Hawaiian Odyssey, Part I
Honestly, I have been saving this post up for about two weeks now. I have been trying to figure out just how to say this all. And there is more to say than I ever imagined I would want to say about the subject of marriage.
Let’s just start this epic tale from the beginning, shall we?
Let’s start by calling CLH by his new name: Burdy. That’s what I call him at home (it’s what he calls me too for reasons that are too over-the-top cutesy to explain right now) . Anyway, that’s what we’ll call him on this site from now on. He will no longer be “common-law”. He’ll just be my “husband”. We are hereby removing the “CL” from “CLH”, Internet. Weird. This will not be the last time I will see the word “husband” and think “weird”.
So, Burdy left for Mexico about 8 weeks ago. He was to get on a boat and sail, with three other men, from Puerta Vallarta, Mexico to Hilo, Hawaii*. He did this because just about a year ago, I left for my own little adventure in a land-of-little-hygiene, and the deal was that if I got to go to Burning Man without him, then he was allowed to go on his own life- changing shindig a year later. So, he agreed to be crew for a 47′ long boat named the Jolly Roger.
I was excited for him, but, I also tried to be as hands-off with his experience as he had been with mine.
Truth be told, I was WAY hands off. When it came time to prepare for his trip, I sort of tuned out. Did I care how many hundreds of pounds of rigging they would have to fly to Mexico to re-rig the boat? Not really. Was I concerned that he would have to brace himself in a tiny, rollicking, closet whenever he needed to answer nature’s call? Not so much. Could I really conceptualized three WEEKS at sea with no land in sight? Nope. Was I excited to sleep in our bed ALL BY MYSELF? You bet your sweet ass I was.
That’s not to say that I wasn’t thinking about his safety- I was, in fact, but I was trying to not freak out. I was trying really hard not to think about shark attacks, and bad storms, and holes being punched in the hull by random crap and the guys having to hang on to floating debris and drinking seawater because they were dying of thirst and then going mad and murdering each other with sharpened pieces of decking. We all know that my adrenal glands did not need any more punishment, and I knew that by focusing on all the things that could go WRONG, I would a) make him more nervous about this trip than he needed to be and b) I would exclude the possibility that he might have a WONDERFULLY LIFE CHANGING, positive experience on his trip. So, I sent him off with a wave and a kiss and told him to say Hi to the sun for me.
Then I prepared myself for four weeks of glorious bachelorette-dom.
And by week three, I was really bored.
On Day One, I missed him. I cried at a little at the sight of his balled up pajama bottoms on our bed. On Day Three, I was LOVING living by myself. By day five, I had found my groove. I was garage sale shopping on the weekends, eating really well, avoiding caffeine and going to bed early (wow. on second thought… that isn’t really a “groove”; it’s the way quadruple bypass survivors spend their recovery period. What a bag o’ fun I am. Jeezus.) Anywho, by week two, I was starting to get lonely. Shopping for goofy old records is fun and all, but it’s more fun if there’s someone by your side. ‘Cause, you know. Snickering with your manfriend in public is normal. Snickering by yourself is sort of weird. I was finding myself having a thought, and turning to the empty space beside me where he normally would be standing… and then remembering. Oh yeah. He’s on the ocean. And I can’t talk to him right now.
And that sucked.
By the beginning of week three, I was feeling this feeling that I hadn’t really ever felt before. It was this… I-don’t-want-to-ever-be-without-you-feeling. Not in a desperate I-can’t- live-without-you sort of way. Just sort of a practical “hey, this is stupid for us not to be together” way.
Can I get a little woo-woo with you, Internet?
The older I get, the more I believe that the Universe speaks to us just like we speak to each other. If you listen closely, you can hear what It’s saying to you. Sometimes the Universe whispers. It says: you might want to get those cute shoes at that boutique you just passed on the street. They’re not going to be here next week and you’re going to kick yourself for not buying them.
And sometimes the Universe cold cocks you right in the face. It gives you a heart attack in the middle of the freeway to remind you to call your kids more often, or it makes your adrenal glands stop working properly to remind you that you’re not living the way you should. The point is that the Universe has a cadence just like our spoken language does. And not all revelatory messages from the Universe are light-bulb-over-your-head moments. Sometimes our moments of truth come in very subtle, very quiet ways. And this was one of those times. When I thought about being without Mr. Burdy, the Universe just very quietly and matter of factly said: you should be with this guy for a long, long time. It’s that simple. Stop fighting the simple and beautiful truth of your life: you have built an amazing life with this man who treats you well, who loves you for all you are and is excited to meet your future self too. He is generous, he is kind, he is going to make an amazing father, he listens to you when you talk about what needs improving, and he knows how to celebrate what is good in life.
