"Mama....I am going to tell you ALL OF THE BAD WORDS, and you NOT put me in time out!"
He looked determined, so I sat in front of the tub hiding a smile and told him to go for it. And this is what he said...loudly...
"Well....STUPID IS NOT GOOOOOOOD......and BUTT IS NOT GOOOOOOOD.......and (lowering his voice to a whisper) what the hell is really not good (head shaking). "
I was trying really hard not to laugh at this point, but I asked, "are there any more?"
"Ummmm......I think Cowboy is not good.....but I don't know why."
At this point, I busted out laughing. He sat back down in the foamy water while I explained to him that cowboy was a perfectly acceptable word that he could say any old time he wanted. And then he went on playing with his sea animals.
I'm not really sure what inspired him to stand up and recite all of the words that his short little history has taught him get him a good finger pointing or a lengthy time out. But whatever spurred it on, it gave me a hearty laugh on an otherwise boring evening of watching Aladdin 4 times in a row.
After this exchange, I began thinking about the bad words. There are obvious ones...ones that I was brought up never to say, yet somehow they creep into my blog from time to time. But then there are the words that you don't realize are bad until you find yourself in the depths of their clutches. Words like defeat.....shame......hopelessness....and the one that I have been held captive by recently, obligation.
And then, as I have up to this point only painfully experienced, there is Obligation's more well dressed twin: Marriage.
About 6 years ago I entered into a legally and, what I believed to be a spiritually binding contractual agreement with The One. We got married. And then, for nearly the next 4 years, we, the sickly, ill-equipped pair of us, did everything in our power to suck every ounce of joy out of marriage that we possibly could, until all that was left was Obligation. And then, not even Obligation was a strong enough glue to seal the cracks within our union. And in the space of a couple of hours, life was thrown into an empty suitcase and The One became The First One....known to you as Ex. A mistake? Hard to say. A learning experience? Definitely. Crushingly painful both before and after that suitcase filled up? Ummm....yeah.
THEN.....after dating a bunch of free dinners, a couple of really nice guys that I treated like disposable contact lenses (ahem...sorry about that Super Man), and one REALLY BIG LOSER, I fell in love again. Recklessly, and wildly in love. In love so much so that I ignored, and, might I add, even obliterated EVERY SINGLE RED FLAG (and believe me there were MANY) waving insanely in my face, because it felt
so damn good to no longer feel like my insides were dying from the weight of crushing pain.
So I did the thing that seemed the most logical in my warped brain....I stood up on a hill and legally OBLIGATED myself to The One. It seemed like the only way to ensure immunity from the crushing pain of heartbreak and failure that I had experienced from the person who had previously proclaimed love for me.
However, we all know how the story goes. It was mere months into this fresh union that I looked at The One and thought, "I don't like you." It wasn't because I can't commit. It wasn't because I am even bad at the basics of marriage. In fact, and I know this sounds somewhat insane coming from the fingertips of the woman who has been divorced twice, but I would venture to say that I am a GOOD WIFE. It wasn't any of that.
It was because I slipped out of the reckless throws of passion as easily as I slipped into them...and found myself in the death grip of obligation. And this time, I was obligated to someone who exhibited VERY FEW redeeming qualities....qualities such as mutual respect and general regard for others that make obligation livable, if not enjoyable. I stayed for many months after my family started saying things like, "How long exactly are you going to live like this?" I stayed, because of a bad word...because I was obligated to stay....obligated to give it a fair shake....to hope for the best.....to do something besides tuck tail and run.
So all of this to say, obligation has left a bad taste in my mouth. And now, like "cowboy" it has made it to the list of bad words....even if I'm not quite sure it actually is one. When we begin to do things out of obligation as opposed to a genuine desire to serve someone else, or uphold the commitments that are so important to our integrity, WHY ARE WE REALLY DOING IT? In marriage, I have learned, that the place where you begin to continually function, day in and day out, solely because you obligated yourself to do so, is also the location of a very fine line. It's the line between the dreams you allowed yourself to have with your partner, and the possibilities that you begin to see you could have without them. A scary place to find yourself, to say the least, because once you have reached this very fine line, the life on either side of the crevice seems to leave something within you vaguely unsatisfied. I know this...because I have now fallen on both sides.
So the question becomes, at what point are you free from Obligation? At what point, after being introduced to the clammy hand of Obligation grasping your life, are you allowed to walk down the path that you willingly chose, with some degree of resolve about choosing it? For months in my second marriage, I struggled with this question. But as it turns out, there is a force out there that is stronger than Obligation. And at just the right moment that force, Self Respect, came seemingly from out of nowhere.
For me, Self Respect showed up just as the chewing tobacco can was whizzing past my face, hurled at my by The One.....who henceforth will be The One Who Shall No Longer Be Named. And in that instance, just after I got chewing tobacco in my eye...but just before The One Who Shall No Longer Be Named attempted repeatedly to bar my exit from my home, Self Respect kicked Obligation's sorry little (bad word alert!) ass....and I landed solidly on the side of the fence where possibilities run rampant.
I guess if it took two failed marriages for Self Respect to finally show up, then we can call it good. However, I can't help thinking that it would have been so much more convenient if Self Respect had also practiced punctuality, but I'm clinging to the belief that lessons learned will continually cancel out mistakes made.
Regardless of the pain and the shame, and regardless of the fact that Obligation has been my bedmate for many years now, Self Respect is decidedly the companion that I wish to invite along for this journey. This journey into, what can only be described as a
very good word...
(Now if something will just come along and kick the ass of Impulsivity, I think my family and friends will rest a bit easier and be less likely to kill me.)