Saturday, January 12, 2013

What You Leave Out is as Important as What You Put In

A number of people have asked me why I almost never blog about Henry.  People I know in real life, the blogosphere, and through Facebook and Twitter will say, "You never write about him."

So I guess I should ...

Or, at least, I should write about why I don't write about him.

Henry is my fiance.  He has fantastic taste in rings, right? (The question was asked and accepted back in September ... I'm pretty sure I didn't mention it on here and, if I did, it was peripheral)
And we've set a wedding date, have a location, are working on a guest list, arranged the JP, chosen the bridal party, and so on.  Really exciting stuff, but not anything I feel like I need to blog about.

Why?  Because ... well, it's just part of the happy, calm, non-drama that my life consists of now.

The most important thing, of course, is this ...

Okay, here's the thing ... I have absolutely no respect for people who change who they are based on the person they happen to be in a relationship with.  None.  I think it's sick and twisted and warped.

That being said, I have changed a lot outwardly since I started dating Henry ... but it's more that I have found the strength to believe in who I've always been, to face my fears, to stop taking myself too seriously.  The hidden pieces inside myself, the shards of my soul that had heard, "You're not worth anything, you're not good enough, you're not smart enough, I'll take care of it because you'd just screw it up if you tried" for so very long, have joined together and allowed me to become who I always was.

If that makes any sense at all ...

The most obvious example I can think of is that I've learned how to tackle fears I've faced for most of my life.  I got on an airplane in August (with a lot of Valium, yes, but I got on an airplane) and flew to Baltimore to visit my sister when she needed me.  As recently as a year before, I would have taken a train or driven.  If someone I love needs me, I have always been willing to be there, but it wouldn't have been on an airplane, a fear I've had forever.

And it's not like Henry went with me on the plane, which I mention because some people seem to be equate spending 24/7 with your partner as a positive and healthy thing, and the only way to give and receive "love" and "support"--a concept I disagree with as Henry's love and support is present even when he's not physically with me, which I suppose emphasizes its enormity and strength.  He did drop me off and pick me up at the airport (in fact, we had a fight when he picked me up because the flight was really turbulent and he was late and I just wanted to be home, so I was snappy with him), but that's it.

And I should mention that the very fact that we "fight" is kind of refreshing.

I can remember how proud I was, how sure that it was a sign of perfection, that my ex-husband and I never fought.  I didn't realize back then that two people will never agree on everything 100% of the time, that I was either being indulged like a child or pretty much brainwashed into having my mind changed so my opinions were no longer my own, that I trusted him to do everything because the impression was given over and over again that I was incompetent and incapable of doing anything on my own.  The irony, of course, is that the exact opposite was the real truth, that he was the one unable to stand up and get his hands dirty and do what needed to be done, instead choosing to crawl into a wine bottle.

I was the one with the strength.

It's funny, my ex continues to find women that pretty much want someone to "take care of them", to tell them what to do and how to live.  Stephen King wrote a short story called "I Know What You Need" available in the anthology Night Shift, and it gives me the shivers when I read it now.  I married a mask; that he seemed so interested in what I was, that he "took care of" things when I was afraid to, that he seemed to know exactly what my needs were ... my God, it's so pathological looking back now.

I mention that because what Henry and I have is pretty much the polar opposite.

Because we are both high school English teachers, many of our interests and experiences are a natural match.  We both love books, although our tastes dovetail at times; we have a longstanding debate, in fact, over Tolkien (I think Tolkien is completely overrated, while Henry thinks he set the stage for pretty much every fantasy writer ever ... I'm pretty sure that came long before J.R.R.).  Henry loves comic books and graphic novels, while I think they're pretty dumb; sometimes he'll reference an epic like Neil Gaiman's Sandman in terms of what I consider "real" literature, and I'll roll my eyes.  He does the same when I elevate Stephen King to golden statue status (although he enjoys King, too).  We disagree.  We talk.  We think.  We learn.  We grow.  It's freaking amazing.   

