The (very famous) opening line of Anna Karenina is “All happy families are alike: each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This is one of those literary moments that became famous because it is a universal pearl of wisdom that Tolstoy shrewdly pointed out. Most people focus on the ‘unhappy families,’ and all the problems and drama therein–after all, isn’t that the very basis of story even in life? But I find myself in the first part of the sentence at the moment, settling in to contentment.
I think that’s the exact sentiment–settling in, and contentment.
There is nothing wrong with either of these things, really. In fact, I’ve wanted both for a long time, and have tried to fabricate contentment all the years when I was alone and something was missing. In our long stretches apart, the husband spoke very fondly of a time when we could be together and do nothing together.
So here I am, in happily ever after. All the hullabaloo is over, and I have exactly what I’ve always dreamed of. And I’m *not* ungrateful. I’m very content.
Just…happily ever after feels a bit anticlimactic.
I’m not used to a quiet romantic life. Up until now, my love story has had a sort of novelesque feel–finding someone so serendipitously, knowing we were right for each other so quickly and then making a relationship work across an ocean through sheer perseverance and the wonders of Skype. The way he proposed so quickly, and as such a romantic surprise, planning a wedding and worrying how we would ever be together with draconic immigration rules getting in the way.
Because our time together was so limited, every second felt precious, and we felt the need to fill it with excitement and activity. We were always going out somewhere, doing something, and when I arrived at last to live, the fairy tale continued, for we were gearing up then for a wedding. I thought life had its quiet moments then, but I was wrong. This is quiet.
After everything, I think that’s what I’m struggling to get used to. The biggest day of my life, that I hoped and planned for since I was a little girl, is over, never to come again. That’s an odd feeling. I don’t think I would want to stage another wedding, not with all the stress of coordination involved, but it’s weird to know that I can’t dimly look forward to being a bride.
And life is so quiet. Due to visa stuff I can’t work at the moment. Tomorrow all my fellow teachers will be heading back to school, preparing course contracts, writing out lesson plan calendars, fighting for space at the copier. In July I thought I’d never miss it, but now I find that I do. That’s the trick of teaching. You get to feeling like your life has some real drive and purpose. But here I am, looking for ways to fill my days. At the beginning of July, when it was all still like a fairy tale I thought I could happily be a housewife. That’s because it was still novel, and still this illusion of peace in the midst of turmoil. Now it’s all to easy to spend the day melting into the sofa cushions and watching bad reality tv while playing iPad games.
I’m *not* complaining. I am happy to have my story, and I’m happy to be a wife, and to know in a few hours my husband will come home, and we’ll have dinner and live the ordinary life we’ve been craving. I don’t even dislike the quiet, I’m just…struggling to adjust. Everything went quiet so quickly. It’s like when I would visit my grandparents in the Pocono Mountains in the summer. In New York, even in Queens, there is always street noise. Even if we didn’t live on a main drag, there was always one nearby, and the rush of traffic, punctuated by sirens and sometimes people wandering about, doing who knows what at 2am in the hours between Monday and Tuesday. It was its own lullaby to me, and I grew used to the sounds, found the constant company comforting. Then we would go to the Poconos, where there were no streetlights and the darkness closed around the car as we wended our way up barely paved roads with no sidewalks. When I would lie in bed at night, all I could hear was crickets. They were so loud, and so natural, that I missed the rush of the city. Eventually I got used to the crickets, and they lulled me to a better sleep than I got in Queens, but there was still that period of adjustment, of learning how to cope with quiet after noise and bustle.
What I find weird is how the husband and I are settling in to our old routines even while everything is new. I’ll happily sit chatting to my best friend while he plays Xbox. There’s not anything wrong with this, but there’s still a part of me that wonders–shouldn’t we be glued to each other’s sides just that little bit more? Is all the romance leaving our relationship already? Probably not–we’re still quite sappy with each other, but it’s just another example of how quickly things are slowing down and how normal married life is. When I was single, marriage seemed like this fantasy land, a nirvana where one has achieved perfect bliss. That of course is hardly the case–it’s just life, with someone beside you. And I’m struggling to get used to the normalcy of that.