Love at Sea
We spent last week on the coast.
We're lucky to have friends who are generous with their inherited beach house and other friends who are as equally generous with their company. I have written in the past about how much we enjoy our yearly pilgrimage to Orange County where tide-swimming Mormons seem to congregate for the summer.
And it's funny how we recognize our Mormoness before we properly meet. But anyway.
This year Christopher and I were accompanied by the best of chaperones, flubbery-cheeked dolphin baby Iris Eve. I continue to tell people that out of all company present last weekend, Iris had the most fun. She flaunted her smile, flirted with twelve adults and dug her padded digits into the sand (and somehow never ate a mouthful). I even held her as she napped. I mean, that certainly doesn't happen at home.
But second to Iris was Christopher. From the moment our wheels turned south-bound his spirits were jolly. I mean, jolly. He laughed and told jokes and ate food and enjoyed himself with more personality than I've seen in him in awhile.
Early on in our marriage I stupidly had the idea that his enjoyment of life should equal my own, but NEVER surpass it. If I noticed him having more fun than me I was immediately resentful. Even sometimes terribly annoyed. I am so glad everyone else on this planet married a decent human being, but Christopher married a jerk.
This weekend, as I coaxed and coddled the baby from the shore, I watched him dash into the ocean, his head popping out of whitecaps, his muscular shoulders emerging like Poseidon. Over cresting-and-falling waves I could hear him laughing at the ocean as it threatened to pummel and pound his strong body back onto the sand. With his friends, in a sort of oceanic tribal party, they dared and teased one another as their wet bodies bobbed over foamy surf.
I was tempted to feel jealous. He was carefree, I was nursing a nap-less baby. She wiggled and tugged at me as he flipped and floated in the sea. The echo of his laugh was only drowned out by her fussing in my ears. And in that moment I wanted to feel angry towards him, but I also realized I had the option to let it go. I had the option to let him be happier than me. And it wouldn't necessarily decrease my joy. It might actually add to it.
So I tried it. I was happy for him. Happy he was relaxed--a world away from the tide of daily stressors that also pummel and pound him. Happy he wasn't attached to my emotions, but totally free to do what was pleasing to him. I was able to watch him be in a moment without my narrative mixed up in his own.
I realized how much space I've been taking up in his head. When I released myself from his worries and concerns for an hour or so, he had space to enjoy his life more fully. And when I saw how happy he was, I also realized I how much I wanted to apologize for being an awful emotional tenant for so many years.
And so I did. One day while walking downtown Laguna, when our friend Scott so kindly hefted the baby ahead of us to another beach, I told him I was sorry for trying to put a cap on his happiness for the last twelve years of our lives.
"I am sorry I could never let you be happy without my measurement of it."
He put his arms around me and kissed me. I am always amazed at how willing he is to forgive me, and how much his forgiveness inspires humility inside of me. I want to give all my useless defenses away so I can see him smile and laugh more like I did at the beach this weekend.
Marriage is good. Hard. So hard. You live with a mirror pointed at your soul. But ultimately it is good.