February 22, 2007

I was talking with JB recently about someone we know—let’s call him Billy—whose long-term girlfriend has started vigorously hinting that she’d like a ring on her finger. Billy has spent the last couple years declaring that he won’t consider marriage until he’s 30, and now that he’s 29 JB and I are wondering how this will all pan out. Will he eventually pop the question? Will she grow impatient and move on? How will he know if this is the right girl, the one he wants to spend his life with?

JB’s advice to him was, “Dude, you’ll know when it’s right. You’ll just know.” I disapprove of this advice, because while I’m sure lots of people Just Know when it’s the Right Time to embark upon a major lifestyle change, I sure as hell never have.

Marriage, for instance—I don’t think I’ve really talked about this before, but this is my second stab at holy matrimony. I was married once before, at a stupidly young age (19, if I remember correctly, which is hard to do because that was a LONG-ASS TIME AGO). He was polite, awkwardly shy, and recently back from the Gulf War; I was transitioning out of a regrettable Goth stage and enamored with the novelty of marriage. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but a couple years later I realized it was in fact a bad move, since I no longer loved him, and breaking up is way more of a pain in the ass when legal documents are involved.

For a while after that I thought I’d never get married again, because in my overly dramatic way of thinking, I could never be sure that my feelings wouldn’t change. How could I promise to love someone until death do us part, when I had no way of knowing whether I was capable of such a thing?

By the time JB and I got engaged I was a little more mature, and confident enough in the love we had that I didn’t obsess over what negative possibilities the future might hold. I wasn’t 100% positive in my decision, I didn’t just know that it was the right time, the truth is that I was willing to take a gamble.

I think that’s what it comes down to for some people. You look at your feelings, your life situation, and you just . . . take a guess. You accept the risk, or you don’t. You make a leap of faith, or you don’t.

Before we had Riley, I kept waiting and waiting for the moment when I would know that I wanted to have children. Well, the definitive knowledge that it was the right choice never came to me. I never had a moment when I felt free of doubt. In the end, I had to jump into the unknown without the confidence I wanted.

You never do know what your future will bring. Five years ago I would never have guessed at my life today, I wouldn’t have been able to believe it. Oh, it would have been such a gift, to peek forward through the years and see my own joy and fulfillment, see my ability to take on the burdens of motherhood and thrive. All I could see was fear and doubt.

I’m taking another step in the dark with our decision to try for a second baby. I wouldn’t say I’m sure it’s the right choice. I’m not sure at all, really. All I can do is balance what I know and what I don’t and what I’m hoping for and what I’m scared of, and see what comes out on top. It hasn’t been a painless process.

JB’s advice and my reaction to it illustrates the difference between the way we make decisions. JB has more confidence, he goes with his gut and he tends to stick with it. I’m a waffler, a second-guesser.

Several years ago we were hiking in Nevada, going down this steep hill covered in loose scree. JB was taking big, charging steps, he was using the rock to help him slide along. In contrast, I was mired in a fear of falling, I was making these tiny, awkward movements and trying to grasp at nearby vegetation to keep me from tripping. It took me forever to get down this hill. Forever. While JB waited at the bottom, patiently.

I wish it were easier for me, I wish I had the sort of faith people talk about when they talk about prayer. I wish I could learn to slide on the loose rocks. But I have learned to gamble. I have learned to hold my nose and jump.

I’m not sure what advice I would have for our friend. Maybe none. Maybe just the acknowledgment that some decisions are a bitch, and that’s the truth. That you can’t really be sure that your feelings and choices won’t change from one day to the next, because that’s what life is all about, growing and adapting, hopefully for the better. But if you’re really, really lucky, the hardest choices you ever make will pay out, like some great fucking slot machine hitting all three winning reels, raining joy and laughter into your life.

nekkidswiffer.jpg

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Pete
Pete
15 years ago

How did you get Riley to clean at such a young age?
I have found that my ‘gut’ feeling is almost always right.

angela
angela
15 years ago

I too am of the school of You Will Just Know. But with that comes the reality that maybe there isn’t a perfect someone out there for you. Soulmates For Everyone is a Hallmark concept, not reality. Maybe you’ll have to settle, but that completely unfair to the other person. And maybe the definitive knowledge will come too late in life to act on it.

