I wonder if my husband ever secretly wishes he had not married a creative type. Since I am not a paid creative type, the perks are pretty minimal and the annoyances clutter up in huge piles, much like the art supplies in our frightfully disorganized linen closet.
A few weeks ago, I saw an episode of Portlandia with a skit focusing on finding just the right blend of terrible artwork for coffee shops. Looking at the terrible photos of blurry dogs and paintings of red-haired maidens staring off into the distance, I thought “holy shit! My artwork could be in that collection!” Ok, I think my skills have improved a tad, but early on, Ben was forced to look at horrible collages bursting with distraction and find something positive to say. If he said “that’s cool,” I accused him of not really liking it. If he offered critique, I sobbed “you don’t like it?” It’s a no win situation.
Blogging is a natural fit for me, not so much for my spouse. I have a propensity to blurt out exactly what I am thinking, common courtesy and timing be damned. I also like to talk, A LOT. Ben is the type who asks thoughtful questions and listens intently as the other party responds. He understands that emotions can be fleeting, and does not feel the need to voice them unless there is proven cause. He is also pretty private. I’m sure he loves it when someone comments on his misstep of taking me to Home Depot on a date, after reading about it on my blog. Or that friendly ribbing by coworkers when I post a picture of him showing off his dance moves. He takes these things in stride, and never outwardly says “quit writing about me,” even while internally I’m sure he curses my name everyone once in awhile.
I’ve been working with a group of writers on a collaborative book focusing on music as a tool. Each writer has an assignment to produce at least one writing with this subject matter in mind. Since I write memoir essays, I began circling through my memories determining what story I wanted to tell. There was of course one that stuck out.
Bob was and still is my musical guru. He was my closest friend in my twenties, and I relied on him heavily when my first long term relationship came to a close. You can read the story in my post titled “What About Bob? My Path to Music, Independence, and Finding the Love of my Young Life.” But essentially, through the course of Bob mentoring me to become a singer, I discovered that the person who meant the most to me during my twenties was not my former boyfriend, but instead was my best friend.
It is my most significant musical story, and I wanted to write about it. But I was conflicted about how to handle it. How could I describe the intensity of emotion of that relationship without being disrespectful of my husband?
I went hiking with my girlfriend, Angel. She too is part of the writing collective, and we were exchanging story ideas. I described the tale I wanted to write. She grew quiet. I told her my intention was to discuss the topic with Ben before penning the piece. She remained quiet. I pushed her for an opinion. I asked her if she had a similar story, what would she do.
She said “I wouldn’t talk to Rich about it. He’d get jealous.”
I asked if she would be jealous if Rich wrote such a piece and she replied “oh yeah.”
I inquired if I should write something else. She said “I would write a different story.”
But that is not how I operate. For good, for bad (often times bad) I seem to lack the ability to not write exactly what is on my mind.
And I felt like I knew Ben. In my heart, I thought he could handle the story. After all, I wasn’t writing that I wanted to be with someone else. I wasn’t writing that someone meant more to me. I was simply telling the tale of a friend who loved and guided me through a difficult time with the help of music.
Still, Angel’s questions gave rise to an internal devil’s advocate. If Ben penned an essay about a strong relationship with a woman who had a life changing affect on him, would I be jealous? Hells yes, I would! Ben has his own musical guru, and every time the guru’s opinions outweigh mine, I get miffed. My need to be the entertainment superior is ridiculous. I gave Ben the silent treatment for finding the end of “Stranger than Fiction” to be too sappy.
Ben is just different than anyone I have ever known. He takes everyone at face value. Not in a naïve, this-guy-is-gonna-get-screwed-over way. He simply trusts my word- if I say there is nothing to worry about, he knows there is nothing to worry about.
I broached my story idea with him, and sure enough, he supported me in writing it. He understands that creatively, I just have to write what is on my mind, and gives me the freedom to do just that. I wouldn’t say its’ overconfidence, because that depicts a guy with ego, and no one would describe Ben as egotistical. He genuinely wants me to be happy and to do the things that make me so. He’s incredible.
After talking to him, I asked him what his secret was, how he remained above petty jealousy. He said he read an article about engineers and how they tend to be less attached to emotional situations. He didn’t know if the article was completely accurate, but he thought there was some truth behind it. Sometimes his engineering mind makes me crazy. I hate when I ask a question requiring a yes/no response only to be met with five more questions.
It can be maddening when I spend days on a picture, and when I ask Ben what he thinks, he replies “I like it.” But now I see the flipside. Perhaps my overwhelming ego seeks an intense emotional reaction, but if I had it, I might not have made the piece in the first place. I’ll keep that in mind the next time I show him a picture and he says “now, what is this supposed to be exactly?”