Eric and I are the proud owners of an ROA. As part of our ROA, we made specific commitments to each other. Remember this part?
Our relationship purpose is to create a loving, nurturing, safe environment which:
- makes a positive, joyful difference in each others’ lives,
- encourages spiritual, emotional and physical needs and development.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? But what does it really mean when it comes to our day-to-day lives? Well, hang on cowboys and cowgirls, ’cause I’m a’gonna tell ya.
In the second year of our marriage, I took piano lessons, which was a birthday gift from my parents. My parents didn’t choose to give me the lessons because I asked for them. They chose them because my husband was trying to get me to drag my rusty fingers to the keyboard and, with help from a little steel wool and Rustoleum, play again. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why.
In his pre-Pamela life, Eric immersed himself in his passion for triathlon and music (slappin’ da bass) as an escape. When we first got together, I didn’t understand this. I thought my job was to enable him to continue to pursue them. I thought that was how I would honor his passions. He showed me video of his band opening for 10,000 Maniacs, and I said, “Cool! Join another band.”
Wrong answer, Pamela. He wanted to do it together. Music, that is. So, forget music for a moment: after two years of marriage in which he refused to do his beloved sport, I finally “got it” about endurance triathlon. I aspired to marathons, and I had done sprint triathlons. Endurance triathlon intimidated me, though. But unless I participated with him in endurance triathlon, he would never do it again. What was it our ROA said? Ah, yes: encourages spiritual, emotional and physical needs and development. Duh, me.
I got it — he wanted me to do a half ironman; next up, full-length.
So I jumped in with both feet, and we did a half ironman five months later. Somewhere along the way, I found my inner athlete, too. Although, undoubtedly, I sucked, and still do.
Even after I figured out that I needed to be a triathlete for Eric to continue in triathlon, it didn’t register that I needed to be a musician for Eric to continue in music. I’m told I’m pretty slow for a smart woman.
I had begged, pleaded, cajoled, and praised his playing. We attended a rockin’ reunion with his hilarious high school garage band. We went to see former bandmates play in new bands. He was invited to practice and play onstage with many groups. I bought him a new strap, and I talked him through his old playlists. But he just would not open the Fender case and get out his bass.
I procrastinated nine months after receiving the gift certificate for the piano lessons, and I had only three more months before it expired. Eric quit making his gentle inquiries and just let me stew in it. I told myself I didn’t have time. I thought of all the things I could do that were less “self-indulgent:” work, housework, errands, write, train.
But, again, what did that pesky ROA say? Here it is: makes a positive, joyful difference in each others’ lives. Darn it. (Wo)Man-up, Pamela. I booked the first lesson. And Eric glowed.
“I heard a song that we could play together, with Clark on drums, Susanne on flute, you on keyboard, and Liz singing with you,” he said, before I had even had my first lesson.
He explained his concept of bringing together each of the kids’ interest in music into family jam sessions. It dawned on me –finally — that he wanted a family experience. I was not self-indulgent for booking the lessons. Rather, I was selfish in not booking them, because I prevented it from happening for everyone else. After my first lesson, I sheepishly told him that I had to practice scales that night to strengthen my fingers.
“I’ll play them with you,” he said.
Us, taken with iPhone of reflection in windows — call it “artsy”, please.
Eric had not brought his bass out in six months. But, sure enough, for an hour we played scales together, with him riffing a little every now and then. It was magical time.
He told the kids about his family jam idea. The excitement level shot up in the house, and they hung out with us while we went through the repetitious and not-very-exciting exercise of putting our fingers to work. The next night at dinner Clark offered to get online and hunt for songs for us to play. Susanne suggested we record a Christmas song on a CD to send with our Christmas cards. Liz sang through the entire dinner and even brought her choir music and asked me to accompany her on the piano. The whole atmosphere changed, in a very good way.
We ended up recording a wonderfully awful version of Deck the Halls. You can still see the craptastic end-product under videos on my personal Facebook page. Don’t believe me? Check it out. I’ve left it open for public viewing, and ridicule.
Every day I get a little smarter about how to be Eric’s wife in our blendered family. I enjoy the smile I see on his face now when I say something like, “I think we should add Golden Earring’s ‘Twilight Zone’ to our play list, honey.” And even more when we do.
After we get back from bicycling, of course.