I don’t want kids. My BF is considerably older than I am and he fears that I will wake up in 10 years and decide I want a baby, and it will be entirely too late for us to have one (ethically speaking, he’ll be 58 in 10 years, and that is entirely too old, IMO). But I’ve considered all my options and I’ve made my decision, so now I will lie in my bed.

warcrygirl
15 years ago

For me it’s not Just Knowing in as much as it’s not Running Screaming From The Thought of Whatever I’m Mulling Over. If it doesn’t scare the shit out of me then it’s time to give it a try. And just what is it about the Swiffer? Both of my kids LOVED playing with it.

Pickles & Dimes
15 years ago

I’m about to engage in marriage #2, and I found that going into marriage #1, I didn’t have ANY doubts. And that totally backfired. And then I turned into a colossal waffler/second guesser/non-decision maker.

You’re right; sometimes you just have to be willing to take that gamble. Otherwise you’re not living life, you’re just wasting your time being afraid of what might go wrong.

dani
dani
15 years ago

I just know.

but I also know not to charge down rocky hills.

Mama Ritchie
15 years ago

I wonder if it’s different for men and women when it comes to the marriage question. I dated a couple guys before Jase and they did NOT want to marry me. They didn’t say it in so many words – but looking back, it was so obvious. When I would talk about the future, all I could hear were the crickets chirping. And this was in the winter. In Michigan. I knew I wanted to get married eventually, and I spent way too much time in relationships with guys who didn’t – and least not to me.

But then Jase came back from California, and we started hanging out. And I invited him to this dinner party I hosted with my older boyfriend – the one who I spent over 3 years with even though he never said he loved me, even though he didn’t know what I took in my coffee or when my birthday was. And I looked at Jase across the yard – he was so crazy about me he agreed to go to a party filled with older professors he didn’t know – and I thought, man, life would be so much easier if I loved someone who loved me. And so I did. I left the party with him and never went back. And from that first night, he told me he loved me and wanted to marry me. I bought a vintage wedding dress ten days later and the only reason we didn’t elope is we couldn’t get a cheap flight to Vegas. We planned a ‘proper’ wedding and have now been together 10 years.

He never thought twice. And I had to allow myself to be loved completely before I could let myself return it. I’m so glad I did. And I’m so glad I picked a man who knew, from the minute he laid eyes on me, that he wanted to be with me for the rest of his life. Marriage is hard enough, man. It’s just that much harder when you’re not sure if your spouse even wants to be with you.

And DUDE – your former marriage! Shocker! But I totally understand it. I would have been married at least 3 times before Jason if they would have gone for it. Luckily, they were all commitment phobes!! Love the tushie pic!

Em
Em
15 years ago

babies are hilarious!

Erin
Erin
15 years ago

I am paraphrasing a quote that I heard once that went along these lines: “You’re going into it with your eyes closed” and the reply was “When does anyone go into with their eyes wide open? You go into with your eyes closed and hope for the best.”

I knew I could spend the rest of my life with my husband, but did either of get married knowing with absolute certainty that it would all be sunshine and roses for the rest of our days? Hell no. We knew we loved each other and that we could build a life and that sometimes that life would suck, that there were no guarantees, just love, respect and continued maintenance.

I also had the same feeling you’re having now about having a second. I never had “that moment” where I knew that I just had to have another. My moment involved my Doctor telling me to get a move on because “your window of opportunity is closing”. Alrighty then! Now looking at what I have, I often say that I wish I knew then what the end result would be, because I think it’s pretty spectacular.

Josh
Josh
15 years ago

OK, I’m going to throw out a colossal pretty please with a weeks harvest of cherries on top to share with us a photo from your regretable goth stage.

And I think most guys go with the you just know method. Which is weird because we seem less eager to strap on the ol’ ball and chain than you ladies. I guess if our natures were switched, human kind would cease to reproduce due to a complete collapse of all relationships. Sort of like yin and yang, but deadlier.

angela
angela
15 years ago

I go into things with my eyes wide open. I wouldn’t do it any other way.