Henry knows pretty much everything in the world about the history of rock music.  His knowledge is fierce, and his collection of various shows, purchased music, and memorabilia is ridiculously extensive.  My eyes glaze over sometimes when he starts talking about this or that bootleg and how "Hallelujah" has been covered 239 times and how such-and-such a guitarist is so coked up in a YouTube video that his nose is bleeding, and so on, but that's okay.  I enjoy Henry's passion and little-boy excitement ("REM is releasing 25th anniversary CDs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"), and I love how it's okay that I don't know what he's talking about half the time.  That he is so willing to share of himself with absolutely no reservation is just ... well, refreshing.  And extremely endearing.

And there is no perfection ... which is, of course, perfect.  I can be a moody and difficult person.  Henry gets that ... he laughs at me and makes me laugh at myself.  Or he knows to give me ten minutes to get over myself.  Or he'll call me on it, which I need sometimes.  Or he'll give me a reason (not an excuse or a lie, but a reason).  We are doing Weight Watchers, and today is our weigh-in day.  He lost 4 pounds, I gained 2 ... as I was about to completely melt down, he pointed out that I'm taking prednisone and an antibiotic so am retaining water (which reminded me that it's that time of the month where fluid retention is at its peak as well), so instead of getting depressed and eating a couple of doughnuts and a bag of Cheetos since "it doesn't matter anyway", I'm good.

Probably my biggest pet peeve is when people say things wrong.  For example, I want to scream when someone says "supposably" instead of "supposedly" ... and I hear it all the time.  Not from Henry--that would probably have been a deal-breaker--but he does say "all of THE sudden" instead of "all of a sudden", which is also fairly high up on my irritation list.  He argues that either one is correct, but he's totally wrong on that even if he doesn't want to admit it (based on my research, "all of THE sudden" became acceptable because so many people said "all of A sudden" wrong ... so using that logic, maybe everyone should start saying "supposably" and it'll become acceptable under the either/or-due-to-ignorance clause).  So even though it drives me crazy that he says it wrong, I kind of like it at the same time because he has the balls to stand up for himself; he is not going to change who he is just because the way he says something irritates the hell out of me.

Perhaps the coolest thing about Henry, though, is his modesty.  He is freaking brilliant, but there is no in-your-face about it (he was a National Merit Scholar, an impressive achievement that he forgot all about until finding the 20+ year old newspaper clipping while cleaning his basement).  He does not pretend (nor feel the need) to be the best at anything, instead enjoying life as it comes.  You find out about his many and varied life accomplishments piecemeal, usually with a self-deprecating story (Henry did not pass the English Language Arts Praxis II the first time he took it because he had no idea what the source material for the essay was ... the second time he took it, the question was one of his areas of expertise, so he totally nailed it and got an award for achieving one of the top scores in the nation, which I just found out about a couple of weeks ago--and I should mention that my ex got the same award for the mathematics Praxis II, but he made sure it went on his resume and that everyone knew about it).

Anyway, the bottom line is that I don't write about Henry and our relationship very often is because I don't have to.  It just is.  The highs and lows (and there have been some pretty intense lows because sometimes life happens) just sort of fit into who I am and what I think ... I am exponentially enriched by having Henry in my life, but I am not fundamentally different.

Well, except for one thing ...

Public speaking is my greatest fear.  Presenting to parents at Open House nights used to be prefaced by copious vomiting because I was so nervous.  I almost chose not to get my Master's Degree after completing the coursework because of the presentation requirement (and I think I only received credit for that out of pity ... it was pretty bad).

The first day back to school after the holiday break, I gave a professional development presentation to the full faculty at my school on "Text-Based Discussions" in a student-centered classroom.  Even though it's an area of expertise for me, I was petrified ... didn't sleep the night before, spent some time with my head in a toilet shortly beforehand, the whole nine yards.  That being said, I did it.

And Henry?  He helped me organize my ideas, articulate my objectives in writing (written objectives are hard for me), and listened to me bitch and cry and totally freak out.

And then he helped me practice.