Saturday, July 23, 2016

The List

Beautiful hilltop blueberry field
I was blueberry picking today in a beautiful, family-owned patch that is on a hill overlooking Keuka Lake (quite a hike but worth it--the drive is offset by the views and $1.50 per pound cheapness) with two friends who have been through infertility and are now adoptive parents. We were talking about stuff as we went through the drive and the picking and the running away from aggressive beetles, and Bryce came up.

And it was interesting, because I forgot who asked the question, but it was like, "is your life with him really like what we see on Fac.ebook? Is it really that good?"

It made me think. There have been a slew of posts recently about what you see on social media versus reality, and I wondered how I present myself on Facebook when it comes to Bryce. Maybe I was making things look better and more glamorous than they really were. So I scrolled through my feed.

What it looks like this:

- Many wonderful hikes, either locally or out on vacation or day trips
Bryce in our Secret Garden,
with the ribs he bbq'd and
the delicious Zinfandel we're
about to enjoy with it
- Tons of great food, either at restaurants (we don't typically photograph restaurant food but we do occasionally take the opportunity to photograph ourselves looking fancy) or at home (we cook really awesome things at home)
- vacations
- a lot of selfies because we hang out with each other and no one else probably an inordinate amount of time
Croquet up at the lake
- an article where Bryce was interviewed about his job and industry initiatives that I was really proud of (and that explained what he does, because the word "photonics" is continually a mystery to me)
- tales of late night trips to a local park to see the abundance of fireflies, like stars in the trees and grasses, or buggy evening walks through a local swamp where we saw many frogs and birds
- Posts I tagged him in about how Father's Day is hard on men, too
- pictures of us playing croquet with dubious rules up at my mom and stepfather's house
- pictures of us at my sister's stepson's graduation party

I could keep going but that would be awfully boring for you. It's a good life.

And I'd say, yeah. That's pretty accurate. We like to go out and do things together. We appreciate good food and wine together, and the making of good food, usually at our house and involving the outdoors in summertime. We spend a lot, A LOT of time just the two of us, much of it not chronicled for the Faceb.ook. We talk a lot. We walk a lot. We read together on the couch a lot with classical guitar in the background, which for some people would sound hideously boring, but to us it's heaven.

Now, it's not to say we don't have our downs. When you spend so much time with someone, you are bound to get on each other's nerves from time to time. We are lucky though, because as much as I can get crabby (and so can he, especially on little sleep), Bryce always laughs through it and I can't stay crabby when someone is meeting your sarcasm with all-out laughter.

But. It's pretty good.

And I feel like I have The List to thank in some ways (and, obviously, Bryce).

When I was divorcing, I saw a therapist who wanted me to really think on who I wanted to share my life with, since obviously the first go-round was not a success. It was less about what my experience with marriage had been previously and more about what I truly wanted in a partner, what my (high) expectations should be, and how I should not ever settle with someone because they were there at the prescribed time. My first marriage was missing a lot of the things that I should have considered nonnegotiable. I didn't feel I deserved more, and I had gone into it for all the wrong reasons, thinking an arbitrary timeline was more important and that the things that weren't right could be "fixed." Not such a great strategy for a healthy love life. So, my therapist made me make The List so I didn't repeat the mistakes of the past.

It was supposed to be 20 things that I absolutely wanted in a man that would share my life, any 20 things that were important to me. It was supposed to be a reflective practice. I was surprised by how easy it was to make the list. I clearly knew what I wanted, just not how to hold myself to it.

I lost the list when I moved in with Bryce, and I consider that a small tragedy. However, I can remember the gist of it:

- Someone who gets off the couch and does things, outside
- Someone who loves nature and hiking and adventures
- Someone who likes to read and loves having books around
- Someone who loves music
- Someone who loves my curvy bits
- Someone who will dance with me
- Someone who will buy me flowers occasionally
- Someone who is an adventurous eater and will cook with me and eat a variety of foods
- Someone who is kind and calm
- Someone who can disagree respectfully
- Someone who has ambition and goes after their goals with gusto
- Someone who is a good friend as well as a romantic partner
- Someone who won't mind if I have friends apart and go off and do my own thing
- Someone who supports my dreams and goals and aspirations

There was more to the list, obviously, since this is only 14 things, but I can't quite remember them. Anyway, anyone I dated at all had to have at least 10 of them and I had to star the ones that were ABSOLUTELY NONNEGOTIABLE, that if the person didn't have them it was immediately a no go. To be a serious contender a person should really have up to 15. Which seems high, but it was to drive the point home that I should seek the relationship that is what I desire, that I should not settle for less than the man who would be the very best partner for me.