Jennifer
Jennifer
15 years ago

I also had a “trial marriage” at age 20-21. (no kids, no property, no regrets.) I waited until age 34 to take the leap again, and this time it appears permanent. You’re right, you can’t see the future, it is a gamble. You can do what you can to make the gamble pay off, but you really don’t know. For Billy (who I’m wondering if it might be JB’s brother), does he just not want marriage, or does he doubt that this girlfriend is “the one?” If that’s the case, here’s a little quote that has helped me in my relationship: “rather than trying to find the perfect mate, the bigger payoff comes in trying to be the perfect mate.”

sooboo
15 years ago

I’m with you on the babysteps down the steep, slippery hill. Road rash (or hiking trail rash) doesn’t look good on anyone.

oregoncoastgirl
oregoncoastgirl
15 years ago

Well put. And you don’t say!

Michelle
Michelle
15 years ago

Until I met my husband, I always dated an ‘ideal’ not a person. What I mean is, the men I dated represented what I ‘thought I ‘wanted,’ i.e., success, lots of money…the jaguar in the garage, etc. While these guys presented all the goodies–I dated only doctors and attorneys–I got to go on groovy trips and buying binges–they always broke my heart in the end. I met my husband…and I knew immediately that THIS was it. He cared about ME. He listened without attacking me (those high-powered types are adept at attacking. My husband sees me. We’ll probably never own a Jaguar, but I don’t mind. I have a guy who really loves me…and who I love madly.

Kristy
15 years ago

I am like you. I never just know. But I too was married before and got married again. I said I would never marry again but then I learned that the person you are when you say that is not the same person you are years later renewed and self forgiven. Sometimes we do the right thing and sometimes we don’t. Your friend..he may ask her and be blissfully happy. She may pressure him and make him crazy and he may dump her and regret it. He may dump her and find someone else and marry her within the year. Life is crazy like that. Sometimes you just can’t guess what will come of a situation except that you know it’s at the turning pont stage and something will soon give out. Right or wrong a decision unmade is still a decision to let life control you rather than you yourself taking the wheel.

p.s. second marriages…..always better ….because we surely know what we didn’t want before we did it again.

Caitlin
Caitlin
15 years ago

Wow, Sundry, reading you through the years has been/is so delightful–just when I start thinking I somehow “know” this internet-person who entertains and moves me with her pithiness and naughty words and flashes of really lovely lyricism, you bust out with some new complexity–19 year-old marriage?! Damn!

I really liked this entry.

Leah
15 years ago

Even though it’s sometimes best not to give advice, sometimes people need a little help from wise, objective second parties. It’s really hard to say all that you’ve said above when one is not outside the relationship but inside it, i.e., a girlfriend with an “agenda,” pure-intentioned though it may be. I’ll be forwarding this to you know who, so thanks.

Melissa
15 years ago

Great post! I’ve heard people say, “If you wait for the right time, or enough money, or feeling ‘sure,’ you’d never have a child.” I think that’s true about most anything in life.

Joanne
15 years ago

You’re so nice to ‘censored!’ out Riley’s bottom. I always put my boy’s ass up there for the Internet to see. I draw the line at any full frontal though.

I don’t know how I decided to get married or to have a baby, I guess the truth is, I didn’t. I just went with it. I am a pretty faithful person and I just figure it will work the way it’s supposed to. So far, so good.

rebecca
15 years ago

I felt the same way you did about having a child. I knew I wanted to, someday, but didn’t ever arrive at a moment where I felt like “OK, I’m ready NOW.” It’s all about making a leap of faith, sometimes. And now? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

KT
KT
15 years ago

This entry has really given me something to chew on. So many people are in the “you just know” camp, and I’m definitely not, so your perspective has been really enlightening to me. I’m so paranoid about making decision if I don’t “just know,” and it paralyzes me from ever making decisions. Thank you so much.

