Monday, July 16, 2012

Musing: All In

Just over a week ago, my favorite blog, A Practical Wedding (note: way more than just a wedding blog)  had a post about the dreaded question: how do you know? As in, how do you really really know if you're ready to get married? And it was open for discussion. As you know from the frequency of my writing on the topic, answering that question has been a bit of a struggle for me. I worry that I'm too young to be making this sort of a decision. I worry that getting married isn't compatible with my career goals. I worry that getting married is letting down my little feminist self that knows her strengths and wants to do big things and who shudders at the thought of being stuck in a house all day (that never turns out well, even with my introverted-ness). And the morning that I read that post, I was incredibly stressed on my second day of a three-day twenty-seven hour work binge to get a crucial but tedious part of my project done, and I was rather upset with Nate due to something he'd said during a phone call that morning. So as I was brooding and trying drum up the willpower to get back to work, I wasn't feeling all that confident in my "knowing-ness." 

The impatient moments of waiting for the plane to finally get moving and get off the ground at the beginning of every commercial flight are always marked by the safety presentation, in which a flight attendant smashes words together in order to speak as quickly as possible while her fellow crew members pantomime uses of seatbelts and oxygen masks with tired gravity. When they reach the part about emergency evacuations, three thoughts generally cross my mind. First, what are the odds that this plane is sufficiently intact following a crash to actually use the fancy doors and slides and such? Second, even if all the doors and slides work, what are the chances that we passengers will be calm and coherent enough to follow all these instructions? Will I actually remember to wait to inflate my life vest until I'm outside the plane? Where are these red pouches you speak of? Third, I know you say to leave everything, but is there anyway that I can grap my laptop? It's kinda my life...
But sitting on a plane bound for Texas on Friday night, when the hyper-speed safety briefing reached the evacuation portion, that third thought suddenly changed. Can I grab my laptop? Who cares-- I've gotta get home.

I'm not saying that being in a relationship or deciding to get married has made my life worth living-- far from it. I was a very happy, fulfilled, adventurous single person, and I'm pretty sure I could have stayed that way for a while had circumstances been a bit different. But this process of moving toward marriage has changed my priorities quite a bit, as it should. After all, in marriage two become one, which means I have more to consider than just my opinion when making even hypothetical decisions such as this.

But let me back up-- there's a very long, difficult week between the moody-wedding-post-reading episode and the laptop-dilemma realization mentioned above. At the end of my too-long, TMJ-inducing, stress-filled weekend, I found out that Nate was in the ER in Tucson due to a Crohn's flare-up. And for the first-time since I've known him, I couldn't be there. It was hard, but I knew that our wonderful friends were taking good care of him, and he seemed better the next morning. Then he ended up back in the ER for a second night in a row, and I started looking up flights and waking up in the middle of the night with somewhat-irrational fears that he could die. I felt guilty for not being there with him and for putting such a burden on our friends who have full-time jobs. But in the morning he said he was feeling better and I felt that finally, things were looking up. At three p.m. on Tuesday a friend called to let me know that Nate had been admitted to UMC because an obstruction had shown up on the CT scan. I sent off a flurry of emails and phone calls and booked the first one-way flight to Tucson the next morning. I worked most of the night before, unable to sleep and trying to get as much done as possible before I left. Deadlines were approaching in a week, but most of my work could be done remotely. But, honestly at that point, it didn't really matter to me that much what my work situation was like. I needed to get home and to that hospital.

The first time I think I ever really came close to "knowing" with Nate was actually on a trip to the ER. It was so frustrating to sit there helplessly holding his hand when he was in such incredible pain, waiting and hoping that a room opened up quickly, but I knew that I never wanted to be anywhere else but right there when something like that happened.I wanted to be there to fight through the incredibly hard, painful parts of life with him. (And he's been there through the difficult, painful parts of life for me thus far.)

And this time, again, being there in the hospital, some questions were cleared up for me. That nagging career v. marriage question? I would choose Nate over my career in a heartbeat. Fortunately, I don't have to: he's very supportive of my career aspirations, and he knows my strengths and wants me to use them. Am I young to be getting married? Yes, according to national averages. But I'm also graduating college at younger age than average, and no one fusses about that. And it makes sense to get married at this age, especially for practical reasons such as health decisions. "Fiancee" is an improvement over "girlfriend" in the hospital, but "wife" will carry much more weight. And regarding my feminist self...APW has some wonderful posts about that. Maybe in time my feelings towards "housewife" will change a bit; maybe that won't. (For the record, I do enjoy cooking and keeping a relatively tidy house because I enjoy having a well-working house and hosting people in my home. I just don't really want to be a full-time housewife.) Either way, feminism is struggle to achieve equal rights for women, part of which includes the right to choose how we will live our lives. So no, getting married does not equal failing or selling out as a feminist. And if getting married isn't selling out or career suicide or a young-stupid-kid mistake, then what arguments do I have left?

A little after twenty-four hours after I arrived at the hospital, we were homebound. The obstruction had kindly resolved itself with the help of some drugs to reduce inflammation and an Ng tube. We spent the last twenty-four hours together quietly while trying to get a few practical things done (wedding planning and apartment hunting). That persistent small fear that this all could happen again the moment I left made it a bit difficult to let him out of my sight (a technological mishap precipitated a walk to his house because I was terrified that something had happened and I couldn't get ahold of him because his phone was dead). As expected, this week's events did not do wonders for my anxiety disorder. And as much as he's promised to not get sick when I'm two states away, life, and especially life with Crohn's, is very uncertain.

In the end, I think I can say that I "know." I know not in the way that says things are going to work out the way I want them too or this is the 100% best possible choice I could be making right now. Love and marriage are inherently risky. There's no guarantees concerning what will happen in our lives. And there's always the possibility of loss. There's no knowing that our lives will turn out just the way we want them too. That's where trust and faith come in. And we are both inherently selfish people who will try our best to get beyond our own self-interest, but many times we will fail. That's where grace and mercy come in. But I do know that, from this point on, I'm all in. The laptop has been demoted. I am choosing to commit the rest of my life to learning to love Nate well, and together we're going to be a pretty awesome team. And I know that I am ready as I'll ever be to make that choice. 

And just to clarify, Crohn's by no means defines our relationship. It's been an unfortunate (but thankfully infrequent) interruption that has sparked some moments of introspection and realization. But most of our time together is happily healthy and mundane- evenings spent working together or lazy weekend afternoons, ventures out to explore a new part of the city or a nights spent in cooking and cleaning afterwards (a regular part of life sans dishwasher). I hope that most of our married life will just be the mundane stuff and the fun adventures. But it's good to know that we can get through the hard times too.

1 comment:

Thoughts are welcome!