Brief(er) Morning Note

Tossed and turned. Awoke with slight levels of anxiety at 6:05. Relieved myself. Crawled back in bed. Listened to audiobook for an hour. Drank water. Put away dishes. Still subdued.

Then a flash of remembrance. There was a letter waiting for me.

. . .

Thanks for brightening the morning.

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Dear Ash,

Giving the blogs titles seems a little like cheating. Did we ever title our letters? I don’t think so. That would have been pretentious, even for the teenage versions of us. (And that says something.) I had a poetry professor in college who debated the value of titling poems. “The poem stands alone. If a title is necessary, the poem is incomplete.” Well said, Professor Horner. Still, we dated our letters, and that serves very much as a contextual reference point, and isn’t that the purpose of a title?

There was some story on NPR about a female Olympic athlete. She said something that stuck with me, something to the effect of, “I like my event because it’s short. I only have to feel terrible for a few seconds.” She was saying that the actual act of competing puts such a stress on the body that it feels terribleHer word, not mine. She may *like* sprinting, but it also *feels* terrible. It’s easy to forget that noteworthy and newsworthy and jaw-dropping feats are frequently the result of conscious hardship. And still, to watch her run, you’d think she were a gazelle, right? Her skill might seem natural, or effortless.

The other night I told you that living together felt rather effortless. This was true though “effortless” can also be understood in the way it’s described above. In order for our living situation to be effortless, we must exert effort. It doesn’t seem fair, right? But it’s true. In order to run for miles and miles without effort, you have to train with great effort.

Divorce is a strange thing in our society. It holds many paradoxes.

  1. Most marriages end in divorce, though it still carries a significant stigma. The US divorce rate is a tragedy, of course, but you’d think that our society, which trends toward liberalization would be taking a more Brave New World approach to the whole process.
  2. When we decided to end our marriage, it came as a shock to many people. This was probably because we exerted large amounts of effort to behave like adults on the court and off the court (i.e., in front of people and in private). And yet, more than one person (though less than five, thankfully) asked me why we didn’t give our marriage more effort. It is hard to answer questions like those with poise and self-control. I can think of no time in my life when I gave more effort than our four years of marriage. What a paradox. Indeed, we cheapen the beautiful and complex practice of marriage when we speak as if “even a child could do it”. Marriage is an art. It is a science. It requires great effort. Marriage is hard. That is why it is worth pursuing.
  3. This one gets me: The expectation is that divorced couples will behave badly with each other. In what other social arrangement do we expect adults to behave badly to each other? Odd. Just odd.

Paradox Three is my favorite. We fly in the face of that one. True, we have fallings out, like the other night. Why wouldn’t we? Everyone falls out. We fall out with coworkers, family members, friends, people we don’t know. Where is it written that our social lives should be smooth? And if they were, what would be the point? David Belle, Parkour’s Paul the Apostle, said, ”If you are not better than you were the day before, then what are you doing – what’s the point?”

Look. When I sprained my wrist (pretending to be David Belle), it felt terrible. But at least there was a point to it. The point was learning how to do what I was trying to do. And when we fall out, there’s a point to it, even though it feels terrible. We’re learning how to do what we’re trying to do. This is what gets me about working for the government and NGOs. When a program doesn’t work, the thing is often scrapped, like it was a waste of time and effort. No!! That’s missing the point. Failure is Lesson One. If you stop before you learn the lesson, what was the point? You don’t stop shooting for the moon because your first rocket blew up.

When I asked you to live together again, and you said yes (even though our first rocket blew up), it was as if, in some quiet way, our entire relationship was existentially justified. All of it was worth it, nothing was wasted – we are still on a journey together. We continue to exert effort so that being with each other can become effortless. We aren’t trying to do marriage again, we’re doing us again. And that is the point.

Very sincerely,



My left tonsil is still the size of Central Texas but by golly we are homebrewing tonight.