(Reading about your experience in becoming pregnant and then giving birth to your amazing little man has really opened my eyes to parenthood, too. Your frankness has really made a big difference to me, and I thank you.)

Meg
Meg
15 years ago

This is one of my favorite entries of yours. Thanks for writing this. It pertains so much to what’s been going on in my head lately. Very cool to hear your take on things!

Swistle
15 years ago

I loved this post. So interesting. I’m the same as you about decisions: I’m never “when I know, I know,” and in fact I’d think, “Well, then, since I don’t know, it must not be the right decision to do this.” I make decisions by getting to the place where I’m willing to take a chance. Paul and I have been married 10 years this November, and I still don’t think of us as a sure thing. I think of us as “good–so far.”

I think the nice thing about being a waffler/second-guesser is that you’re not as disillusioned and knocked-flat if things don’t work out. I think the “you just know”/”it’s fate” crowd get smacked on their asses when they “knew” and they were wrong. Misjudge those big leaps on loose rocks, and you pay big.

Incidentally, my brother swore he wouldn’t get married until he was 30, and in fact he lost a couple of really great girlfriends who didn’t want to gamble on that. When he was late-29 he proposed to his girlfriend, and when he was late-30 they got married.

filakia
15 years ago

Thank you for this entry. I remember when you wrote about your doubts about becoming a parent, and I completely identified with that. Reading about your present joys with Riley has made me think that just because I do not feel Ready does not mean that I will not be a good and happy mother, should I become one someday.

I completely understand how you feel, with the second-guessing and doubt, because I feel the same way. About all the same things you mentioned, including climbing down steep hills! (mountains?) I do the same thing. Exactly.

It was scary yet freeing day, the day that I woke up and realized that, contrary to my youthful expectations, I would never wake up some morning and just Know. What I wanted in life; who I wanted to be with; who I really was; what I should REALLY do with my hair. I lack that inner sense of assurance and certainty, too, and once I realized I would never magically acquire it, I was able to open myself to taking that leap of faith; jumping in with my nose plugged, as you put it.

It’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only one navigating and negotiating the uncertainties of life in this way.

Marie
Marie
15 years ago

I loved this entry as well. I, like you, am never sure. I never “just know,” though I wish I did. For me it tends to be because I fear change pretty much above all else. Even changes for the better scare me. That is the reason that I didn’t start trying to have kids until I was 34. Just wasn’t sure if I was ready, if I had enough money, if I had enough room. I finally had to force myself to “jump in” because the perfect time might never come (biological clock and all). Still trying to get pregnant after a year and a half, getting ready to start fertility treatments. Hard to not regret my cautious ways…

trackback
15 years ago

[…] The gamble and the guess […]

Mrs. Breedorf
15 years ago

Hooray for hardwood floors. I never take the gamble of a nekkid baby on carpet.

Liz in Australia
Liz in Australia
15 years ago

I’m also someone who believes “you’ll just know”. I can still remember the precise instant that I fell in love with my now-husband and realised that he was The One *g*

That photo made me laugh. Nekkid baby butts are just the funniest thing, which is fortunate cause our toddler is toilet training and it’s still summer here, so I see a lot of hers!

Ang
Ang
15 years ago

How do you really “just know”?

I guess maybe I’m of an inbetweener school. I try to go by what my heart tells me, but I also try to “think things through.” I was married and had children before meeting my current husband. The first time around, I had doubts, but I loved the man and wanted to be married to him. That didn’t work out so much. This time, I saw an obstacle or two, but I love the man and wanted to be married to him. I think the difference is that this time, I am older and wiser….and I made a better choice (probably because I am older and wiser). We are talking baby now, too…and I find myself with all kinds of doubts and worry — mostly about finances, but my heart. . . it says procreate!

I think I’ll go with that.

Jenny
Jenny
15 years ago

It sounds like you do have some sort of faith. Taking a gamble and hoping it all pans out, well that’s kind of like taking a chance that hopefully the bigger picture will appear. I think some people want to trust their gut so that they feel like they can rely on themselves for all the answers, but some doubts and worrying are a little necessary! I just found out I’m pregnant with my second child, my first is only 15 months old, but it’s no surprise. We were trying. I find that I’m much more scared and apprehensive this time around. I think because I have more realistic expectations this time, I know that babies are not all rainbows and sunshine, but obviously wonderful enough to get on the ride for a second time.

