Monday, May 24, 2010

Matched by Incompatibility

The other night, The Brooklyn Baby Daddy and I were watching America: The History of Us on the History Channel (which we HIGHLY recommend, even though, as Dave has noted, I'm unhappy with how infrequently women's stories are told). We saw one of those heart-warming, deliciously optimistic commercials for E-Harmony, the sight that matches people on different components of compatibility.

We've known people who've met their spouse through this site - lovely couples for whom we couldn't be happier. But it made me wonder, where would I be today if I'd met someone with whom I'm almost completely compatible?

Don't get me wrong - Dave and I are good together. But I'm not sure, especially in the beginning, you would have considered us "compatible."

Dave grew up in a Jewish family in New Jersey - basically a suburb of NYC.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist family in a town of 1,000 people in Kentucky.

Dave tends to be very laid back about life, realizing that should a disaster happen, there's probably not much he can do to stop it, so it isn't worth worrying about.

I obsess over my loved ones, demanding phone calls upon the landing of an airplane, freaking out if a person is 30 minutes late to meet me, tossing and turning in the middle of the night from fear that a meteor will blast right into Stella's room.

Dave cherishes his time alone, and has been known to sit and read for days on end, taking breaks only to use the restroom, snack and sleep.

I get ancy if I spend too much time alone, and want to chat almost constantly.

I could go on, but fear not - I won't.

For the eight plus years I've known Dave and the almost five that we've been wed, we've challenged each other, struggled against each other, fought with each other, and made up with each other. We've considered calling it quits, called each other names, gone to counseling, pretended nothing was wrong.

But somehow, maybe miraculously, we've made it to now. A time that isn't perfect, but a time that is (mostly) peaceful. A time that isn't devoid of work, but a time that is filled with love and joy.

And, perhaps best of all, we're both better people because of it.

If I'd met someone more like me, perhaps I would have delved deeper into my binge eating, getting to a weight that is unhealthy and dangerous, rather than recognizing when I'm full and making myself stop. If I'd met someone like me, maybe I would have gotten a bit out of control with my negativity and paranoia, rather than realizing people act out of their own situations 99% of their time, and not as a reaction to me. If I'd met someone like me, maybe I would have continued to have more and more angry outbursts, rather than learning to accept responsibility for my actions and speak to people respectfully, even when angry.

I needed a lot of work. I needed to be challenged, not allowed to go along as normal. Because, sadly, I was not normal.

But my evolution as a human wasn't complete with Dave. I had other things to learn -- things like life doesn't always follow my schedule, no matter how far in advance I planned things out. Things like I can't control others' actions, no matter how prepared and sweet and persuasive I am. Things like I can't be perfect - even, in any circumstance - no matter how hard I try.

These are the things that Stella taught me, just by being special little Stella. Spunky little Stella, with her own ways of doing things and her own brand of adorable that tempt you to give into her every whim. Are my daughter and I completely compatible? Probably not - and I'm grateful for it.

And last, but certainly not least, nobody would call New York City the most compatible city for someone like me. I get incredibly claustrophobic in crowds; New York City squeezes 8 million people on its cramped shores. I adore nature - rolling hills, streams, animals; despite its great parks, New York City remains mainly a landscape of steel and bricks. I am open and friendly and thrive on people who are the same; NYC is known for its rudeness - people who are too busy or jaded or pissed off to smile or say thank you. I love to live among order and beauty and convenience; my apartments have all been tiny and dingy and filled with complications (like a laundromat that's half a mile away).

But I'm so grateful I moved here nearly twelve years ago. There's a lot I needed to learn, and I think only a place as extreme and distinct as New York could have taught it to me.

I've learned to be much less naive and much more savvy. I've learned self-preservation and defense. I've learned to be assertive and unashamed to get what I want. I've learned to express my displeasure unabashedly, without worry that someone "won't like me." I've learned to do many things on my own: install an air conditioner, get a lease, get a job, go anywhere on the subway, audition for plays, talk to celebrities, haggle with salespeople. I've learned not to allow myself to be a victim.

And although I remain excited about and dedicated to our move, I am so happy that I followed my ex-boyfriend's advice and moved New York City all those years ago. I don't know if I made it here, but I do kind of feel like I can make it anywhere.

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