Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Choices

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Marriage is a series of constant choices.

When you fall in love, everything's chemicals and passion and sex. You get high off just the smell of the other person, drunk from their touch. New love is inebriating.

After a while, the novelty fades away and what remains is, with any luck, true love. Now not so intoxicating - a drug you've acquired a tolerance for - but rely on all the same. The thing is, this is not such an obvious elation. People may love one another so incredibly deeply yet find themselves incapable of not pursuing that rush, that adrenaline spike, that accompanies a new infatuation. So, mistaking the absence of endorphins and oxytoxin flooding their system for "falling out of love" (or maybe now that they're without the hormones, they see flaws in their partner they just can't live with), they make a choice to move on.

That's the thing, though. They make a choice. And I'm not saying that's wrong. Pretty often, people are actually afraid to make that choice even when they should.

But just as often, we fail to make the choice to stay.

The longer I'm married, the more true it becomes that marriage is about much more than being in love. You can love someone so much it hurts you and still walk away. It's about waking up every morning, looking them in the eye and saying to them, "I choose you."

(pikachu...)

(ugh someone stop me)

Terrible jokes aside, we do this all of the time. When I know my husband isn't feeling well, I make a conscious decision to be sweet and take care of him. I decide to be honest and share my frustrations with him. I choose to set aside time in my day that we can spend together.

It's really easy to get complacent and just assume your relationship will be fine as life strolls on by. I get it, we're busy af these days. Half the time you're too tired to even make a meal so you just throw something in the microwave. The struggle is real. But if you don't actively and intentionally think of how to continually strengthen and deepen your connection, then it's only a matter of time until the decay of your relationship reaches a point that there's no recovering it.

This whole thought process applies to most of life, really. It's easy to perform a job. But it's when you do real work, the stuff that you're not told to do that no one else can do - that's when you're really working. Sure, we're super connected and we message each other all the time. "I miss you" emojis are some of our most frequently used tools. But fuck me if I'm not incredibly guilty of failing to really invest time in genuine human connection (social anxiety plays a big role but still). Even our pets can become part of our background, robot routine which is really depressing since their whole lives revolve around us - the humans that decided to keep them captive for their entertainment.

I've been thinking pretty deeply about how far I've come in the past year. It all happened when I was combing through Ladylike Gaming's YouTube and laid my eyes on this:

Who the fuck is this?

I realized how much I've changed. How much I've grown. For a second last year, I started to regress a little. Slipping back into old habits, self destructing and launching back into daily panic attacks. Stress made me revert to desperate, shitty, scared Carly. But then, I stopped. I took a breath. I recognized the pattern and I changed my behavior. I made a conscious choice to be better.

And I can see it. Not just physically (over a foot of hair later), but mentally. Emotionally. I still panic from time to time but I don't make Nick take me to the ER. I still get stressed out at work but I don't go into a corner and cry, (I do still lie down on the floor sometimes. Listen, it helps). I still listen to my mother spout off about Trump and how climate change isn't real but I don't scream horrible things at her and follow her up the stairs. Okay, that last one wasn't that long ago but I've genuinely gotten a lot better at handling my temper in the past few months. The other day I literally took a very long moment to deeply inhale and then exhale while maintaining eye contact with a difficult customer. Fun fact, that person was actually quite nice once I got to know them a little better, they were just having a bad day, too.

We're always learning. I'm learning how to better manage my stress and even more specifically, my responses to it. And we're always making choices. In the eternal words of Robert Frost, "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." Wait, fuck, that was Neil Peart. I get those guys mixed up all the time.

As long as we're here though, we may as well choose those things that make us happy and fill our lives with light. It's not always so simple, I know, but sometimes it can be. Fortunately for me, I have at least one easy choice to make. To love Nicholas, truly and completely.

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