GJR
GJR
15 years ago

Trebuchet game! Ok, this is totally unrelated to your post, but I saw this game while I was adding stuff to my Google homepage. The URL is really long, so I don’t know if it’ll work.
http://www.google.com/ig/directory?hl=en&root=/ig&dpos=top&num=24&url=http://www.quitebasic.com/gadget/trebuchet.xml&q=&start=24

Lori
Lori
15 years ago

Beautiful! You’re a wise, wise woman.

kimblahg
15 years ago

That picture should be the new Swiffer Advertisement.

Kate
15 years ago

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am so tired of everyone telling me that I’ll “just know.” Because no one ever seems to acknowledge that sometimes, you just might not.

Melanie
15 years ago

“I wasn’t 100% positive in my decision, I didn’t just know that it was the right time, the truth is that I was willing to take a gamble.”

jonniker
15 years ago

I loved this entry, too, and will say that I was actually staunchly against marriage, and by “marriage” I meant my own, as in, the one that was impending in something like two weeks or so. I freaked out and almost called it off because I didn’t “know” for sure, and woke up in the night in a cold sweat and finally, one day, I told him it was over. He said no, told me I was nuts, and while he’d be happy to divorce me the Monday after our wedding, he paid for the damn thing, our friends and family were there, and we were getting married. So we got married.

Damn. Best thing I ever did, and four years later, I have no regrets, other than the ones that involve me trying to call it off.

My point is this: you never really do know, do you? I mean, it’s all a gamble, and as you said, sometimes you’re lucky enough to have played your hand right, however accidentally.

Schnozz
15 years ago

I adore your honesty, as usual. And I agree with you completely. Considering how publicly and ardently I profess my love for my husband, I think that people are often surprised to discover that I have no idea whether this is going to work out. But things change, life changes, and all you can do is hope for the best. So far, I’m like you–delighted to discover that I can do this, and I love doing this, and this is what I want. But I don’t kid myself that my future is guaranteed or even something I’ll recognize in ten years, and it’s refreshing to hear someone else say it for a change.

The same thing applies to my childbearing decisions, though it’s kind of the opposite. I decided NOT to have children, but I was still holding my nose and leaping on the day we finalized (and cauterized!) that particular piece of biology, believe you me. Some decisions are just a bitch. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Gentry
15 years ago

What a touching entry. I feel like it was written directly to me.

Also, I say three cheers for Starter Marriages. And please post regrettable goth photos.

xoxo

Emily
15 years ago

Fantastic entry as always, Linda. I have to tell you that some of the things you told me a while back about your first marriage really helped me become confident enough to do something about my crazy marital situation instead of just “waiting it out.” It’s odd, because I am usually the one who just jumps headfirst into most major life changes (like getting married so young in the first place or, say, joining the Army) without too much thought or deliberation, but with the feeling of “hey, why not?” However, I don’t think you should underestimate faith, and this is why:

I ultimately talked myself into making the decision to leave him — and then actually left — and the subsequent events led me to wonder why I waited so long in the first place … partially because it helped me realize that I was stronger than I thought, but also because it caused the changes in my husband that I had been trying fruitlessly to bring about for years. But it the end, both of my decisions — to begin a marriage and to end it — turned out to be right. They both came from completely different methods, but then kind of met each other in the middle in a way that makes me think, “Did I even have any control over this in the first place?” It was disconcerting, to say the least, but now it gives me a sort of warm, fuzzy feeling, like a reassurance that no matter what I had done, things would have turned out the right way in time.

It’s late, and I’m full of pain pills from getting my wisdom teeth yanked, so I hope this long comment makes as much sense to you as it does in my head. But like I said a minute ago, don’t underestimate faith (even if it’s not faith in God, it could be just in how things generally seem to fall together exactly the way they’re supposed to in the universe as a whole), and don’t underestimate yourself, and never have any regrets (although I don’t know if you do or not in the first place) because they are a waste of energy.

