Just before M got into bed last night, he descended into that horrid pit of second-guessing in which we’ve found ourselves mired for so much this year. “So, yes,” he began, as if our previous conversation had paused for only a moment, “we’ve bought this house and it’s… it is a great house for us. But… but we gave up everything for this. I mean, we’ve left our friends, my family, everyone…” His voice rose a bit as he carefully didn’t mention the two most important people we’ve left.
“I know,” I jumped in, hoping to stop him, but then couldn’t think what more to say.
“My drums haven’t been touched in months…”
“I don’t think they’ll ever get played much again.”
“Oh no!” I protested, “No! Of course they will! You’ll find a group again, you’ll find other players…!”
“But we had all that. We had friends, good friends, a whole group of friends. The pub at the weekend. Band and playing and laughing your bollocks off on a Wednesday night. Gigs. You had your friends and all the stuff you did. I mean, isn’t that what life is supposed to be about? We’ve bought a house, but… it’s only bricks and mortar. Life is supposed to be more than that, isn’t it? Life is about friends and… living, isn’t it? We gave all that up for… a house.”
I said nothing and he got into bed. He was forgetting that a year ago, we were both looking around us at our crammed, cramped rental and cursing that we had to step over things just to walk around, move one thing every time we wanted to get something else. He was forgetting that we panicked daily about the fact that we were quickly depleting our savings in order to get by — to the tune of the high three-figures every month — in order to make ends meet, in order to afford that too-small, cold rental. A year ago, we were asking each other if life was supposed to be about breaking your back to not quite make ends meet, if this was what life was about. He was forgetting that we couldn’t actually afford the pub much, and that it was only him who ever went there because we never had a babysitter. But, I understand — it’s so easy to forget, easy to get swept up in the now and to forget the past and doubt the future.
M avoids conflict at all costs and, as such, recoils from making decisions about his own life. He keeps the peace by going along with others’ wishes most of the time, and then tearing himself apart later when those choices don’t actually meet his needs. Most of his major life decisions have been made this way: who he has married, when he had children, where he has lived. I am not sure what it was exactly that has caused him to be this way but, from what little I know of his childhood, I think he has probably been dealing with life this way for a very long time. Most of the time, I’m fine with this, but I hate knowing that I actually make all the big decisions, that his heart may not be in all the really quite important things he agrees to. So, when it comes to the truly life-altering decisions, I try to insist that he participates. When it came to this decision to the move to the US, I demanded — demanded — he think about this and tell me what he really wanted. For a long time, he kept pretending to think about it and then would announce that he was happy with whatever I wanted, but I wouldn’t have that. I asked him again and again to really spend time thinking about it, to discuss it with me… Finally, I told him we were going to think on it separately, not talk about it, for six months and, on New Year’s Day, write our answers down on piece of paper and exchange them. It wasn’t perfect but I couldn’t think of any better due process than that. I can second-guess myself and know when I am not being honest, but I can only second-guess his decisions so far. At some point, I do have to believe he means what he is saying. At some point, he does have to participate in his own life decisions. On New Year’s Day, his paper said USA.
M laid down in the bed and stared up at the ceiling for a while. “Could you ever leave the girls?” he asked and turned pleading eyes to me. I felt the answer instantly: I never could — not ever.
“Could you even contemplate it?” There was no way I could answer that would soften it.
“Buying this house… It is a good house… buying it is a good thing. But…” His face was stony, his gaze back on the ceiling. “But it’s not right.” He closed his eyes, and turned away.