Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Scenes from a marriage
I'm reading a fascinating book. Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Portraits of Married Life in London Literary Circles by Katie Roiphe.

So far I'm only halfway through, but it's a wonderful look at just what the title suggests: uncommon arrangements. The book is full of marital secrets. Nearly all these marriages (including those of writers such as H.G. Wells, Vera Brittain, Katherine Mansfield, and others -- both heterosexual an homosexual) were extremely untraditional. Couples with acknowledged lovers or mistresses. Couples who didn't live together. Secret children. Society images to be upheld or conventions to be flouted. It's a very well-researched and written book, but it's gotten me thinking about something I've pondered for a while. Namely - marriage.

What exactly makes a marriage work? And how can there be so many flavors of one institution? Every married couple I know has a relationship that is different from every other married couple I know. And that just fascinates me. Husband and I have many married friends whom we love, but whose way of conducting their marriage is markedly different from how our works. Why do some couples look forward to separate vacations while others want nothing more than non-stop couple time? How can some happily married couples spend every weekday evening apart -- at classes, rehearsals, the gym, work, etc., -- and yet others will cut themselves off from outside activities in order to just be together? I know of couples who are madly in love, happily married, and each other's best friend -- and yet I've never once seen them hold hands or kiss in front of anyone else. Another duo bicker like like two cats in a pillowcase about everything from dinner to politics, and yet they still look at each other with the misty-eyes of newlyweds.

My ex-husband and I have been fortunate enough to have stayed good friends. Both of us are remarried. And we seem to have married someone quite opposite from our original spouses. Oh sure there are some similarities: intelligence, sense of humor, kindness, generosity, etc. But in other ways night and day from our first marriages. Luckily we both seem to be extremely happy in our second (and last) marriages, but is it because we changed our definition (or expectation) of what a marriage should be or is it because we realized what we first wanted wasn't right for us. On the other hand, I know a man on his third marriage and I swear that wives #2 and #3 are all but interchangeable. Like the theme song to the old Patty Duke show, "they look alike, they walk alike, they sometimes even talk alike"). Will this one work, or is he doomed to repeat the failure because he didn't change his tastes enough?

Marriages are fascinating. And to an outsider, every one is something of a puzzle. I'm just happy that for all their crazy differences, my friends all seem to have found their own unique flavor of marriage that works for them and makes them happy.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

CD Pick of the Week: Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu is another delicious release from LBM featuring the fabulous vocal harmonies and a capella music for which they are justly famed. Warm, glorious and all wonderful. This is music that is truly life-affirming. It's joyful, pure, and completely without pretense. Just gorgeous.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Super Bowl of Sickness
While most of the US wallowed in junk food and first downs yesterday, I just wallowed. It was another sick day for me. A semi-sorta-kinda repeat of my ongoing mystery syndrome. So no chips and guacamole for me. Just zarfing.

I was sick the whole day. And not just sick, but miserable. I'm not sure how people who are sick all the time deal with it. One day of feeling like crap and I was totally upset. Of course I did spend Wednesday in ER, so it hasn't been a great week for me health-wise. But it's just so awful being that out of it. There wasn't much I could do except lie in bed with a hot water bottle on my crampy tummy and wait for the next round of throwing up.

Now I'm not saying all this to feel sorry for myself, I'm just honestly wondering how you keep your spirits up when you have ongoing health problems. When you don't know from one day to the next if you'll feel like getting out of bed. When you spend entire days in major pain, with no end in sight, knowing there's nothing you can do but get through the day and hope the next day will be better.

And today, I am better. Not perfect but definitely better than yesterday. I had a half a bowl of cereal and it stayed where it belonged. (Yesterday I couldn't even tolerate water.) I'm weak and wobbly but not in pain. But today I'm wondering how you stay optimistic. How do you stay strong, stoic, and brave when you feel like your body is working against you?