A word about the institution of marriage and the the non-linear nature of my life:
not being married was, on the surface, a part of my fist-raised-to-The-Man defiance of the conventional… but it wasn’t the whole story. Sure, I think it’s utterly ridiculous that being gay in this country means that you can’t be married legally, and, yes, I was making a political statement by not engaging in a practice that was being denied other perfectly qualified members of our society. But, really, my biggest reason for not being married was that I couldn’t define what marriage MEANT to me. And my reasoning was that so long as I didn’t really know what marriage meant, I didn’t have any business being married.
Our friends have teased us over the years about not being married (we’ve been together for just about twelve years now)… about how were were probably secretly plotting to never be married. Or that maybe we had some plan to be the very last people in our circle of friends to be married just to prove a point. The truth is far less entertaining. Plain and simple: we were just children who weren’t ready. Children who had not really figured out how marriage would make our lives any different. Life was comfortable and we’d never really had to make a decision. We were together and that’s all that mattered, right?
I can’t say we’re any closer to understanding what marriage means. I just know we’re committed to finding out together.
When we made the announcement to my family, two of the questions my little (taller) brother shot back at us were: why did it take so long, and why now? And those are the two most profound questions we’ve been asked since making this decision. I think it occurred to each of us, independently and simultaneously, that this is what we should do. Something changed in each of us while Mr. Burdy was on that god-forsaken sailboat.
Victoria asked me before I boarded that plane for Hawaii whether or not I would say yes if Mr. Burdy asked. I said, without hesitating, yes, of course I would. But if I am going to be totally honest, I have to admit that I’d spent many hours thinking of ways to say no. I’m spilling the beans here, on the Internet, because I think it’s necessary to talk about this stuff in our marrying culture. Our relationship has meandered through quite a few profound twists and turns. We have been through couples therapy, and through individual counseling. We’ve broken up and we’ve gotten back together. We’ve had some awesome times together, and we’ve had some truly dark moments together. We both come from wounded families, and that has played no small part in delaying our decision to take the next step in our relationship. I have gone back and forth in my mind for years about whether or not I’ve made the right decision in being in this relationship for this long.
As a writer, I am moved to draw out and dwell upon ALL the feelings associated with commitment- not just the rosy invitation and dress-picking-out euphoric ones (though, euphoria definitely has a place in this whole thing!) I want to claim a spot at the marriage table for those of us who are still trying to figure this out as we go along. I want to be totally honest about this whole experience because I want to expose love for the journey it is. I want to use more than “scared nervous happy excited” to describe my feelings. Because sometimes I feel three of these at once. And other times I feel nothing at all. I feel completely neutral. Sometimes I feel solid and grounded and like I’m making the most natural decision of my life, it feels that effortless. And sometimes I start to literally hyperventilate thinking about about being with one man for the rest of my life. Scared and nervous don’t even being to cover these emotions.
Before Hawaii, I thought about telling CLH things like: you’re too late, sucka. Or, that he’d already had me for this long…. so what the hell would a commitment ceremony really mean when he’d gotten the milk without having to buy the farm for thirteen years or so? Besides which… there were logistics to think about. What coast to be married on, for beginners. The thought of having to suggest hotels and plane fares and pick out flowers made me want to stick my head under a pillow. One thing you can do really well out here amongst the evergreens here in the Pacific Northwest is delay your adulthood indefinitely. And we were doing that very well, thank you very much.
But in the moment, when he actually asked me, when it came right down to it, none of the “no” reasons came into my head. Of course, I might have been thinking HOLY SHIT WHAT AM I AGREEING TO, but I was feeling that right alongside YES! FINALLY! I’M SO EXCITED AND HAPPY! and the decision was obvious: of course I would marry him.
So here we are. Muddling our way through what it means to have nothing change and everything change all at the same time.
I’ll tell you all about how he did it (and how I saw it coming but was still surprised) in Part II.
*You can read Mr. Burdy’s version of events here.