always-be-stubborn-but-maybe-I-can-try-and-be-more-loyal" view. Where you see yourself and love yourself, but don't let yourself take the easy way out.

So, that was a big disclaimer to stand in for: it's nearly impossible for me to give relationship advice. I don't think anyone can tell you what you really need, or what you're really giving, besides you and your lover.

This in no way comes in the form of advice.

But I'm just going to share one of the smartest things E and I have done for our relationship: we invented our own holiday.

It started four summers ago. We worked together, and had been dating a little over two months. I woke up on September 26th to a fantastic San Francisco sunrise, checked the weather, and found it would be one of the last summer days that year. I convinced E to call in sick, and we had breakfast at the Cliffhouse overlooking Ocean Beach. We had a slow, leisurely breakfast, we ran through the waves and kissed like teenagers in the sand. We hiked down to Mile Rock Beach and sprawled across a cement slab, drank wine, and watched for dolphins. For lunch, we went to Park Chalet and had garlic fries and red ale. We read and napped in Golden Gate Park. At the end of the day, we came home and made gumbo together, sat in his living room and listened to the sounds of the freeway.

We decided to make it a regular thing, our own personal holiday. The next year, we were a little poorer (thanks, grad school x 2!), so we skipped the fancy breakfast and just sprung for the garlic fries and red ale. The next year, we were a little busier (thanks, thesis!) so instead of gumbo we had soup and salad. This year, we're a little richer, so we took the convertible and went to the Academy of Sciences.

The modifications don't matter. The important thing is, every year, we make a point to set everything else aside and run through the freezing ocean together. We put work and school on hold, let our lives rotate only around each other, for a whole day. The details change (breakfast, museums) but the important things stay the same: time off together, sunny San Francisco, the beach, garlic fries, red ale.

We both love it so much. And it's so silly, but damn, now that it's been a few years, I think it was so smart of us. Now the last days of summer always take me right back to the days when our love was young and reckless and shy, to the days he sat on my desk grinning like a fool and I looked at my feet every time I smiled. And when life swirls with jobs and deadlines and bills and family obligations and boredom and the wind just falls from your sails, sometimes that's exactly what you need.

Or, I do at least. You make your own way.

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