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ON THE 11th HOUR: when the war went quiet
Paula Abdul (and science) called it: opposites attract.
On a beautiful Christmas morning in 2012, with Snook crooning “Ding Dong Merrily I’m High” through the speakers, J proposed to me.
I think teenage- or early-20s-J would have planned it to be more stereotypically romantic; perhaps without Dad, in his PJs, doing deep side lunges in his efforts to flip-phone-photograph the perfect angle of the moment. But 2012 J knew me and the dangerous degree to which romantic sentiment makes my heart race - not in a starry-eyed, movie-featuring-Jennifer-Garner way; rather, in a deeply troubling, maybe-I-should-book-a-stress-test way. Grand, romantic gestures are as appealing to me as drug-free root canals and Fleet enemas.
All of those I’d-throw-myself-in-front-of-a-train-for-you feelings you had in your youth as you swooned over mediocre actors are poured into the youngsters when you become a parent. Every evening at bedtime, by the glow of an owl nightlight, I look deeply into my toddler’s eyes and sing to him “Annie’s Song” by John Denver like these are our final moments on earth. But, if my husband so much as tells me I look “nice,” I get visibly giddy and start talking incessantly about something inappropriate - like my winterized leg hair - to distract him from his affections.
We are a happy contradiction. And I’m not talking about our little differences - like the fact that I love to cook and he makes “grilled cheese” by smooshing two pieces of toast between his palms until the cheese sort of melts. Nor am I referring to something as trivial as the fact that he uses an insulated, stainless steel coffee mug whereas I opt for a biodegradable, non-dishwasher-safe, uninsulated, hippie mug “made out of recycled panda matter,” as he lovingly describes it while begrudgingly washing it by hand.
No, I’m talking the bigger, more deeply entrenched things that cast us to opposite ends of the personality spectrum.
He is stoic and, therefore, magnetic. Being in his presence is like seeing a fleeting cameo of your favourite celebrity in a movie; he leaves you wanting more. Being around me, on the other hand, is like watching an Oscar acceptance speech in which the winner thanks everyone she has ever crossed paths with - from childhood babysitters to some dude she once passed in a grocery store - and the Academy guys are flashing the lights and cueing the orchestra and muting her microphone, but she just keeps going. It’s cringe-worthy and difficult to watch. That’s me.
I am a bleeding heart. It doesn’t take much more than a photo of a dog or a commercial featuring an elderly person holding a baby to hurl me into a weepy, emotional landslide. J, on the other hand, watches wildlife documentaries in bed each night; as I lie there, clutching a pillow over my ears and deep breathing, he peacefully unwinds to the final, blood-curdling wails of a maimed animal about to get lit up by a crocodile.
He is the epitome of calm while I, perhaps, have a penchant for the dramatic. Driving to the airport at 3 a.m. in a blizzard a few weeks ago, I literally whispered "God help us" through tear-soaked lips as I gripped the OMG bar and braced for impact. Meanwhile, J casually adjusted the wipers and asked the kids how they were doing. Like a psychopath.
He adults effortlessly, whereas I can't go downstairs for a glass of water by myself at night. As a father, he switches seamlessly from a wrestling, Lego-building, play buddy to a civil, but firm, disciplinarian. I am unskilled, unsure and graceless in my adulting efforts. We were recently staying with friends and, at one point, our furniture-climbing toddler was not listening. In an attempt to look like I was handling the situation (parenting), I whisked him off the chair and, inadvertently, stuffed his head up my shirt. I tried to lower him out, but, each time I raised him, back up he went. After several failed attempts (and a pathetic display of upper body endurance), I gave up and we exited the room, the top of his head crowning through the neck-hole of my shirt.
J excels at active listening. I am really good at talking.
He is a homebody. If I am in one room for more than 45 minutes, the air grows as thin as Everest’s.
He is meticulously organized; at any given moment, his every possession is accounted for and retrievable. I recently came home without a sock. Just one sock. That I had been wearing that day. Inexplicably missing.
He is financially shrewd and budget-savvy. When we first met, I believed the deciding factor in whether or not I could afford something was whether or not my card was declined during an impulse buy. Shopping, for me, was like a fun, spontaneous game of chance. This, I later learned, was a low point, for him, in our courtship.
He is extremely private. I feel an almost desperate need to blog about my chin whisker.
But we work. Surprisingly well.
We’re like tart jam and sharp cheese - sounds wrong, but slap that bad boy on a slab of toasted, homemade bread and look out! That’s a tasty snack that’ll stand the test of time.
The things we value equally - namely, the ability to laugh at ourselves, good communication and a weekly liquor-store run - simply reinforce our natural, paradoxical cohesion.
I suggested we get matching yin and yang tattoos - I’d get the yin and he’d get the yang, or vice versa (I did no research) - to celebrate our dynamic dualism. J replied, quite sensibly, thanks, but he didn't want a weird sperm on his arm. That’s fair.
Our differences are what make us work. He is a healthy dose of realism in my land of fa-la-la. And I have helped (forced) him to embrace the chaos of life. He is my lighthouse. And I am his weird arm sperm.
Heather Huybregts is a mother, physiotherapist, blogger at Heather on a Rock, wine advocate and puffin whisperer from Corner Brook, N.L. Her column appears monthly.
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