One woman I know believes that there exists between a couple an implied contract that they will stay the way they looked when they got married. This particular belief was revealed when she told her sister, my friend, about a couple in her neighborhood who divorced. The divorce, according to the Sister, was understandable because "you know, she broke the contract." "What contract? "my Friend replies. "You know . . . . the contract you make when you get married. You marry a certain kind of person. They look a certain way. You owe it to your partner to stay that kind of person. You can't be putting on weight. That's just not fair. The woman broke the contract." After laughing out loud in disbelief, Friend realizes Sister was for real. The promise to remain the same "kind" of person is part of her marriage vows. To her credit, Sister has kept its terms admirably. She can still be mistaken for a My Size Barbie.
This notion of "contract" has set me thinking. I'm thinking there are certain bedrock things that, given our individual nature, should probably be included in our marital contracts with each other. I'm not talking about prayers, scriptures, white shirts or tithing. I'm talking about the things that make this life, the one we're living now, honestly, particularly, individually pleasant.
I'm wondering about my "contract" with Kevin. What is the point at which I will not be able, like Tevye, to find an "other hand"? I'm thinking that, for me, it has something to do with new and beautiful. If we stopped moving into new, I would feel betrayed. Neither do I want to live ugly. Living an ugly, repetitive life would have me crying "Breach" before too long. I realize this has nothing to do with eternal life. Yet, it has everything to do with my earthly life and the way I am built, with what pleases me at my core.
I like beautiful shoes. (They don't have to be new; I've ordered some of my favorites off eBay). I like new clothes, beautiful books whose covers I can rub, new places, good restaurants (without cream of chicken soup in their pantry), different roads, beautiful ideas clothed in original words and a non-repeating summer annuals. The new/different doesn't have to be fancy. I like shoveling snow, digging holes, breaking ice on the driveway, painting walls and chopping trees. They're mini-adventures. I like to have little adventures, every day. This drive is so strong in me that I don't want to go to church some Sundays. It's not that I don't like my congregation. I just don't like doing the same thing week in and week out. It's my personal version of water torture. (Hard to establish traditions this way, I admit. But the Easter Bunny has managed to bring Cheese Whiz every Easter Sunday for the last fifteen years.)
Owning that fact about me, instead of hiding it, frees me to seek what I need to be satisfied. It also allows Kevin to meet a real need. Gives him a target to shoot for. Built into our budget is the Tessa "slush" fund for me to spend on whatever I want. Some puritan streak in me is ashamed of this. I want to be able to say that I like devising recipes from food storage, and that two six-packs of pink geraniums will do for summer planting. I could pretend to be satisfied, or even try really hard to be satisfied with the utilitarian, with the same. But, I'm not. After a while, I get moody, low, like some sort of seasonal disorder in which I'm deprived of light.
Interesting that I married a man who lives in the town in which he was raised, five blocks from his parents, in the same congregation as his childhood. Makes for a nice tug-of-war, my propensity against his. (That we still live here 19 years later makes me realize I'm not winning). Yet owning up to the actual, real bent of my heart (the semi-annual showing of Sweet Home Alabama; drinking condensed milk straight out of the can; the indoor soccer league with the Latin Girls; Sophie Kinsella novels in the bath; onion rings from Stans and a 44-ounce from Crest with no sharing; tiger print bras; distrust of authority in any form) makes this life, the here and now, a pleasant place to be.