Before Hector and I got married I had started writing letters to him in a journal. It was something a girlfriend of mine had recommended to me in order to capture my feelings towards him leading up to our wedding and also my more private thoughts in regards to *ahem* our wedding night (wink-wink).
Ten years later and we are still writing in it. There are some years here and there with few to no entries. The years where life sort of piled up and the days, while endless, blew away without much acknowledgement except that we survived. We made a good effort to sit down annually and write down goals for ourselves, for our marriage, and for our kids. We put them in the journal to then reflect on the following year and see which ones we made good on and which ones we didn’t.
Included are also letters of apology and passion, letters of friendship and forgiveness, and letters that encompass what it means to not give up on love. To not give up on each other.
Eliana, my eldest, asked me quite earnestly the other day if her papa and I were ever going to move away from one another. At first I didn’t quite understand her. But as she continued I realized she was asking me if we’d ever have separate houses because of divorce and while she has no clue what divorce is she’s understanding that the majority of her friends live with split households. And she’s wondering when it’s going to happen to her.
I got fairly quiet and pondered for a few moments how I wanted to respond. How I wanted to present our marriage and our commitment and the future in front of us. But also not placate her worried heart with fairytale romantic notions of endless joy and happiness because life is perfect if you only just believe!
But here’s the catch… No one gets married assuming they’ll get divorced. Because why commit to begin with knowing it’ll only end.
So I kept it simple and told her that papa and I are committed to not giving up on each other. That part of the decision in choosing who to marry isn’t just finding someone you love because loving is easy. It’s finding someone who you are willing to forgive. Someone who at their ugliest, even at your own expense or more so especially at your own expense, you can see through to their goodness. Their whole parts not just the broken bits.
Because when you love deep and true and monogamously there is no threshold for pain. Everything hurts when trust is broken.
Everything hurts when you are taken for granted.
Everything hurts when someone stops caring.
Because everything is given to the other. So even the smallest transgressions cause pain and doubt and fear and anger.
You love with your entirety. Heart. Soul. Mind. and Body.
That is marriage.
To give even when nothing is received and to trust even when we fear. We must wake up and look at the day and curse those around us who mean to come between us. Curse the things, the people, and the situations that mean to take what is not theirs. What does not belong nor will or should ever belong to them.
I know that every successful and longstanding marriage has shadows. Darkness settled in amongst the light. Sometimes the darkness is a living, breathing thing that must be battled daily. Other times it’s dormant–tucked away into the corners of buried emotions from our past. Sitting and waiting for an opportunity to be awakened, a slumbering dragon whose only desire is to breathe fire, burn, and destroy.
As we repeatedly choke on the ash.
But that is life. A consistent cycle of light and dark. Good and bad. Joy and pain. For even day turns to night over and over again. It never ends.
I had this whimsical idea of taking Christmas photos in my wedding dress with Hector in a suit and the girls all in fancy dresses. A way to commemorate our tenth anniversary and for us to reflect back on the years we’ve traveled. And all the little people we’ve made along the way. My expectations were to have my hair and makeup done. The girls cute and frilly and the backdrop an open field with the sun going down.
What I got was five minutes of my mother’s gracious time clicking away on my iPhone in front of our garage, where chalk drawings covered most of the floor, my hair three days unwashed and pulled back in a messy bun, Harley (our dog) refusing to not be included, and Eliana embracing her hatred towards all things photo related.
No sunset. No makeup. No gorgeous open field.
But guess what they turned out pretty darn great. They weren’t what I imagined. Not even close, but they are better than nothing. Better than just good enough. And in another twenty years when we celebrate thirty years we can look back and smile and be grateful we have the memory. And thankful that I did in fact still fit in my dress.
One of my favorite closing lines of a movie is from Ever After…
And, while Cinderella and her prince did live happily ever after, the point, gentlemen, is that they lived.
I am not hoping for a happily ever after in my marriage. But I am working towards a forever after. We started with a day, that we built into a year, that piled into a decade and we are just going to keep on repeating.
Love with your entirety. Heart. Soul. Mind. and Body. That is marriage.