the locust shell


Square one
September 13, 2014, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

When BrieAnn is away from home for a few days, I get restless and nostalgic. I pour through old love letters, pictures, mementos from high school years. I think this is some kind of weird post-traumatic stress response from the months and miles spent apart while dating. Airports were like the front lines of that battlefield; I still have a guttural reaction every time we say goodbye to one another in one. After our wedding day finally arrived, we didn’t spend a night away from one another (with just a few small exceptions) for the first five years of our marriage. In a few months we will have been married for eleven years. So, even though that IS a long time to have been married and I am genuinely happy when she gets those rare opportunities to get a few days to herself and by now I SHOULD be calm at home when she is gone, I just can’t help it. She is my assurance, and I’m not quite sure what I am without her.

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In these nostalgic moments, I feel alive again. Whole, you know. I’m not sure why, though. I was reading the other day that the term nostalgia originally referred to a condition experienced by homesick sailors who wanted to return home to their lovers. The solution to that problem seemed easy, or at least imaginable: you’re just one one-way ticket away from the arms of your lover and out of the glooms of nostalgia. It wasn’t until modernity sets in that nostalgia develops into a temporal condition: we often are nostalgic not only for a specific place far away, but for that place set in a specific time long ago. The modern age has rendered time travel the only solution to romantic idealism. So I guess that’s that.

But I don’t just feel nostalgic for the early feelings and experiences my sweetheart and I tousled together. I also feel grief and sadness, achiness for things I said that I wish I hadn’t, or missed opportunities to show how much our love means to me, or times when stubbornness and pride at being right drowned out the blessing of just being together. My foraging through the hope chest or picture boxes shows me all the good and the bad, the upsides and downs of our life together. In these moments, I live in the past. Or through the past, maybe. Either way, the roles we once cherished become cloudy through the filter of times gone by.

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I say all this only because since moving across the country last month, settling into new roles has been bumpy. That bumpiness needs some context. Because we got married when we were 18 and 19, we hit the ground running with no money and few prospects for it. We were both full-time students with grown-up bills to pay. So, partly to overcome prejudice my new family had against me, partly to satisfy what I suspected was expected from my new faith, and partly to demonstrate to my new wife my commitment to her well-being, I started working. A lot. When I wasn’t working as a musician, I worked on my genealogy. When my genealogy eventually ran dry, I jumped head first into church service. I worked hard at converting friends and family to Mormonism, learning repertoire to give me a leg up in some far distant audition, and, above all, making more money for our life together. I thought I was beating life through success and hard work. Truthfully, the only thing I stopped working at was my marriage. Ironically, at the time I thought I was doing all those things precisely for my marriage. And in some ways I was. I was a Provider, and a pretty darn good one at that. My way of showing BrieAnn how much I valued our relationship was to actually exit the relationship in search of money. But all the while I was so distracted by work and success, loneliness crept into our marriage. When confronted with this problem, I often reacted defensively. I grew resentful or felt unloved when the value of my contribution to our marriage was considered out of balance. My role as Provider, I began to realize, was not perfect, and the false idol built up to its effect began to crumble.

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Now my role has shifted. For the first time in our marriage, finding work playing piano is not easy. I have not worked a single day since July 30th, the longest hiatus from work or work-related obsessions in our marriage. Instead, I have applications out for lots of different jobs around campus. Regular jobs, ones that are over by 5pm. I have never worked a job outside of being a musician, except for the summer after I graduated high school when I worked with my dad building a deck and doing odd jobs. None of these jobs I am applying for pay close to what I was making as a pianist in Oklahoma City. We live in one of the most expensive cities in the country and I have enough responsibilities and burdens on my shoulders to bring down a Goliath but, the funny thing is, I feel relieved. Relieved and free. I used to dream about the freedom I would feel if I damaged or hurt one of my hands and couldn’t play piano anymore. Then people would leave me alone and I could actually see my kids and wife more than 15 minutes a day. Then I could stop pretending, stop parading around like a trained monkey and pause long enough to just figure out who in the world I am. I feel like this is a most important opportunity to take advantage of down time. To push reset and relearn what it is like to just be real, normal. To take back those sentiments lying in that hope chest and see them happening right before me, every day. Like Tom Petty croons to me,

Square one my slate is clear, so rest your head on me my dear. It took a world of trouble, it took a world of fear–it took a long time to get back here.

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I’m nervous watching this shift away from Provider, because whatever role I am falling into I may not be good at. Not yet anyway. It feels good to do things I know I am not good at–like the hilarity of my recent foray into playing basketball. With every air ball and bounce off the rim I feel the Provider in me wincing with pain and struggling to cut losses before anyone else notices. All the while the new me punches the Provider in the arm and loudly calls out for friends to come join, even as I score, even as I completely miss.

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1 Comment so far
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Jake- You are quite the writer. Very heartwarming and touching. Have you thought about writing a book? Let’s keep in touch. You and your precious family are very dear to me. Kristina R

Comment by Kristina Rapp




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