Monday, March 30, 2015

Home Improvement

There are a lot of shitty things about being an adult, and if us married folk are being completed honest, sometimes one of them is the strain of marriage. (I guess, depending on your childhood, there might be a lot of shitty things about being a kid. I didn't have that experience.) But I will say that one of the glorious things about being an adult is deciding at 2:20am that you need a peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwich, and then proceeding to have one right then and there.

In January we moved everything out of our once a guest room / meant to be an office / recently a dump-it-all room, to begin a makeover. It was intended to be a one-day turnaround with a quick paint job. We still aren't done. Along the way we've trashed a couch and tossed it to the curb, probably inhaled a lot of asbestos, basically had one disaster after another, and definitely gotten on each other's last nerve.

The first was a full day of sanding texture off the walls, followed by a Sunday morning marriage crises when Tim didn't cover the floors and tracked oil-based primer all over the hardwoods. I'm mostly joking when I say the day almost ended in divorce. Mostly. I did cry about it. Me striving for perfection and Tim's preference for shortcuts do not a merry couple make.

The second weekend followed with my new terror of asbestos in the ceiling tile, certainty that I will die of lung cancer in 30 years, and in search of the perfect shade of white paint. Ironically I was helped at Home Depot while hunting an asbestos test kit by a kindly older gentleman whose cousin died from mesothelioma. Awesome. Red Flags everywhere. It was almost like a slapstick routine. If only it were funny. 

We had multiple meltdowns. "Should we just move???" was pondered out loud more than once. Oh, old home joys. (And we don't even own it...) BUT. Along the way - as with most projects that require hard work, physical labor, and allow plenty of time for deep thoughtful soul-searching - I arrived at some interesting revelations.

The Year Four of marriage mark has been passed. We can now look at each other and say "We've been hitched for 1,461 days and counting. You're welcome, and thanks for putting up with me!" (No, my math isn't incorrect. Two thousand twelve was a leap year, biatch. Plus, I did that shit with a calculator.) Thanks to those 1,461 days under our belt, I sometimes start to feel like we're old hat at this marriage thing. I mean we're almost to Five - and there's something about Five that just implies you've passed a big hurdle, amiright? FIVE - I mean that's like longer than I spent in college. So with Four I feel like we're graduating and heading out into the big wide world of "in it for life." And then if you add in all the years we spent cohabitating prior to exchanging rings, why, we're practically Marriage Experts.

And yet, we don't really know what the F we are doing. We still end up on the floor of an empty, freshly painted room, arguing about how we communicate... or fail to communicate. We still set expectations for the other to be somehow magically different than they really are, and then act royally irritated when the other disappoints. We say thank you too rarely, and complain too often. We each take advantage of the other's presence, contributions, and are often too selfish to speak the other's love language. Sometimes we're just not good spouses. It's true.

One of my revelations over the last couple of months was that my expectations of Tim have changed since a year and a half ago. I'm a critical person and I have really high standards - that's no secret. I should just come with a disclaimer: "Not for the faint-hearted! Don't ask this one what she really thinks, or you'll find out!" But when the man who had previously had the most influence in my life suddenly took a bow and made his exit, so did my measuring stick.

I think I had always sort of measured Tim up to my dad, but not in a creepy way and not even in a critical way. I didn't want to marry "my dad" or someone who even remotely reminded me of him. I was extremely critical of him and we more often than not did NOT get along. But I think it's natural to make comparisons, and notice differences and similarities. But suddenly, with his absence - someone has to fill that big gap. I've been punishing him for all the ways he isn't or can't possibly. (Like not knowing why the F our freshly polyurethaned hardwoods are drying crunchy underfoot.) It's taken me a while to be able to identify this pattern of behavior, and be able to apologize for it.

When we planned our wedding the whole concept (because I like concepts, not themes) was that of Home & Community. We kept it small, married in my parent's back yard, and only had 50 close friends and family there. At the time that Edward Sharpe song was our little mantra - "home is wherever I'm with you." Tim, you're my home. If there's struggle, if we don't know what we are doing, if we make major boo boos and have to redo stuff, maybe it means we're growing and learning and getting stronger and better, and I hope... slowly improving this home of ours.