Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Leave the Island and Find Your Tribe

          It’s right there in the first book of the Bible- “And God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone’” Of course, there are times when we want peace and quiet and solitude, but to be happy and healthy, we need contact with others. In other words, if you’re going to be stranded on an island, hang out with Gilligan, rather than Tom Hanks and his soccer ball. Sharing an interest with others also means learning to speak their language.
          When hubby and I were dating, I wanted to be able to talk to him about the things he was interested in. It was not really too hard for me to learn to speak “car.”  My first real job out of high school was at the switchboard of a new car dealership. After my college classes were over for the day, I spent a few hours in front of the huge plate glass windows, watching the passing traffic. There were not a lot of phone calls coming in after 5:00.  I made a game out of trying to guess what model of vehicle was approaching, by the configuration of their headlights. The salesmen that worked there helped too, as knowledge of all things automotive was literally their bread and butter.
          My Prince Charming cheerfully accommodated me, as well. There were lots of things to learn, I am sure. If I wished that one of my friends would “break a leg” I really meant them no harm. This came from the school plays and summer theater productions I had been involved in. Actors, like athletes, are a superstitious lot. To guarantee that a performance would go well, there were rituals and traditions to be maintained. Before each show, we would gather for a short “pep talk” that always included an odd ceremony. Since I’ve not been in the habit for a long time, the details escape me, but I remember it involved standing in a circle holding hands and hopping on one foot. The “break a leg” thing was actually a form of reverse psychology. Wishing someone good luck would cause some catastrophe to occur. When I hear of an accident happening onstage, I always wonder if these actors skipped the “circle time” that night, or heaven forbid, someone yelled “Good luck” just before they ran out of the wings.
          We did share several things in common, as all good couples do. We both had a love of music, so driving around with the stereo cranked up was a perfectly acceptable date night for us. We both became very good at “Name That Tune” and would often challenge each other to guess the artist of a song we heard on the radio. As children were added to the back seat, they tolerated our duets, and became our biggest fans. Though I was born in Kansas, and he hailed from right here in Central Arkansas, we can belt out “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” almost as well as Conway and Loretta did.
          Not every aspect of my husband’s life came so naturally to me. He loves working with wood and building useful and beautiful furniture. I have listened as he extolled the virtues of one power tool over another and watched hours of television programs where the main objective is to transform a mediocre or inconvenient room to a modern and practical showplace. I put up with hours of watching a sink being installed so that when something slips or breaks in our own castle, the “king” will know what to do, or at the very least, who to call. The only drawback to this interest of his is that my car barely fits in the garage, which is now doubling for a well stocked workshop.
          The major leap for him, I know, has been to adjust to my love for reading and writing. He has grown used to seeing my nose in a book, and weathered the addition of reading glasses, and the flickering light of my Kindle reader. He endures my constant chatter about agents and publishers, and even my need to run off for long weekends of workshops and writing retreats. Some evenings, he wishes I would be sitting next to him, learning about his latest DIY project, instead of retreating to this keyboard to tap away on the story that won’t let me go. But, after years of togetherness, we have both adjusted.
          Last weekend, I quietly walked away as he conversed with a fellow woodworker, deciding on which new tool to add to his arsenal. This week he gamely accompanied me as I soaked in the beauty of a Shakespearean play. We both understand that, just like on the old TV show, “sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.”