On Listening for Love.

Winter has worn down my resolve for routine, I think. At first I thought it was just January, but now, one week and two more snow storms into February, I’ve finally come to terms with the truth that my body only has one function in winter, which is hibernation.

Normally when I get home from work in the evenings, cooking dinner serves as the ritual that helps me unwind and separate my work-brain from my home-brain, as though the act of peeling the skin from a potato actually removes all the frustration and stress from my very thoughts. Something about that rhythm of peeling and chopping and sautéing and stirring and seasoning helps me clear my head, even when I’m tired. Lately though, I’ve just been too exhausted to cook with any creativity or regularity. My boundaries around appropriate circumstances for takeout (weekends, roadtrips, the occasional hyper-busy weeknight) have grown lax. Appropriate takeout circumstances now fall under one category : Bethany-is-just-too-damn-tired nights, and I’m averaging 4/7. The dishes pile up in the sink for days on end, grocery shopping and carting my loads through snow and subzero temps seems an insurmountable task, and in the end I just. can’t. make myself Do The Right Thing. I blame it on these cold, dark evenings when getting home from work at six feels more like getting home at pass-out-o’clock. Even my boundaries around ordering “healthy” takeout (Chipotle, Noodles & Co., etc., don’t laugh) have broken down. A few nights ago, hubs and I gave up all pretenses of responsible adulthood and drove straight to Portillo’s for giant, juicy cheeseburgers.

But if I’m being honest, it’s these moments when I loosen on my grip on Doing The Right Thing that I actually learn something about my life.

So hubs and I are sitting there at a booth in Portillo’s, munching on salty, piping hot french fries and mowing down on our burgers and telling each other about our days, when we hear the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” come over the speakers. Matt, ever the Beatles’ fanatic, started singing along when a curious look came over his face.

“When you hear a piece of music, do you hear it as a blur of sound or do you hear all the different parts of it weaving into one another?” he asked.

I chewed my bite of burger thoughtfully and listened to the song for a beat before answering, “mostly just a blur of sound.”

His smile widened at the thought. “Really? That’s so weird because I can’t listen to a piece of music without hearing every individual part.”

I wish I could have captured the smile on his face right then as he contemplated my response, the way he launched into a bit music theory with a careful dissection of the song, humming the base line and tapping rhythmically on the table in time with the drums, interrupting himself at just the right moments, a one man band even with a cheeseburger in his hand.

It was every conversation he and I had ever had in the middle of an argument, but wouldn’t you know, this time I heard it differently. We see and comprehend things in different ways because we are different people, and that’s not always a bad thing. My “healthy” boundaries and compulsion for Doing The Right Thing often lead me to forget this beautiful part of marriage in which we give one another a glimpse of how we see (and hear) the world. When they say that “two become one,” we often spend the next ten, twenty, eighty years trying to get the other person to repeat after us and say all the things we want to hear. It can be ear-splitting and deafening, silencing and heart-breaking, an exercise in erasing all the things we once appreciated about the other person until we are utterly alone.

In my worst moments, I’m the narcissistic rock-star, screwing up the lyrics and blaming it on my band-mate, trashing the dressing room and disappearing for a few days. I wander back, head hung low, humbled by the amount of trust that it takes to let myself and my loved one sing our own parts, together, in harmony, for better or worse.

Stop, listen. Do you hear it? That blur of sound, all those beautiful moving parts? That’s our life.