One thing blogging does for me is help to sort out all the crazy thoughts in my head. I spend a lot of time in my head and most of my thoughts go zipping by, duly noted, but never quite landing on a spot. As I decide to write about one of those thoughts, I begin to organize it and connect it to other thoughts and try to make some sense out of it. Though I’ve long ago abandoned the idea that I can make a perfect narrative out of anything in my head, I still like to see something more distinct, even if it looks like a Picasso instead of a Raphael.
My thoughts over the last few days have been on a fairly grand scale, so sorting them out would be impossible. I’ve contemplated marriage, children, and my career, composing half posts out of them. I may as well get them out of my head.
Marriage. Most marriages are functional. They cruise along, going through the motions of maintaining a relationship. These are not bad marriages; they just are. There’s potential for them to go either way. Watching good marriages is a lot like watching figure skating or ballroom dancing. They perform beautiful and complicated moves with grace and style and they make it look almost effortless. The truth is, with both good marriages and fine artistic performances, there’s a lot of hard work that goes into the performance. There’s practice. There are many stumbles and some spectacular crashes. But the partners get up, dust themselves off and try again.
Mr. Geeky says that for most people it’s easier to leave a relationship than to put the effort into it that’s necessary to make it not just functional, but performing artistically. I disagree, but I can see how he might think this. There is that first flush of romance at the beginning of any relationship and when your current one is awry, you might long for that first flush. Everything is full of potential, of new and exciting surprises. But that flush wears off, sometimes quite quickly and you’re right back where you were before, needing to work on the existing relationship. Any currently single person will think you’re crazy, of course. Finding someone is work and not always the kind of work that is rewarding in the same way that working on a relationship is.
I can see though that many people may not be able to hold out for the rewards. Working on a relationship–any relationship–is a day by day process. There aren’t any shortcuts.
Children. Many months ago Ayelet Waldman stated that she loved her husband more than her children. There was a bit of an uproar about that statement. How could she?! We all questioned. But I think there’s something to her statement. I wouldn’t say I love my husband more, but it’s definitely a different kind of love, something reserved for him. And I also think it’s important to keep that relationship at the forefront. It is, I believe the foundation for the family. There can be no love for the children (in a healthy way) if there is no love between the parents. I have had moments where I’ve realized, to my surprise, that I’m sometimes a bit jealous of my children and the relationship they have with their father. I look forward to their going to bed so that I can have Mr. Geeky to myself.
Don’t get me wrong. I want strong relationships with my children. I love spending time with them and doing things with them. But sometimes, I need a different kind of love.
Career. I would love more than anything to treat my job like a job, to go in at 9, do some things and go home at 5. I would love not to be overly concerned about the future of the department or the institution. I would love to just fend for myself. I’m not there yet.
From the outside, my career seems quite successful. I have a job that I enjoy. I’ve received some recognition for my work both within and without the institution. I’m on the verge of achieving a Ph.D. I should be content with that. For whatever reason, I keep reaching for something else, something more that I’m not even sure I want. Or know what it is.
For the last 15 years, career has been at the forefront of our thoughts. First there was Mr. Geeky’s Ph.D., then the job search, the race for tenure, another job search, another race for tenure. Now that he has tenure, I’d like to not have career, either mine or his to be foremost in our minds. But that’s a hard habit to break, I think. I think my own (over?)reaching is related in part to Mr. Geeky’s own ambitions. I am trying to keep up with him in some way. And, of course, I work with many other Mr. Geeky’s, all climbing an invisible ladder to career success. I’m not content just holding the ladder. I want my own. What I think would be better for me is to be content holding the ladder. After all, without me doing so, the ladder would fall.