Living in the Midwest, there are just too many reasons to be glad to get past the February bump. I usually enter March pirouetting around the yard chasing birds and plucking flowers, at least in my head, and tearing pink marshmallow hearts in half and stuffing them in my mouth after raiding the Valentine’s day markdown aisles at Walgreens. I also diligently open up a blog I wrote eight years ago on Valentine’s Day just to savor the amazing passage of time as fossilized by my marriage.
Not much has changed in eight years and yet so much has. For one I’ve gone from being an occasional blogger with two preschoolers to a bitten in the butt by the publishing bug writer with two adolescents. Translation: I’ve gone from being your usual mom struggling with manic overwork to complete mayhem. So, of course it’s a medal-worthy accomplishment that my poor one and only valentine, who earned himself that blog eight years ago, still makes me want to write him blogs (since I don’t do sonnets). And of course, I wouldn’t be me if I weren’t willing to share the wisdom that fuels this medal-worthy accomplishment. So, in honor of another month of romance gone by, here are my seven rules for keeping the love when you’re losing your mind …
One. Set aside time. Life is a monstrous time suck. And we’re all going to die. In the crazy race to fit all our living into that space before dying, it’s pretty darned easy to speed past the loving. Don’t. Watch a movie every Friday. Watch John Stewart every night or E! News or The Following, if you’re a bloody sadist. But do something mindless together without multitasking.
Two. Find something in common. And then hold on to it for dear life. Cherish it and nurture it as if it were the last jasmine plant left on the planet. Even if it’s a tiny thing like the same comedian who makes you laugh, or the same political outrage that pisses you off. Between John Stewart and Fox 2 News, we can go from being amused and livid at each other to being amused and livid at something else. And it’s restful.
Three. Find something that’s yours alone. Marriage (or any lifelong commitment) is constant contact with one person. A life that lines up point to point is like trying to run a three-legged race with all four legs tied together. This is why women have girlfriends. This is why writers write (okay, this and because they’re crazy). This is why you encourage your husband to go play poker with his buddies. Get out of each other’s face every once in a while. It’s healthy.
Four. Share your burdens. I tried for years to keep my stresses about my writing to myself, the nail-biting every time a query went out. The heartbreak of the rejections. He isn’t a writer. He won’t understand, I told myself. I was right. He isn’t a writer, but hard as it is for us writers to comprehend, non-writers feel things too. And when we share of our private world, we let our partners in. Plus, when you stuff handfuls of chocolate chips into your mouth while slinking about in the same smelly sweatshirt you’ve worn for five days, at least he knows not to say something stupid. Help him out.
Five. Hold hands. Go even further than that. Grab other body parts every once in a while. And, for heaven’s sake, put your heart in it.
Six. Yell at each other. But not for too long. Even more than the wonderful things you must say to each other, it’s the awful angry shit that can cement you. Not because it tells you how well you chose, but because it tells you what your relationship can withstand. And that’s gold.
Seven. Have crushes on other people. Celebrities are great for this, Romance heroes are fantastic too. But don’t ever be unfaithful. Even more importantly, don’t ever be disloyal.
And with that I leave you to your left over candy hearts and I wish upon you a round-the-year valentine who pushes your buttons and rings your bells and lifts you up when not just life but the unforgiving and inevitable hand of gravity pulls you down.