Simple Gifts

I just want to take a moment to talk about simplicity.

I’ve mentioned here that when Doug and I first moved to Seattle, we didn’t have much money – or time, as we were working 10-hour days with a 45-minute commute on either end – yet we were living our happiest lives.  Chalking some of it up to limerence or the “honeymoon period,” and noting the sheen of nostalgia that develops over time, I still believe I was purely and sublimely happy during those first few months we spent together.

Without money or time, we learned to appreciate simplicity.  We went for walks, did puzzles, played games.  We tried each other’s favorite family recipes, and tried new beers by buying a single bottle and splitting it.  We went window-shopping at the local mall, with no intent or ability to buy anything.  We selected DVDs from each other’s collections, made popcorn, and had movie nights.  Even romantic surprises were simple: I came home one night to find a bouquet of carnations sitting in front of the fireplace, along with Swiss Miss cocoa mix, marshmallows, graham crackers, Hershey bars, and a Duraflame log.

Many of these shared joys – particularly going for walks and playing Scrabble – have withstood the tests of time and experience, except that now they’re obscured by our comparatively lavish lifestyle.  It’s too easy, when given the choice between eating spaghetti with garlic and olive oil, or going over to my parents’ house for a more extravagant dinner, to choose the more luxurious option.  It’s too easy, back here in San Diego, to fill every free moment of our time with family and friends and scheduled activities.  It’s too easy, now that we have two computers, to sit on opposite sides of the room, clicking away, and, aside from the occasional blown kiss, ignore each other.  And although we do spend most of our time together – at work, at home, socially – we seem to have lost the knack for just being together.

Today, Doug came with me to LA, where I was going to meet up with Carrie and wander around the Fiesta Hermosa art walk/street fair.  I’d told him ahead of time he probably wouldn’t enjoy himself, but he wanted to come anyway.  He followed quietly as Carrie and I wandered through the stalls, and he stood politely to the side while we looked at jewelry, paintings, and other handmade goodies.  When we stopped for coffee, he sat at the table with us and stared off into space, while we wrote a letter to a good friend in England.  I kept asking whether there was anything he wanted, whether there was any way we could accommodate him, and he repeatedly told me no.

In the car on the way home, I checked in to make sure he was okay.  “Are you just tired?  Were you bored?”

“Yeah,” he said.  “And it was mostly an A-and-B conversation all day.”

“I tried to include you.  You could have looked at stuff with us.  It wasn’t all jewelry – what about those photos that dude printed on canvas?  Maybe we could have found one we wanted in our house.”

“We already have artwork on our walls,” Doug said, sounding a little hurt.  He was referring, of course, to the puzzles we’d made together.  I held his hand the whole way home.

Sometimes I wonder if I intentionally fill my life with stuff and busyness, to try to distract me from my sadness.  Or if I think that I can’t just be with Doug anymore, doing those simple things we used to do, because it will feel false or empty or tainted somehow – like all that was pre-miscarriage and we can’t go back.  Like the “more us time” I was bemoaning when I learned I was pregnant automatically became a non-option, even though we have no child.

I think I need to take a step back, like with sex, and remember what it’s like to appreciate the simple things in my life and relationship.  And there still are many: those kisses blown across the room; the ritual of making and drinking tea together before bed; the rough, warm feet that find mine under the sheet and squeeze them, a half-asleep “I love you.”

It reminds me of a Shaker hymn my children’s choir used to sing:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

Four words stand out to me here: simple, free, love, delight.  These four words describe exactly how I felt during the first few months of my and Doug’s time in Seattle.  I want those words back, although I know getting there will be more difficult than it seems.  Ironically, choosing simplicity takes work, unless the options themselves are simple like they once were for us: given our financial situation, we chose to be simple rather than miserable.

I’d like to choose simplicity again, even now that the options are greater in number.  I choose walks.  I choose cuddling.  I choose comfort foods.  I choose jigsaw puzzles and reading and classic board games.  And I want Doug to choose simplicity with me; I want Doug to choose carnations.

And in this choice, I believe, we’ll be happier.  After all:

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6 Responses to Simple Gifts

  1. Martin says:

    “Many of these shared joys – particularly going for walks and playing Scrabble”

    Doug can’t spell… how does he play scrabble?

  2. Dawn says:

    Joe does the same thing, or he cheats and uses a dictionary. We play scrabble against each other on our Iphones now. Love.

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  5. Katt Hoban says:

    Brought tears to my eyes with “Tis a gift to be simple.”

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