Saturday, November 19, 2011
The Evolution of a Relationship
I have a confession.
Since I'm the last to post on the week's topic, every Sunday I run to Jeffe's post to see what we're all going to be writing about this week. And then I read the other posts all week long, and I never, ever consult the actual topic list.
This week I actually did go back and look. It reads, "Titles of Significant Others." Very clear, very concise. I was sort of hoping it would say "Pet Names" and then I could venture completely off the beaten path and talk about the reason why my goldfish is named Survivor Man, or the fact that the cat's name isn't fit to be spoken in front of company or kids. But no. Not a whole lot of wiggle room in the rather formal "Titles of Significant Others."
My next thought was - which one of the 7 of us came up with this brilliant idea and is revenge an option?
And the very next thought was - why am I so resistant to writing on this topic?
My first and easy thought was "because all of the good stuff has already been covered." And this is true. Pet names, what the hell do you call your loved one when you have chosen not to get married, how the titles tend to box us in - all of these things have been eloquently addressed by the word whores of Sunday through Friday. Not much left to say on Saturday, other than a rehashing.
But this is maybe only part of the truth. The names we give to things, institutions, people, are only designations. We know this. Whatever I call you is not who you actually are, doesn't define the essence of you.
It's just possible that I don't want to define the essence of this relationship, and writing about titles makes me stop and do that. In my pre-Viking life I was married for 18 years, to my first real love. And I bought into the philosophy of WIFE with all of my heart and soul for those 18 years. I tried to be all of the things a good wife it expected to be in the good old fashioned Judeo-Christian tradition. I made an effort to be a good housekeeper, although I hated (and still hate) cleaning. I cooked, I baked, I preserved. In the early days I made a batch of bread every week. Canned and froze fruit every summer. I objected to prepared foods and packaged mixes on principle and made everything from scratch. I even sewed things (you have no idea how much I hate to sew or how inept I am.) I promoted my husband's teaching career, was polite to people I didn't like, and spent most of my free minutes with my kids.
And I didn't write. Not much anyway. It took ten years to complete my first novel, because I was busy being "Mr. Schafer's Wife" to his students and their parents and even a lot of people in the church we were attending.
And then he died suddenly, and where was I in the aftermath of a marriage? Not Mr. Schafer's wife. Just me. Kerry Schafer. It took awhile to build a new life, and in the middle of that building, along came the Viking. What we had together never had a title. It just was. It grew as we grew; it formed itself without the need for any sort of formula.
And now that we live together, there is still something of the undefined about our relationship. Don't get me wrong - we are more committed to being together than a lot of people who choose to get married. I spend a lot of time writing now. I clean when it becomes necessary. I do not sew, I am not polite to people I don't like, and my identity is never defined by the fact that I am connected to a man.
There is something almost magical about this life we have together, about a relationship that has created its own format as the years went by. It's almost like the way a book evolves. First there are characters, and they do things and stuff happens and an internal cohesion develops. A force field that forms what we call "plot" and "story" and ties it all together.
So, yeah. It's tough sometimes in casual conversation to put that all in words. A lot of the time I just call him My Viking, and people can draw whatever conclusion they want from that. Oh, and by the way - the picture at the top of this post? This is the Viking at the Grand Canyon. Or his hat anyway. The closest I'm ever going to get to showing any likeness of him online.
Posted by Kerry Schafer
Kerry Schafer spends more time in jail than the average citizen, not to mention the number of hours logged in hospital emergency rooms. This has little to do with any twisted disregard for the law or tendency to accidents, and everything to do with her job as a crisis response professional. Her home world, guarded by one preternaturally large black dog, includes three teenagers of the male variety, a beloved Viking, two cats, and a goldfish. When she can tear herself away from service in the empires of work and home, she's most likely writing her way into some alternate reality, fortified by a tankard of coffee and the weirdest music mix ever.