July 2nd, 2015
I lay in bed the eve of my 49th birthday, waiting for the inevitable. In our house, birthdays and New Years are synonymous with sex. The concept started as a joke, but as the years have gone on, the joke has become an expectation. I lay there, trying to clear my mind of the myriad of thoughts racing around so I could “get in the mood,” and I grew contemplative. This didn’t bode well for my husband, but I couldn’t help reflecting back on younger days when sex was new, exhilarating, and the goal was to have sex as often and as creatively as possible. A time when hormones raged, emotions ran deep, insecurities ran high, and sex exploded like fireworks. Brilliant colors, fleeting sensations that faded as quickly as they erupted. We crescendoed higher, seeking fulfillment, swelling, until we combusted, and then instantly drifting back to earth, our embers burning out.
Perhaps it was the experience itself that destroyed the urgency. Experience expunged naivete and with it, a sense of newness and adventure disappeared. Time moved on and we learned that intensity couldn’t be sustained without charring ourselves or scorching our souls. Bits and pieces of wisdom tempered our wild abandon and while our explosions may not have soared as high or burned as hot, we began to notice the vibrancy of the colors we created. We understood the depth of color outshone the heat and the brightness.
We entered into circles of eternity, pledging our lives and fidelity, and for a brief moment, we burned brighter and perhaps even hotter in the novelty of our commitment. We admired our explosions, compared them to our previous endeavors, and patted ourselves on the back for realizing that love and sex were not strictly about the intensity of the moment, but also understanding the richness of hue and depth of character we’d created through our pledge.
I lay in bed last night, the eve of my 49th birthday, thinking about all of this, and as a writer I cringed at the cliche of comparing sex to fireworks, yet, the comparison worked, at least until kids came along. Dirty diapers, nursing babies, crying toddlers, and the constant touching, needing, wanting, and demanding made the idea of climbing into bed at night and having someone else touching, needing, wanting, and demanding, a very unpleasant thought. Sex became a chore. The only time fireworks were evident was when grandma broke down and took the kids for a night, or if Independence Day was in fact the 4th of July.
I remember those years. They weren’t all that long ago, and even though the kids are older and no longer need that 24/7 vigilant care, the layers of life still impede that earlier exuberance. Cliches and stereotypes come about because of the inherent truth in them. “Honey, I’m going to bed” for my husband means he’s walking down the hallway and going to sleep. The window of intimate opportunity is about thirty seconds. “Honey, I’m going to bed” for me means after I take out the trash, and put the rest of the dishes in the dishwasher, I have to check on the kids and make sure they’re tucked in and all devices are turned off. Of course during the tucking and checking I find out gym clothes need to be washed, tonight, and my son’s project, which he had a month to do, is due in two days. By the time I make it down the hall to my room, I hear snores emitting from the lump on the other side of the bed and my mind is making lists, and the window for intimate opportunity is nailed shut.
But there are those moments when I look at my husband and I see all of our years together, each layer of our existence intertwined, and I feel each pang and drop of sweat achieved from our collective and personal growth. I feel the intensity of our fireworks, the years of parenting, the stress of work, the weight of loss, the worry of uncertainty, the acceptance of one another, and the hope for tomorrow.
When I close my eyes and shut off the constant stream of mind babble, I see my husband, but not just who he is today. I see all of the hims I’ve known. His 36 year old self, 37, 38, 39…55 all nested inside one another like a Russian doll, and each passing year the importance of him, the depth of his presence in my life, has grown. A warmth that started in my heart has seeped into my soul. There is no spark, no big bang, and most importantly, no burn out, just a steady heat that encompasses me, warming me everywhere.
I remember those moments in my youth when the goal of sex was to have it as often and as creatively as possible. I remember the heat and the intensity, how quickly it came and how fast it burnt out. I must admit, none of those memories hold a candle to 49. Nothing can replace experience. Nothing can replace acceptance of self or the layers of a shared existence, a life intertwined with another, or the intimacy gained by exposing your soul to your partner and having it cherished. Fireworks are nice to look at, but I prefer the heat produced when two lives fuse.
I lay in bed, the eve of my 49th birthday, thinking about sex and laughed. Why was I wasting my time thinking?
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