Rain, Anniversaries, and Sex
This week, Becky Allender writes about frustration, rain, and marriage—reflecting on a day that happened to be her 39th wedding anniversary. What does intimacy look like now, nearly 40 years later, when the spark and energy of youth can be so elusive? This post originally appeared on Red Tent Living.
Today began in the dark of yet another Pacific Northwest rainstorm. I walked to the front porch to plug in our Christmas lights (more than a month after Christmas), for it seems to help us plow through the gloom of the unending sound of pouring rain and darkness at seven in the morning. In other states we would have been labeled “white trash” at worst—or just plain odd—to have lights on, but in this part of the country in an El Niño year it is a relief to see light in any form. I actually feel like I am helping my neighbors with our lights that I sometimes leave on all day.
It was maybe fifteen minutes after I handed my husband his coffee with foamed milk and a smidge of cinnamon that I remembered and said, “Happy anniversary, I love you.” We smiled, and I said, “Oh, we would have been at the bridal brunch this time 39 years ago.” We sighed and we returned to our computers and regretfully, I tried to sign into the iCloud.
Five different password attempts made that long skinny rectangle shimmy in a defiant squiggle. “I hate this!” I harrumphed, and Dan said, “I can’t begin another morning like we did yesterday. Give me some time.” I hadn’t even expected that that would bring a sentence of possible help. It has become a normal part of my trying to leap into online banking, taxes, and healthcare reimbursement. The final straw was last week, trying to print off photos on a Rite Aid computer photo counter, when the word “unreadable” came on screen. I miss knowing how to do things that were easy before.
I went upstairs to dress for yoga, knowing that I probably wouldn’t go because I have this blog to write about sex. Not just sex, alas, but “Sex?” And that question mark changes everything about the topic of sex. Sex is difficult enough to address without adding a question mark.
Now the time was pinched, and so much for going to yoga on my anniversary. We weren’t even going out to dinner on our anniversary. Who wants to leave the house at night in the pouring rain? I like our warm kitchen with candles, a fireplace, and the beauty of lights outside our window. I like wearing pajamas for dinner!
When I came downstairs in yoga clothes with a small hope of “home practice” today, Dan had my computer. “What’s your iTunes password?” I looked over and he was working on setting up “One Password” on my computer. Oh my goodness—my love language is “quality time.” Immediately I said thank you and that this was the best anniversary gift I could think of since I’d been hearing how this One Password program could make my life easier.
Let me just say, within fifteen minutes things were not working. My husband was stymied with how Safari Outlook was not reacting like his Gmail account had and things nosedived. When he became uncertain with what was happening, I felt tears begin to well up, fear surfacing, and the daunting music of the Jaws soundtrack began reverberating throughout my body. “I hate my life,” I quickly said (and then asked forgiveness for that outburst, because I seriously believe there is power in the spoken word).
I stood up, took a breath and said, “I can’t think clearly. This is traumatizing me.” I left to get my yoga mat but before rolling it out, I returned to the kitchen and began fixing his breakfast. “I love fixing eggs,” I said. “I know I can succeed. I love doing laundry, I know I can succeed!” I said other things affirming that I am a functional human being, and I made Dan laugh and I made myself laugh. In fact, we couldn’t quit laughing. And the gloom and fear fell away.
“Dan, remember when you wanted to go sailing? I knew 28 knots of wind was too strong for our boat and our skills. I knew that, but you wanted to go and I knew I’d be miserable if you went out alone and had fun. So I went with you. We almost tipped over. It was the last time we ever sailed together in that boat. But I went, and I am so glad we are in this life together. And I feel the same now with passwords mixed up, and you knowing how to do this on your computer, but not mine. I am scared and I don’t like this. But we can do this. We can live this life.”
And that’s how I feel about sex! I miss what was so easy. I miss the mystery of the first time having sex. I miss our young bodies that were strong and reactive. I miss the muscle, the strong bones, and the vitality of organs in their youth. I miss the hope of conceiving during sex. I miss sex at any time of the day or night. I miss the arousal that came with the monthly cycle of being female. I miss the fun of quick and unexpected sex that caused surprise and laughter. I miss what once was and is no longer. It seems the “in sickness” part of the “in sickness and in health” portion of our vows is showing up too often.
Dan finished his omelet and we sat back on the couch close to each other, huddled with the computer on his lap. Each stroke of keys brought more frustration and confusion. He didn’t quit; I didn’t panic. The touch of his thigh against mine felt arousing. His refusal to throw in the towel felt life giving. Is this sex? Is this touch and connection sexual? Whatever it is, early in the morning, wherever it leads later in the day, I know this: I need to be open and curious to what it means for me to be sexual until my last breath. Sex? Oh, yes.