Friday, May 12, 2017

10 Year Anniversary - A decade of life summed up in mere pages

I woke up this morning, rolling over to steal a glance at my husband before my eyelids fell shut again, murmuring "happy anniversary, babe." He seemed to wake almost instantly, pulling me into his arms and starting to kiss me. I smiled, remembering where we were 10 years ago today. 10 years ago I sat crying in our wedding suite bathroom, overwhelmed by the energy of the day, blaming my tears on a lost bag of perfectly planned out negliges, but truly bowing under the weight of the decision we'd just made: marriage.

circa 2007

We're in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico right now, "celebrating our anniversary." Anyone who knows us, or knows that tidbit of information always responds with "happy anniversary!" I think, what we're really marking and noting, celebrating and acknowledging is that it's been 10 years full of life, and not all of it as idyllic as it might seem from a few social media posts of two lovers in paradise.

I remember when I first met my husband, vividly. And I remember talking with college girlfriends who would ask "do you have butterflies?" and I always shrugged and said, "not really, I'm not a butterfly sort of girl." I learned early on in life that feelings are like a buoy in the sea - they're a marker and so important, but what really counts is what they're anchored in hundreds of meters below the surface, in the wet, dark mush.

The butterflies I did feel only once overwhelmed me, and they were more like bats flying out of a cave at dusk than a whimsical whirl of white wings on a grassy field - the moment we were pronounced (a word which will forever feel to me like a straight jacket of matrimony because it's only ever used otherwise in judgment or death) husband and wife. To this day I've only told a few souls that I nearly fainted in that moment, not with an overwhelming rush of joy, but with an deer in headlights thought of "what have we done?"

This is turning into the most depressing 10 year anniversary blog ever written. Hang in there.

When my husband and I were dating, we didn't say 'I love you' until the day we were engaged. We'd both had our fair share of relationships before one another, and felt in many ways, we didn't have much new to give each other. So, we saved those words with this expressed intent, "when I say 'i love you' I will always mean 'i choose you.'"

We've fallen back on that anchored meaning countless times. When the buoy of our lives has stretched as far away from it's anchor as possible, angled in such a way that if one were to dive straight down they'd hit only murk and no anchor, 'i love you' has pointed us to the anchor rather than the buoy. 'i love you' has pointed us to the choice rather than the feeling, and I'm so glad it has.

I recently posted the below picture of my husband and I with a quote from Kristen White; "I didn't fall in love with you. I walked into love with you, eyes wide open, choosing every step along the way."

Marriage, and really life, is a series of choices - dozens of them a day. And we watch for the big ones, and we oftentimes respond valiantly to the obvious, but the littles ones wear us down, catch us off guard, fatigue us with their monotony and ceaselessness. It's the habits unchecked, the wound brushed away from consciousness that settles itself in a corner to grow, the dream constantly scribbled as item #3 on the priority list while many others rise past it to top attention. It's the addictions that flare occasionally and are beat back by sheer will power, the temper that flares when almost no one is looking, the pedicure that scrubs of callouses and peels back the veneer on a thinly wrapped monster disagreement on time, money, self-care.

But it's also the choice to turn towards instead of away, to listen instead of shout back, to look into their eyes instead of at the wall, to not always fix it but sometimes just look at it without flinching until you stand on the same side of the problem instead of across it. It's the choice to own your contributions, needs, perspective, and beliefs; and the willingness to let them shift in various seasons. It's the choice to say thank you, even for the tiniest thing, even when it seems the action or gift was owed or obvious, which we seem to think warrants less gratitude. It's the choice to measure the weapon-words before they fly off the tongue, speaking them instead to a trusted friend who will capture their fire with compassion and turn it into a candle to bring a more gentle light to a spot of darkness.

On some days, love is a feeling, the kind we read about and see depicted in everything from commercials to films to music to novels. But I'm glad I didn't sink my teeth into that feeling as the health metric for our marriage, because the absence of that feeling would then necessitate distress and worry. And, with a decade of this behind me, I can say that absence is inevitable. I'm grateful I never thought of that absence as a threat, but as a season, and at times as a sign there was more work to be done. I'm glad that feeling is a buoy - a sign, to be paid attention to, but held down firmly in the wet mush of choice.

I don't know what the next ten years will hold, the older I get the more heartache there seems to be swirling around me, and the more opportunities for savoring the joy and the beauty. I don't know who I will be, or who my spouse will be in ten years - we are vastly different now than we were when we met just breaths past adolescence. But I know choice, I know 'i love you' will always carry two meanings, and that we'll keep turning our face towards.

This isn't meant to say we have it all figured out, we definitely don't. This isn't meant to say I'm confident I'm past the moments I want to quit; I'm fairly certain there are more of those to come. This isn't meant to say that if you'd just tried harder your marriage would be better, or even be. If anything, I hope you hear, in the midst of whatever struggle you're in or have been in, "it is hard. it is work." But I also hope you hear, "it is sweet. it is worthwhile. it is a choice, my choice."

and choice is refreshed as frequently as we take breath.

So today, on our 10 year anniversary, I celebrate choice with an unflinching gaze on the last decade - the losses and the gains, the challenges we overcame and the ones we lost, the pain and the beauty, the sure-footed steps and the careless ones that cost us or others, the dreams we set aside and the new ones we discovered. I honor hard work, not just ours, but our children's, our families, our friends, our communities' - whose hard work has piled rocks on our anchor, settling it stronger for what may come. I cherish tenderness in the face of pain, gentleness in the face of anger, strength in the face of fear, and laughter in the face of struggle.

Almost ten years ago, weeks after our own wedding, we wrote a song for my sister-in-law's wedding. The chorus simply said:

I choose love, the time is now
we're starting out, though I don't know how
we'll walk this road that we cannot see

but when the winds grow cold
and the sky grows dim
when the sea lies still
I'll remember then
that right now
I chose love

Happy Anniversary, my love. I love you.

circa 2 days ago

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