“If you have the ability to really open yourself to love and dig down in it, maybe you are in for some trouble if you are not lucky enough to pick the right person. Is it random? I think you just have to make these great big mistakes to learn. And then I think the key is to think hard about what you want to have and want to avoid before you fall in love again. Once you are in love I don’t think you have a lot of choices. You just have to ride it out.”
Isabel Gillies, Happens Every Day
I’ve heard you should get married three times, once in your twenties, once in your thirties, and once in your forties when you finally know what you really want. Perhaps that’s where “third time’s the charm” comes from.
Isabel Gillies’s quote has been crawling around inside my skull like a monkey since I read it (the skull is a cage and the mind is a monkey; believe it). It terrified me. Am I making a mistake throwing myself into a new relationship because I didn’t take the time to think about what I wanted? It doesn’t matter. I’m in love, and now it’s too late to do anything but ride it out.
Except I did think about what I wanted.
Months ago, I thought of what I loved most about Andi and made a detailed list of fifty-five deal breakers my next love needed to win my heart, as brief as number ten (“Playfulness”) and as detailed as number five (“She won’t need to fill the air with stupid bullshit; we will share silence, peace, and stillness, and I will enjoy that sharing more than I enjoy being alone”). If you knew how I enjoy my alone time – I’m a writer, after all, in love with my own thoughts in many ways – you’d know how tough number five is to fill.
Some parts of the list are shallow (“A kick-ass body”) but parts of me are shallow, too. You’ll also find: “There will be some broken things inside her because someone too well-adjusted will not reflect me, but she will not be a broken person.”
I thought the list set the bar impossibly high, insuring I’d be alone long enough to get my head straight. From time to time I’d return to the list, imagining who she would be. I had to remove one requirement: “in some ways, her parents will be as responsible for raising me as my own were.” I met Stacy and Jim at nineteen, and I doubt fifty-year-old Aaron will be as different from forty-year-old Aaron as thirty-year-old Aaron was from twenty-year-old Aaron (God bless you for following that). I had coffee with Stacy last week. When friends ask how it went, I answer “bittersweet.” She’s an amazing woman, but no longer my mother-in-law. Jim and I resolved some father-and-son issues we should have resolved in our biological families, but he is no longer my father-in-law. It’s a big loss, maybe as big as losing Andi.
In-laws aside, reading the list now makes me feel like Sally in the movie version of Practical Magic, creating an impossible list of qualities for a husband so she'll never be cursed with love, then having him show up on her doorstep . . . Becky scored a fifty out of fifty-four.
I suppose you’re wondering what she missed. Well, she can’t taste a dish I’ve made and tell me the exact ingredient it lacks, she doesn’t have a variegated palate (although she’s tried a bunch of new foods and loved them, so we’ll see), and she’s not five-seven or taller. The fourth is between me and God, but let’s say she’s added bonuses I didn’t dare hope for which make up for these, and then some.
It’s like I drew a rough sketch of my idealized mate, never knowing I was drawing Becky. She stepped in and provided the colors. She has the qualities I need in a person I never would have envisioned for myself. This is so different than I remember falling the first time. Instead of seeing a perfect woman, I see Becky’s faults and weaknesses. I see her.
And I love it all.
I’m ready to ride it out. I just hope it’s the ride of my life.