Bryce had 18/20. He doesn't dance (because he is an engineer) and he doesn't buy flowers (because again he is a pragmatic engineer and thinks buying things that die is poor logic). So I force him into one or two painful slow dances and I have fun dancing with my friends. I buy myself flowers or cut them from my own gardens. Bryce's "score" was pretty amazing, considering that we met on an online dating service. I absolutely know how incredibly fortunate I am.

Our life really is as good as it's touted on social media, and actually probably better because of all the sweet moments that are private. I count myself as incredibly lucky when we have an evening where we are reading -- a novel for me, some hideous book of equations for Bryce (I am clearly biased) on the couch and the classical music is lilting in the background and we haven't watched TV in weeks. When we can go for walks or out to dinner and not run out of interesting things to say to each other. We can have fun playing our respective instruments, sometimes together. When I sit here typing at my computer and he's in his office practicing for the GRE because he's going for his PhD in the fall and while it means less time together for a while. I am so proud of his aspirations and that he is following what he loves and making it happen, and he in turn supports my pursuing National Board Teacher certification (which is NOT AT ALL comparable to a PhD, but we can sit at a table both working on our things and be content, and know that we are each working to make our professional lives better and more interesting, and we support that in a reciprocal way).

In some ways I worry that we've had this beautiful life for ten years if you count the time before we married (I totally do) and when we finally become parents, the culture shock will be crazy. I worry that I got a great relationship, better than I ever believed I ever deserved, and to want a baby on top of that when clearly it's not been easy may be asking too much in some way, that some Universal shoe will drop. Which is clearly illogical. I worry about transitioning to a life that is the same and yet irrevocably changed by the schedules of a tiny human and that obviously something must go by the wayside as we care for the FutureBaby we've so wanted for so long, but we can share these same things with him or her, right? After all the sleep deprivation and wonky schedules and daycare drop-offs and pick-ups are eased? We can inspire our child to want to go for hikes, and read, and listen to music, and play instruments because we do it as a family, right? That is my hope. (But if we have an avid football or soccer player instead we'll fit that in with the hikes somehow.)

But, I am confident that we will be able to discuss it and make a plan and have the give-and-take that has defined our entire relationship. I am confident that we will make it work, because we have strength in our bond together and our marriage is based in so much mutual respect, friendship, and pushing for common goals. And if for some reason we don't make it to parenthood, we will make that work, too, for the same reasons.

It's a win-win, although I like the first option way better.

Ultimately, I hit the jackpot with Bryce, and the life we have IS the life I've always wanted, minus not having a child, not being parents. But the rest of it? Absolutely fabulous. I think I appreciate it more for having experienced a not-so-great match (understatement), for knowing what life can be like when you're with the wrong person. We definitely found the right person in each other. It will be so interesting to see where the journey takes us, together.

Happy little trolls under a footbridge in Maine, just one mini adventure


  1. A clear case for knowing what you want and holding to that knowledge.

  2. I like the idea of the list a lot. It reminds me of the online questionnaires we filled out for eHarmony, which also included non-negotiables. Very sound concept I think. Your life sounds awesome! I think it's so important to look at your partner and think "I hit the jackpot" even as realistically there are compromises everyone makes. As for keeping up with hobbies you enjoy after there's a child in your life, it is entirely possible it just will take more effort than it does now. I am sure you will share parenting responsibilities but know that is VERY important (how you share is up to you, but it must feel fair to both partners). Mr Turtle and I do one activity outside the house a week and we support each other for that. You don't want a situation where one spouse feels they are doing all the work while the other has all the fun. With those ground rules, I think it's entirely possible to keep up your awesome life with an extra dimension.

  3. I love your list. A happy marriage is great. I think it's so nice having a best friend and companion to share one's life with. Yes, having a kid will add some stressful moments, but you have a great relationship basis and if you have already survived all the difficult times infertility brings then you can definitely handle the ups and downs of adapting to life with a child!