A big hulking yellow machine that wheezed up hills and backed into a telephone pole once. I can still remember the musty smell and the thin olive green plastic that wrapped around the metal benches.
This was before the age of cell phones, so extra hours on the bus were not spent playing Angry Birds or snapping infinite selfies.
We mainly played MASH.
To play, we would scrawl MASH at the top of a blank page and then select a few intriguing categories. We typically settled on: Married To, Car, # of Kids, Vacation, and Career.
My friend and I would scrunch down, knees up on the raw metal in front of us, giggling as we filled in a handful of enticing and horrifying options under each category. Married To would include a select few from our class, usually one or two I liked, and a few awkward ones my friend would throw in to torment me (giggles). # of Kids would include 1 and 2 and 67 (more giggles). Vacation choices featured the glamorous—England—and the not so glamorous—Alberta—options. I’m sure you’re catching on now.
The letters in MASH stood for: Mansion, Apartment, Shack & House, indicating the home I would live in. Obviously, Mansion was the goal. House was acceptable. No one wanted Apartment or Shack.
My friend would make a bunch of ticks on the paper, I would tell her when to stop, and that would be the magic number by which options were eliminated from my future. I would groan when the cute boy got crossed off or when Bermuda was out. Inevitably, I would end up with something like this:
Megan gets married to Jordan and lives in a shack with fifty kids, a Ferrari, vacations in Timbuktu, and is employed as a ditch digger. *Insert wild shrieking.*
And that was my future. Compartmentalized into five easy categories.
If 11-year-old Megan saw my current list, I can’t say she’d be too impressed:
Megan got married to Ryan and lives in a townhouse with one son, two Pathfinders, vacations sporadically, and is employed primarily as Mom.
I thought those categories made up a life. But it turns out they were merely a highlight reel. They say nothing of day in and day out that is making a marriage work. In between finding the boy and having the kids and the odd getaway, there is a heck of a lot more going on than MASH ever led me to believe.
My husband and I are different. And not the cute different, like Jim and Pam, where it all wraps up in twenty minutes with an endearing smirk and a prank on Dwight. The hard different. This May, we’ve been married ten years.
It’s been our toughest year yet.
My father-in-law passed away last March. Three weeks later, my husband left for his dream job. He was away most of the summer. I was sorely tempted to stew in a pit of grief and self-pity, but my German survival roots kicked in. Plus, I learned that 16-month-olds aren’t really into Mommy wallowing in week-long pity parties.
So I kept it together.
But I was alone.
I was warned it would be difficult when he came home. We had been apart for months, a challenge for any relationship. But when coupled with the 24/7 togetherness we were thrown into upon his return? It might as well have been an engraved invitation to crazy town.
So yes, I would say it was difficult. Difficult in the way I imagine summiting Everest is difficult. Difficult in the way I know eating just half a chocolate bar is difficult.
Just a bit of an understatement.
Goodness, we fought. I had grown quite comfortable having all the say in how I spent my days, how my son was raised and what I said “yes” to. I dug my heels in, asserted my independence and laid the guilt on as thick as the soupy fog hovering over the valley that fall. I took on projects that ate up all my free time, leaving us completely disconnected. We are not a couple that naturally has oodles in common; when there is no effort put in, it goes to pieces.
It was remarkably easy to go through the motions, to ignore the lingering feelings of grief, to pretend as if we hadn’t been apart for months, to simply get on and continue to pursue the all-important aspects of MASH: kids, cars, house, career etc.
I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took. But, thankfully, I eventually turned off my inherently stubborn autopilot and reluctantly turned my focus from everything that was *more* important.
And looked at the boy.
The boy I am in this with. The one I chose to be in this with. The one who promised to muddle through all my stuff. The one who I promised to muddle through all his stuff with.
And I started from there.
I wish people would talk about it more. About this day in and day out crazy hard thing that is committing to a life spent with another human. I’d like to be able to talk about it without getting sad eyes or a copy of Love & Respect.
I feel as though the posts I read about marriage all end in a slow dance or a heartfelt apology punctuated with a meaningful Scripture reference. And that is just lovely, but there are couples out there who go to bed angry sometimes (Heavens! Even Christian people!). And I’d like to know I’m not alone.
So that’s why I’m pulling back the curtain a bit. Away from the highlight reel that is MASH. Away from the Facebook stream that plays out exactly like my old childhood game: kids, vacation, career and house. Because though I love my husband more than anything, marriage is damned hard sometimes.
And that’s OK. It’s actually irritatingly normal.
I’m ever-so-slowly learning that when it gets damned hard, it’s time to take a time out from MASH. Take a look at the boy. And just stay there a while.