Great photo of Riley, by the way — he looks like a man on a mission!

Niki P.
Niki P.
15 years ago

Thanks for this entry. I know that after I left my husband I didn’t look back or waffle or think twice. I had so much unsureness when we got married- no one told me not to- and no one told me not to leave. I just did it and I don’t regret it. I still don’t know whats right most of the time- I tend to be indecisive, I have a hard time picking out my clothes in the morning (!!!) but leaving was the best thing I did for ME. I don’t consider it a starter marriatge- it was 12 yrs, not all bad, not all good- just blah.
Anyway, thanks for this entry.

squandra
squandra
15 years ago

Thank you.

I’m awfully happy with my job, my home, and the man I share that home with. I wouldn’t have any of it if I’d kept waiting to “Just Know.”

HollowSquirrel
15 years ago

You rock.

Sadie
Sadie
15 years ago

OMG, thank you for your admission about your ‘starter marriage.’ I also got married at a young age (23) and was divorced inside of 2 years later. I am a very confident, self-assured person when it comes to decision-making, like JB, it sounds – and the failure of my marriage (my fault, mostly) really rocked me. Now, four years later, I am still a little embarrassed and also unsure I will ever marry again. Disillusioned, I guess. So I am always glad to read that it’s still possible to have that life I thought I would have already. It’s just hard when I look around at all my friends, the ‘smug marrieds,’ who are starting their families…and I am nowhere near that life anymore.

Em
Em
15 years ago

Beautiful post! I am often amazed at how different we humans approach different issues, questions, topics.

I also am amazed at how many people do it totally ass-backwards from me, and I usually try to point out the error of their way, but that’s for another day.

Looks like your gambling has paid off so far!

Cavu
15 years ago

Excellent post. I’m 30 and unmarried, and when my family gets all “You’re getting left on the shelf!” I tell them I’ve decided to skip my first marriage and go straight to my second. I think having the “I know it’s a risk, but one I’m willing to take because it’s worth it” IS the same thing, in a way, as “just knowing.” It’s the gut feeling that making this move is worth it, and what happens next is unknowable.

Becky
Becky
15 years ago

Again, you have hit the nail on the head….it truly feels like that post was written to me.

Thank you for being so open and honest…and most of all for letting lil’ ole me share a part of your life!

p.s. love the picture of Riley

wealhtheow
wealhtheow
15 years ago

My husband and I knew within a week that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, and that was ten years ago. The decision to have a baby? That’s been a lot harder. We keep saying that if we just wait a little, everything will work out better. But you know what? If we wait for the perfect time, we’ll never do it. So we’re just keeping the faith that we’re not making the biggest mistake of our lives.

laura
laura
15 years ago

When you’re really really REALLY lucky, you have naked babies swiffering up the dog hair off your hardwood floors.

McWriter
15 years ago

Everyone has a gut. Some people are just better at listening to it than others. That comes with age, practice and the confidence you gain with the few lucky times your well thought-out decisions have rendered favorable outcomes.

For me, it’s the process of decision-making that’s the real teacher. I prefer to put my faith in the pros & cons lists, Steel-Magnolias-style tear fests, “what would you do?” conversations with trusted and more experienced friends and family members, and my evenutal, “What the hell – Could be fun!” resolutions.

Every decision you make – big or small – becomes a part of who you are. If you think you’re pretty cool as is, and you simply travel on the path your gut sends you, how could you ever go wrong?

michelle
15 years ago

i just read your blog for the first time yesterday, and really enjoyed it. what you just described above is almost a mirror image of me and my S.O. it’s just good to know that i’m not the only one with the affliction you describe above. but faith, blind faith, is such a wonderful thing… it’s the best teacher in the world. i never know what’s about to tag me once i leave home base, and i may not be certain that it’s the smartest thing to do, but f*ck it, it is just a game right?

oh, i love the internets… you can find inspiration served up daily! :-)

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