There will be a lot of posts here to start off this new blog. This is another from a chapter in my book. It first appeared on my other blog in May. It's specific to the divorce theme of this site so I am reposting it here as well.
Monday, May 19, 2008
New chapter from my book
Most of you know I am writing a book. I thought I was finished but this past weekend I got inspired and added a chapter. It was good enough I thought I'd post it here. If nothing else maybe it'll whet the collective appetites and pique some interest for the finished product.
Going through life unnoticed
Let me make it clear...I don’t care for chick flicks. But occasionally there is a gem buried beneath the Kleenex boxes. I was watching a movie on TV yesterday and found an entire chapter buried in the midst of one such girl movie.
The movie was called “Shall we Dance” …not the Yul Brenner version but a different movie that starred Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon and Jennifer Lopez. I won’t even bother going into the plot…it is incidental to this story. Now normally I would instantly change the channel if I even catch a glimpse of Gere or Sarandon…especially Sarandon. But the movie was interesting and Jennifer Lopez is a stunning woman and I had time to kill.
Well one scene moved me deeply and it inspired this chapter. Susan Sarandon is explaining why she is sure her husband (Gere) is not cheating on her. She explains her theory on why people get married. She says it is to avoid going unnoticed. She then makes the following astounding soliloquy. “People get married because they don’t want to go unnoticed. There are 6 Billion people in the world and it is so easy to get lost in a crowd that size. Getting married and having a spouse means there is someone else in that crowd who can say "I see you…you aren’t just a nameless face in the crowd and your being here has been noticed.” That’s a paraphrase, but it’s the part I remember and it effected me deeply.
I remember in 1985 a book came out called “Glory Days…Bruce Springsteen in the 80’s”. It was a follow up to a Springsteen bio written in 1979. There was one chapter that dealt with Bruce’s decision to get married at 34. He had said that during a prolonged time off the road, during the recording and release of the “Nebraska” album, he had begun to open himself up to his neighbors and friends. He had been somewhat reclusive until that stage of his life and now he found himself calling his neighbors over for cookouts and softball games. He also was spending more time with his married sister and her family. He realized this was something missing in his life. Not long after, he attended the wedding of Marc Brickman, Bruce’s longtime lighting director.
The rabbi made a statement during the wedding that Bruce claims touched him deeply. He said “a man spends his life dreaming dreams, hoping hopes and making plans. When he takes a wife, when he finds that one person to spend his life with, he takes his first step towards making his dreams come true” Bruce claims it was that line that really convinced him of his desire for lifetime companionship. He often quoted the wonderful “It Takes Two” by Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston as another source for his viewpoint of marriage.
I have to agree. This was the school of thought I came from. My wife was my witness. She was the one person who was going to be there at the end, reminding me that I had really been here and I mattered. She was going to be the person who reinforced my belief in myself when I was down, and who would reel me in when I got carried away. We would one day look back on a lifetime together and wonder at what a crazy, marvelous, rocky, twisting, turning, zigging and zagging ride it had been. And we would walk off together into our sunset years, satisfied that we had both borne witness to each others validity. We would grow old gracefully, knowing that we had left an indelible, wonderful imprint on each other and our children. 50 years, 60 years…maybe more. We would one day look back and realize that without the other, none of this would have amounted to anything. The rough times bore the fruit of good times and the tears watered the fertile soil that brought forth smiles and happiness.
One of my favorite all-time movies is “Saving Private Ryan” (what real he-man can’t claim that?) The most touching scene to me is at the very end…Private Ryan has been visiting Normandy with his wife and extended family. The entire movie is his recollection of that terrible battle, and the squad of soldiers who gave all to find him and bring him home after losing all of his brothers. Capt. Miller, the squad leader, (played by Tom Hanks) has been shot and is mortally wounded. Realizing this is his dying moment, he grabs the young Private Ryan and says “Earn This” Young Ryan can’t quite hear him so he leans forward and Miller reaches up and grabs him by his jacket and says, “James…earn this” He realized that he, and most of his other men had given their very lives to bring this man home safely.
The final scene is the now elderly James Ryan, looking at the white marble cross bearing the name of that same Capt. Miller who gave his life and who charged him with so sobering a command. Ryan turns to his wife and with tears in his eyes he asks desperately…”Have I been a good man?” “Tell me I’ve lived a good life!” He counted on the one person who walked with him every step from the first vows to the final goodbyes to assure him he kept his promise to his fallen comrades. Who else would he ask? Your spouse knows you better, for longer, than anyone else in the world. They know things about you that your best friends or your parents don’t know and never will.
I had dreamed a dream and planned a plan. The completion of this plan depended on Holly being there at the end, reassuring me that my time on earth was not in vain and I had “Lived a good life” and I was a “good man”. Not in the eternal sense, of course, that confirmation comes only from God. But from the sense of my spouse, my best friend. Someone who walked each and every step with me and who could finally say, at the end…”I am proud of the way you carried yourself all these years.” And hopefully, “I would gladly have walked them again with you”.
That is gone for me now, and gone for many other men like me. I don’t know if I’ll ever allow someone into that part of my heart and soul again. Failure in that dark recess really makes it hard to bring it to light again.
That is another thing that made it so hard to let go, and made it hurt so much. All I had now was the confirmation that I did NOT do well. I was NOT a good man. She did NOT want to go through it with me to the very end. It hurt me to my core.
Part of this needs to be resolved within the bounds of my faith, but part of it is meant to be provided through marriage. Otherwise Adam wouldn’t have needed Eve. Adam was a perfect man in a perfect place. We know that he walked with God physically everyday and spoke to Him at length. And yet this perfect man in a perfect world still needed completion. He needed a helper…not a physical helper, God could do all that for Adam. But he needed a helper for his heart and a companion. We all do. And when we lose that person before our journey ends it leaves a hole so large that sometimes it never is filled.
8 years later and I am only now contemplating the possibility of someone else taking that role in my life. It was perhaps the hardest thing to let go of. The release of dreams and hopes and the acceptance of the possibility that it might be someone else seeing those dreams come true is difficult.
But in all honesty…it’s really so vital for us. When I have a bad day I come home to no one but my dogs. Nobody cares and nobody is there to tell me “I know you, I believe in you, and I know tomorrow will be better” Conversely, there is no one there to celebrate with me when I have a success. Nobody to greet me with a hug and tell me “I never doubted you for a minute…I knew you had this greatness inside you, I saw it from day one.” For me…and men like me there is only quiet and aloneness. Not the same as loneliness, but similar in it’s sorrow.