I spend so much time doing other things that one could be excused for not believing I’m married. In fact, we have been pursuing this fidelity lark for 36 years. There have been long stretches of conventional living, spent raising kids, paying mortgages, and pursuing careers. However, we’ve never been inseparable, even though we prefer to do things together.
When my husband left for band practice on Thursday night, our houseguest asked me if I was going to go with him. That sort of surprised me, because I couldn’t imagine using my time like that. My husband helps me when I need help and vice-versa, but we each have our own work to pursue.
This week, he’s on the road and I’m home in Maine. When that happens, I exercise a vicious double standard. I can camp on the road somewhere and I’ll check in as soon as I have cell service. He’s just going to a Hyatt hotel in a large city, but he’d better call me when he gets there or I’ll squawk until he checks in.
One thing about not living in my partner’s pocket: when he asks for help, I jump. When he realized—in Freeport—that he’d forgotten something important, I changed my plans and met him to deliver it. Yes, I was doing something equally important at the time, but our special relationship dictates that he takes priority. That’s not a gender-role issue; he would do the same for me.
This meant I had to tell my friend Barb that there was a glitch in our plans to install The Usual Suspects: An Ongoing Investigation, opening on November 11 at Pop Up 265 in Augusta. She’s not feeling well and the delay made her very nervous. Still, we got the main structure in place by the time we ran out of steam, and I have to say, it looks nice.
I was helped by having no expectations or emotional engagement. I was seeing her idea for the first time and it was exciting. She just saw the ways in which it failed to meet her plan. If you’ve ever helped a friend clean, you know exactly what I mean. For you, it’s a lark; for your friend, it’s all wrapped up in emotion and ownership.
My husband has heard that exact same pessimism from me as he’s helped me frame work for shows. It’s almost impossible for artists to see the work of our hands objectively. My daughter Mary told me that every time I finished a painting on my Canadian trip, I announced to her that it wasn’t that good. I’ve learned to not share that initial discontent with the public, but it’s hard to keep it totally to oneself.
We only made one significant error hanging Barb’s panels (our initial spacing of the magnets). That was nothing short of miraculous, since the figures were intended to be evenly spaced around an old room with uneven walls and more than a few obstacles. If you’ve ever wallpapered in an old house, you’ll understand exactly what I mean.
In so many things, the learning lies in the doing. The best a teacher can do is steer you away from pitfalls. Often, your hard-won knowledge is task-specific, never to be used in that form again. But as it joins your sum total of knowledge, it informs you in new ways. Take those young-wife tasks of my misspent youth—wallpapering and sewing. Both helped me as I helped Barb.