I’ve often said that my marriage is stronger because of how different Brad and I are. We approach problems differently, express emotions differently, deal with stress differently, exist differently.
That’s never bothered me. In fact, I used to think it remarkable. I used to think that our differences made us a stronger, more well-rounded team.
Tonight, our differences are bothering me. Tonight, I’m worried about our splits in opinion. The core of it is this: I am near-sighted, and Brad is far-sighted.
I see things in the present, what’s in front of me and little else. I’m aware of conversations, in tune with subtle emotion and what’s left unsaid. I know when it’s time to cook dinner, when the dogs need exercise, when I need to go to bed.
Brad knows those things, too, but his focus is bigger. The forest not the trees. The world from 10,000 feet. He sees return on investment, long-term effects, end results. Those words barely register in my vernacular.
Whereas I’m content to do what feels right when it feels right, Brad rarely lets himself be comfortable, rest, be still. Rather than sitting down to read a book – which wouldn’t be helping the team – Brad’s constantly in motion: shoveling snow, chopping wood, raking leaves, changing oil, building fires, picking up the fruit that’s fallen off our trees. He’s always preparing for something. I never give something up in the short term in order to have a reward in the end. I demand my rewards immediately, and if that can’t happen, I lose interest and move on.
This disparity between Brad and I is most obvious in our climbing. I tend to “project” routes that aren’t very hard for me, favoring fast results over determined effort. If I have to try hard, if I have to be uncomfortable, I give up, declaring the route too hard, myself too weak. Brad, though, couldn’t be more different. He doesn’t mind suffering in the short term (I actually thinks he enjoys it) in order to achieve a goal he’s set for himself. He tries hard all the time. He climbs through pain and discomfort and fatigue and bad weather. He never gives up on a project.
And the thing is, he always has a goal – climbing and otherwise. I’m content to make plans one weekend in advance (plans that will probably change because I have been growing increasingly awful at keeping dates, even for things I enjoy), but Brad knows exactly what he’s doing every weekend for the next three months. He has logistics worked out and partners lined up; he never cancels or bails.
Here’s what you should know: I’m not resentful of Brad. I’m not bitter, even though I probably sound like I am. Rather, I’m awestruck. While Brad knows where he’s going and what he’s doing and what’s going to come next, I’m cowering in the present, terrified every time my phone rings that it’s going to be news so bad that my world will stop, that whatever was holding it up will crash down on me so fast I won’t even have time to take a deep breath.
And that’s it. That’s why I don’t plan, why I don’t set goals. Because what if something goes wrong? What if I can’t achieve them? What then?
And this is why I’m good at lots of things but great at nothing. I can’t commit, because I’ll never be good enough, and then I’ll have failed. And while I don’t necessarily enjoy the middle of the road, at least it feels safe here; at least it’s familiar territory. To stick my neck out, to drop my gloves and grit my teeth and fucking TRY, well, I don’t know what that would yield, where it would leave me, who I’d be then.
We have a group of friends who are “Brads.” These people try as hard as they can all the time, whether they’re climbing or skiing or deciding what to have for breakfast. They’re uber-cerebral, always thinking ahead, laser-focused and they fucking terrify me. I love them, they’re the kindest people in the world, but being in the presence of such tenacity, such do-or-die, such intensity leaves me completely exhausted, feeling inferior and like an outsider. It makes me feel like maybe Brad and I are all wrong for each other.
And I worry, sometimes, that Brad has the same reaction when he’s around “Katies.” How does he feel when he’s around people who are content to just climb with no real purpose? Who aren’t necessarily trying as hard as they can at all times? Who aren’t sure what their goals for 2008 are…people who are near-sighted, like me.