Thursday, December 02, 2004


These are the days of the open hand
They will not be the last
Look around now
These are the days of the beggars and choosers

Okay everybody, I've got a problem. Let me just walk you through it.

See, I'm married to Sandy.

I'm still not really sure how that happened.

A lot of people were saying that "Sandy needs saving." Or "Sandy really needs you." Some even suggested that if I didn't marry Sandy, something really awful could happen.

Well normally, I like to think I'm pretty objective. But everyone was saying, "Marry Sandy!"

I swear, I was so out of it, it seemed like people on TV were even telling me this -- talking through the tube to me! And, I'm sure I'm dreaming this part, after this wedding of . . . What's the word here? I don't know, but after, and this is the part I'm sure I must be dreaming, it was like people on TV were cheering me on. I swear I heard Katie Couric say, "You rock!" on The Today Show.

I'd blame it all on a LSD flashback if I'd dropped acid, you know?

So I feel like I went in with the best of intentions, maybe I'm wrong. I don't know why others were urging me on. Sometimes I think it was because they just wanted to see Sandy married, other times I wonder if they were just thinking about their own interests? Who knows, maybe they all just wanted to attend a big celebration they could yell and scream at? Or maybe they owned stock in some place we registered at?

But this marriage is coming up on an anniversary, our second. No need to send a gift. We need more than anyone could give! Seriously. The other day, I thought maybe things would be better or who knows, maybe I just thought things would calm down, if I got rid of the china, so I smashed every plate, every bowl, everything. All of it.

Seems like Sandy's even more upset now. Nothing I do is right. And I'm starting to say that to Sandy. Things like, "Sandy, you always . . ." Statements that I know better to make because they're counterproductive and, were we in couple's counseling, statements that are only causing further hurt.

I don't know what the deal is with Sandy. I thought Sandy wanted one thing, then I do it only to find out something else was wanted. I'm not making any headway, people.

In fact, more and more it seems like we only hurt each other. We're both bleeding from mutual wounds we've inflicted. But I did have good intentions. I really, really did.

And now I've got this one friend who's in the minority. This friend is telling me that all I've thought I could do, all of it, are things that I can't in fact do. Telling me that I'm doing more and more harm every day. Now this friend cares for me so I get a lot of, "I'm not saying it's all you"s mixed in. But the point is pretty clear to me, intentional or not, I'm hurting more than I could ever help.

Now I can see that point. I mean my idea of rescuing or saving Sandy was my concept of what was best for Sandy based on what I was told. It wasn't necessarily Sandy's idea. Let's be really honest for a moment, I don't know anything about Sandy. The only things I thought I knew about Sandy were just things that were passed on to me. It's not like we spent a great deal of time together before entering into this marriage.

And for the first month or so, we could both focus on the good things. There probably were some good things. And maybe had I then said, "Hey, Sandy, you need to do the things that are best for you, the things that are going to make you happy. . . ." Maybe then things would be different?

But I listened to what people told me going in. I mean Sandy was supposed to be "grateful." And initially, early on, I thought I saw an embrace, you know? Maybe, at that moment, if I'd known Sandy better or known what Sandy wanted or needed, maybe then things would be different?

But everyone, except this one friend, is telling me basically that "You made this bed, now you have to lie in it." Like even though this was obviously a mistake and we both want out, there's no out. There can be no out, that's what I keep hearing.

"You've got to make it work!" that's what I get told. And like last Sunday my friend Tommy, well he's not really my friend. I don't even care for him. I don't know why he's always showing up telling me what I need to do. I'm not so sure he even knows what he should do himself. But he always issues these proclamations like some coach from Hoosiers morphed into Dr. Phil with a dash of Sally Jessy Raphael. Or something.

So Tommy's blustering to me, "Improv time is over. This is crunch time. This marriage will be won or lost in the next few months. But it won't be won with high rhetoric. It will be won on the ground in a war over the last mile." I don't even know what that means! I don't think he knows either. I would've asked him but I was afraid that he'd babble on some more, you know?

I mean, I just wanted to get away from Tommy. Trust me, a lot of people feel that way. It's not just me. I was all, "Uh huh, later Tommy."

Then I bump into Nick. Now Nick seems like a good guy. I don't doubt that he cares, but we're always getting into disagreements because Nick is the type who makes these "universal truth" statements but often doesn't have all the facts. I'm sure you know someone like that. (Hopefully, you aren't someone like that!) He's the type who'll say, "No one ever cared about foreign athletes until the missionaries went ___" wherever. And you can say, "Woah, Nicky! That's not true. The Olympics have been going on for decades! Longer even!" But he's just read something about some missionary and he's convinced that history has just begun or something. He means well. That's what I try to remember, that he means well.

So Nick weighs in with, "If you leave too soon, Sandy will fall apart. There are areas that aren't strong enough to take this, areas in Sandy." Or like, "Sandy could sink into this really dark period and do you know about mortality rates in a situation like this, because I do!!!!" And then he's giving these examples that he just read and I'm already tuning him out.

I pay attention when I hear him say something like, "Granted, my argument for staying the course is a difficult one to make to you when your immediate concern is your own life. There's no getting around the fact that if you stay, you will be unhappy at best. And at worst, who knows . . ."

