Sunday, February 06, 2011

Books, Oceans and Greener Pastures

Scott linked this to me. I think it's perfect.

Don't Date a Girl Who Reads

I love it. It is so right.

'... A girl who reads understands syntax. Literature has taught her that moments of tenderness come in sporadic but knowable intervals. A girl who reads knows that life is not planar; she knows, and rightly demands, that the ebb comes along with the flow of disappointment.'

I absolutely love this. This put in words something I've never articulated before. Life is like an ocean. It ripples and waves, it has moments of perfect calm in between the tidal waves and tsunamis. Just as the storms on a wave eventually pass, so do the 'flows of disappointment'. I'm a realist. I don't expect perfection or a life that steadily goes up or down. I know people and relationships are both rubbish and wonderful. I don't believe that bad times must signify the end. Every life and every relationship will inevitably be full of all kinds of bitterness, disappointment, contentment, laughter, anger, tears, kisses and hugs. To hold on to the negative only leads you to search for greener pastures. But greener pastures only look pleasant from the outside. Once you are over the fence, the imperfections start to show and what will you do then? Start collecting bitterness again, only to start closing in on yet another ending?

What I mean to say is, that's life. Deal with it.

The girl in the above essay left; 'she has decided that I am an ellipsis and not a period and run on and run on... The girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness.'

I get this. On the other hand, I do get this. Okay, so maybe moving onto greener pastures isn't a measure of doing something blindly and irrationally. Maybe it's just the next paragraph or chapter. I suppose this is the problem with being able to accept life without letting the sadness end you. It's easy to move on. Just as I have turned the last page to many a book and regretted that there was no more, yet an hour later have moved on to the next adventure, it is easy to see life as a series of novels, each beginning and ending with some pain, but not death.

So which is it? Do you stick with it because life will always be full of ups and downs and greener pastures won't change that, or do you move on because life is just a series of beginnings and endings, each with little plots and heroes that will only be marginally missed?

I'm putting this mostly in terms of marriage at the moment, because the essay is about a relationship, and because recently my world was as torn apart as it has ever been by my parents' divorce.

I've not yet written about my parents' divorce on here, because of anything I've ever experienced in my life, this has ripped me to pieces more deeply than anything else.

(Mom, Dad, you may want to stop reading here.)

You always expect your parents to be together. At least I did. I truly believed they'd be together forever, and I walked into my own marriage with my parents as my foundation. If they could last it, then so could I. Commitment, love, hard work, all the rest, that's what it takes to make a marriage work. So we can do it, because they could.

Then, suddenly (I mean really suddenly, to me anyway) they couldn't.

My rug was pulled out from under me.

Suddenly I had no place to put my feet. Suddenly I started to feel myself slipping, slipping, slipping, arms grasping at anything to stop me from crashing and falling. Commitment? Hard work? LOVE? What was the point? It obviously WASN'T enough. It wasn't enough for them, so how can I believe it's enough for me? None of it is enough. There is no point.

It was the darkest period in the history of my life. If my life really were a long novel that I'm only still reading, it would feel too much like the climax that no one wanted to have happen, but the author has come to feel in his guts was where it was leading, where it had to lead, like it or not, because it's reality and a good novelist will always sacrifice all, even his characters, to the great cause of Reality. At this point in the novel of my life, there would be two, three, maybe only four chapters left. It must end here or the reader will get bored.

So it felt. The story must end here.

And in a way, it kind of did. For months I gave up. For months I saw no reason to put forth all that effort into my own marriage. Why bother? We won't last. We'll just end up divorced like everyone else. There's no point.

But slowly, though maybe it was really only a few chapters later, I closed in on the ending. Maybe our lives are more like a series, not just one novel. That novel ended. It ended with the discovery that something else is needed in life, marriage, besides commitment, hard work and love.


That ocean thing. If we live our lives as if they were best-sellers, then yeah, we're fucked. But if you live your life like a classic, or rather an entire library of classics, you begin to see that ebb and flow of a 'life [that] is not planar'. If you expect the climax of your life to happen only once, then after it's over, what do you do with the anti-climax? Do you leave? End yourself? Do you despair? Do you search for another thrill? Yet, if you can accept that all the great climaxes must be followed by disappointment or anger or boredom, and then if you can expect for all the great tragedies to be followed by contentedness, calmness, okayness, or even just another level playing field, you begin to see life for what it is. It is like an EKG line. Straightish rippling lines followed by a sharp incline/deep decline followed by more straightish rippling lines.

I look now at what Scott and I have and see it more for what it is. We need commitment, love and hard work to thrive. We'll never make it without those things. We also need to see reality and accept what is for what is. To close our eyes and say such and such will never happen to us is foolish. To shut our eyes and pretend away feelings that really are there, ignore issues that won't go away and walk and talk like a perfect Christian couple is stupid.

So with all this, our relationship has developed a newer level of honesty and trust. It's a trust that is not blind, not ignorant, but 100% because it has to be. So a new novel has begun, one with a plot I haven't figured out yet. It's just the start, this new story about a girl who has had her eyes opened to the reality of marriage and life and is figuring out a new way to make it work separate from the way the generation before her did it, but very separate also from the way her own generation is doing it. The pages are still fresh, the binding unbent.

Yet never forgetting that access to the old stories are still close at hand, because you should never forget the lessons learned in earlier books you've read, because they all work together to create your own library of experiences, which build that heartbeat line of a life that is not planar.


  1. I got this. I truly did. I read it more than once, weaving through the paragraphs.
    Though I'm not a realist, I'm a truth seeker. It's ironic how our marriage has been going through it's very own truth quest. Is this worth it? Should it just end now if we're just going to become a divorced statistic? For real though. It's hard, and when I find myself slipping from the 'give a crap' circle I think, why not just throw my hands up?
    Here's were it's difficult for you; I have my parents expectations to live up to. You don't. The rug WAS most definitely pulled. Ones parents are their teachers. Through
    them your 'book' has direction. Though them you see the lines and you see that the chapters have ups and downs, but that's how the 'book' is. It goes on.
    But if your parents, your 'teachers' say screw it, they leave that book undone. Now they have a new book. Now you don't know what kind of story you are. The rug has been pulled. (I say this in generalization)
    That's what I find in my observation, these days most kids of divorced parents follow their parents lead. "if they can't make it neither can I, if they could move on so can I."
    It's as you said. The greener pastures syndrome. My own sickness. Though in truth, yes the grass is a pretty shade of green, but there's no pond, the other pasture had a pond. Yes, this pasture has roses, but the other grew the prettiest wildflowers.
    It's the same wherever you go. The adventure is a thrill, but you find yourself longing to be back home.
    I know I'm rambling. But Lori, I found such comfort in this post.
    That's the only way I can seem to find a solution: to be truthful. To let my faults be known. To say "Hey, I'm a great read, but I have several type-o's and a run-on in chapter 4. " ;)

  2. Thanks, Rebekkah. That was a lovely comment. Especially that last sentence!


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