One week ago today I turned 40. I’ll get to that in another post because, frankly I need more time. One of the things I did in the forty days leading up to my birthday was attempted to do 40 adventures. (of sorts… since I’m broke, adventure was sometimes a stretch.) My one big adventure was a hot air balloon ride. I didn’t pay for it, I used groupon credit that had been sitting in my account since Christmas when I had to do a large return.
I also didn’t choose this for me. In hindsight I should have really thought about it.
I have this horrible habit of prioritizing the people I care about far above things like my housing, survival, etc. So, when Chw flew here in February, sat in the relationship coach’s office and said we would move towards reconciliation and me coming home- I decided to buy the balloon ride for him. The three dreams he’s had for the entire time I’ve known him have been to own and restore a classic pickup truck, to travel to Germany & to ride in a hot air balloon. I’m powerless with the other two but this I could give him. As a gesture of good will, as an effort in thoughtfulness, etc. See, the plan (that day that he decided this) was that I would be going home during Genny’s spring break, which was last week. The week of my fortieth birthday. I assumed we’d have four hard weeks of effort, work and growth leading up to that. I’ve been in the camp for months of how can we truly fix our relationship with the distance? (The people we’ve met with have asked the same question.) Over those four weeks though, what happened was Chw saying no, then yes, then no, then maybe. It got to the point where I felt like I was going to have to beg and plead with him to accept me, and truthfully I’m better than that. It got to the point where he decided he was a martyr and that if it happened, it would destroy his life. I deserve better than that too. I was a really great wife to him before my depression hit late last spring. I prioritized him, lifted him up and loved him fiercely. And so, as he went about those four weeks of frustration, I kept that balloon ride for him. I had faith that things would work out, and I still wanted to bring him comfort, build him up and love him. Truthfully though, I did regret buying it towards the end as it lost its luster.
By the time my birthday rolled around, I did not want to go with him. Originally it had seemed so poignant to be going home that week, to be granting him a dream in exchange for martyring himself in marriage, because our 22nd wedding anniversary was also that week. Everything would work out so poetically… Instead, I had the worst birthday in my history of birthdays, the worst week I may have ever known (in many ways) and was stuck going in the stupid balloon because he didn’t get someone else to go.
If you’ve never done a hot air balloon ride before, let me give you a head’s up. It is very couply. There’s a champagne toast about love, life together and so on. You stand so close to your partner, which was fine for the other couples in the basket as it was cold and they snuggled. When your husband tells you he is not at all attracted to you, seems repulsed when you cry hugging him at the airport and quickly backs away, and does not want any form (emotional or physical) of intimacy with you- the very close proximity in the basket is excruciatingly uncomfortable. When he treats you like you don’t exist, when you are surrounded by a very elaborate proposal, a stunning sunrise and another couple celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary- you seriously contemplate jumping from the basket 800 feet in the sky.
Tears stung my eyes nearly the entire time. He enjoyed his dream coming true and truthfully I was glad. I was glad that, in the life where he believes he owes me nothing and I am his worst case scenario, I was able to give him something good. That when our chapter is over, he is able to say Well, at least she did this for me, though we all know there will still be something wrong with that too.
One of my favorite love songs of all time, lyrically, is Such Great Heights. It stirs my heart deeply. It always has. Up there, from that amazing viewpoint of height, I looked at those couples with us. At the beauty of their lives, in that moment. I looked down over the valley where everything was visible. I saw the college where we met, the church where we were married and the thousands of places we had dated, laughed, loved and lived amongst. Every direction held some significant thing to say Good bye to, as I stood so close to the man who swears he does not hate me, yet acts like he’d rather I were dead.
From that height I was able to realize we were flying over hundreds of houses with broken families, healing relationships, divorces, abuses, depressions, illnesses and it goes on and on. It numbed me to the core to see that reality. As personal as my husband’s behavior is to me and our kids, it’s just one in a million shattering situations out there. It becomes a number. Even the very idea of a midlife crisis, which everyone thinks he is having, is something so common that it becomes not very special. My marriage ending, my family imploding, these are more common and normal than if we’d tried to save it. From up there, looking down, this made me so tragically sad.
Spread out beneath me was our life together. It’s beginning and it’s ending. And standing next to me was the man, obliviously in denial of how huge that is to the lives of those immediately involved and yet how pathetically average it is to the world below.