I think he's going back into morality rates. I don't know. I nod and stand there thinking about what I need to pick up at the grocery store.

"I also have to concede," he begins and that gets my attention because I always forget he uses that language not to make a real concession, but as a debating ploy, "that this friend of yours who's saying you should just end it may in the end be proven right: perhaps you and Sandy will stick it out and even so end up divorcing? After squandering both of your lives, both of your dreams."

Nick means well, but he really loves the sound of his own voice, so I hurry away while he's still yammering on about how the marriage has left Sandy "desperately vulnerable and it would be inhumane to abandon . . ."

I'm just trying to get back home, you know? Wow! That works on so many levels. Talk about insight. Anyway, so then I bump into the Billy Goat Gruff, you know the type. I'm sure there's at least one who lives in your neighborhood. Willie's always screaming, "Turn down that music!"

And you can't explain to him that it's not music, it's the birds in the trees chirping. Or he's ranting about how the trash hasn't been picked up because of some liberal, left-wing cabal that no doubt can be traced back to Hillary Clinton. Every neighborhood has an irritating old coot. And you don't have to be old to be an "old coot." I mean, Willie's old. I don't know how old or what he does, I think maybe he teaches grammar or something. But I do know, that he's going to be retiring soon. I'm hoping that will mean he might move. I mean, I wish him no ill will, my days would just be a lot simpler if he wasn't always hollering something from his front yard.

"For one awful moment last week, it seemed the foot-draggers might succeed!" he hollered, apparently to me because I was the only one not lucky enough to avoid him that day.

He continued, "The most important element in the next two months of this marriage is a sense of inexorability." Like I said, I think he teaches grammar. Inexorability? But while I'm trying to figure out the root of that word, he's adding, "Marriage delayed is marriage denied! The best answer to that question," apparently my marriage, I don't know, "I think, is that your mistaken coupling has left Sandy desperately vulnerable, and it would be inhumane to abandon now. If you stay with Sandy, there is still some hope that Sandy will come to enjoy security and a better life, but if you pull out you will be condemning Sandy to anarchy, terrorism and starvation, costing a life, the life you placed at risk by marrying. These are the reasons you should remain with Sandy, until Sandy's in a secure place. Saving Sandy is a worthy cause to risk your life for, even to die for. "

Woah old coot Willie! Nobody ever said anything about risking my life. People said this would be a wonderful marriage, roses strewn in my path or at least on the bed or something. I mean, I was sold on this with this talk of what a good thing I'd be doing and how easy it would be.

But it's like the friend I told you about earlier is saying, "You're not helping Sandy."

And I'm not. Every other day, if not every day, something flares up. I mean, I still see people grinning and giving me thumbs up and all I can think is, "You are so under-informed. You just don't know what is really going on."

I don't blame them, I mean the same matchmakers that got us together have taken it upon themselves to be cheerleaders for our marriage. Commentators even! That's why people come up saying, "Hey, I heard you put in running water." Yeah, in the kitchen sink. We still don't have running water anywhere else in the house. I mean, come on, it's a kitchen sink. I guess it's nice enough but I'm not doing cart wheels.

But this friend who seems like she's on to something is saying that Sandy's either going to fix herself or she's not. "You can't fix Sandy for Sandy. Only Sandy can fix Sandy. You're not helping. Staying in this arrangement is destructive to both of you."

I say to my friend, "Yeah, but, I mean, people are saying I can't leave Sandy until something's been set up." And my friend stops me and says, "Hold it right there! Sandy has to take care of Sandy. You can't set something up for Sandy. If something is going to matter, Sandy needs to set it up. And because it's what Sandy wants and needs, not what Sandy thinks you want to be done."

But I mean, sometimes I'm thinking Sandy needs me and feeling like, what's that saying? You broke it, you bought it? I know it's not really a Pottery Barn policy, but what about the people saying that?

My friend shushes me. And I hate it when someone does that! But I do get her point. Sandy's not Humpty Dumpty. And I'm not God. And right or wrong, I've tried. If Sandy needs help now, it's outside help. We've fallen into this warring pattern that is just not going to go away.

So I'm thinking my friend's right, that for the health of Sandy and myself, it's time for me to be an adult, look at reality and realize it's time to end it. That's the healthy thing to do, that's the mature thing to do. But I'm wondering if I'm mature enough to do the mature thing, you know?

I'm also wondering what you think? Oh, I'm sorry, I should have opened by introducing myself because I might look familiar but who knows? My name's United States of America. My friends call me "U.S." and my rowdier friends like to call me "USA!" It doesn't matter to me. And Sandy's just a nickname I gave my spouse. Most people know Sandy's given name: Iraq.

These are the days of the empty hand
Oh you hold on to what you can
And charity is a coat you wear twice a year

This is the year of the guilty man
Your television takes a stand
And you find that what was over there is over here . . .
-- "Praying For Time" words & music by George Michael

"Tommy" is Thomas Friedman and the New York Times column that his comments were "based" on is entitled "The Last Mile" and ran on November 28, 2004.

"Nick" is Nicholas Kristof (Nicky K!) and the New York Times column that his comments were "based" on is entitled "Saving the Iraqi Children" and ran on November 27, 2004.

"Willie" is William Safire and the New York Times column that his comments were "based" on is entitled "The Fourth Election" and ran December 1, 2004.