Forever After

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). img_6566

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.

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Pain Collectors

“That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.”
– John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

We all have it. Sometimes it’s public. Sometimes it’s private. Some people deny it. Others shine it. One day you give. The other receive. Pain lives on the edges of our picture frames and in the crevices of our dusty bookshelves. It’s old, it’s new, it’s a moment, it’s forever.

Pain is inevitable.

It isn’t something that graciously passes some people by while eviscerating everyone else. Sure there are varying levels and varying situations, but pain is pain. No matter the trigger behind it. Let me repeat: pain is pain.  

 
The internet can be such a wonderful tool. It has so many useful purposes, outlets, and connections. It can bring complete strangers together and form incredible bonds of friendship based solely on the mutual love of reading. It can raise support for children fighting cancer. It can help a family devastated by a natural disaster. It can heal.

But it can also kill. And it doesn’t kill quietly. It rages war.

I’m very cautious in using the internet to share the really delicate parts of me. The ones that need to be handled with care because I’m afraid of being shut down. I share them with the people I know and trust in the flesh who will love on me and remind me that whatever I’m going through is important. It’s important because I’m important. And it doesn’t need to be compared to someone else’s pain. Because pain is pain. 

But some of us have a problem with collecting it.

We go through something tragic, something monumental and it changes us. Pain changes us. And that’s ok. Change is good. Pain can ultimately be good. It grows us. Shapes up. And usually allows us to understand the pain of others with a greater sense of intimacy and delicacy.

But somewhere, in all of that tragedy, we’ve started to collect our pain–a row of gold statues that we shine, dust, rearrange so they are just perfect, and stare at for hours on end. We place our pain on the best shelf, with the best view, so everyone can see it. But not because we want you to journey with us through our pain but because we want to say,

“Mine. Mine. Mine. My collection is bigger and better and more painful than your own.”

And it’s not. The only real truth about pain is that it’s different. Yes, there might be a distinct level of minor pain vs major pain when we talk about the physical body, but I’m not trying to compare a paper cut to brain surgery. I’m talking about life pain. The whole of our days. The sum of our years. The pain we carry in our souls–emotional, yes– but it can be physical, too.

I was reading a blog post the other day by a dear friend of mine who is finally seeing the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Months and months of pain that have finally led her to a new journey of restoration. I ventured into the comments section to read about the women who had been encouraged by what she wrote and to be filled with their hope. And that’s when I found a pain collector.

Now, I don’t believe this person meant any harm in her comment. I truly believe she too just wants her pain to be acknowledged. For someone to come alongside her and hold her. Validate her. Tell her, “Yes, yes. I hear you. This is hard stuff. This is painful. I’ll help you.” But the delivery of that pain translated into–my pain is worse than yours.

The situation looked like this… A woman was lamenting about the struggle she’s had in mothering–trying to keep her head above water while being surrounded by her ocean of littles. And then came a response comment from another woman… Try being a single parent. It doesn’t get harder than doing it on your own.

Do you see where I am going with this? That mother of littles can’t try being a single mother. She isn’t one. All she knows is that her days are hard according to what she’s accustomed to handling. You know who steps in after that single mom comment if we keep collecting our pain instead of learning from it?

The mom with no kids.
The mom with infertility.
The mom who isn’t a mom, but prays, wishes, and dreams about it every single moment of her existence.

And then you know who steps in after the mom with no kids? The single woman in her thirties who is home alone on a Friday night because she’s tired of the bar scene. She’s tired of e-harmony never panning out. She’s tired of putting herself out there to only discover she can’t find someone to share her forever with. She’s tired, but her exhaustion isn’t from a house full of kids and a husband who is disgruntled from work. So is her pain any less valuable? Is her loneliness any less important?

We’ve all collected our own pain. We’ve all made these comments where we try and one up someone’s situation because we think our own is worse. And it’s not. No matter the situation your pain is not worse than someone else’s. It’s just different. Pain is pain.

We need to start thinking before we speak. Question our words and the intentions behind them before assuming that what we’ve got going on is more painful than someone else. If pain demands to be felt than it also demands to be processed. Everyone deserves to feel what they are going through and to share that with those they love.

We need to stop collecting the pain and start learning from it. Pain is constant. Allow the world around you to feel it. Allow yourself to feel it. And in that process help each other to heal. Don’t slap the pain of someone else with your own.

An adult who loses a parent should be loved upon and allowed to grieve as if still a child.
A mother of one should be supported in her trials as much as the mother of five.
A child with a drunk father should be fretted upon as the child with none.

Pain is pain. And all pain demands to be felt.

 

Broken Together

976656_669110616438080_1721945091_oNine years and four days ago I was unpacking plaid boxers and folding them neatly into an empty dresser. This empty dresser was situated in an empty apartment, with empty kitchen cabinets, bare floors, and blank walls. Hector and I were slowly starting to move things into our first place together and I was giddy with excitement. He was about to become my husband and for some crazy reason being allowed to fold and put away his underwear thrilled me. Probably for two reasons 1) We had never lived together before thus leading into 2) We had never slept together. In honest truth we hadn’t even seen each other naked.

I know. I know. CrAZy. INSANE. Unbelievable. 

But alas, there I was folding the plaids, the stripes, and the ones with tiny little men lifting weights feeling a bit high. It wasn’t even about the sex (although of course that was on my mind–I am human), but it was really more about the togetherness. The not having to say goodbye at night and getting to place our toothbrushes in the same cabinet togetherness. The sleeping in the same bed, sharing the same laundry basket, and buying groceries together. I was completely and utterly enthralled by the sheer thought that I would get to wake up and he’d just be there. Sleeping right next to me.

It was one of those moments that I’ll never forget–a picture imprinted in my memory–my surroundings, the smells, the light streaming in from the bedroom window. It was when I became fully aware of the life-altering role I was embarking upon–becoming his wife.

Fast forward nine years and I’m still folding his boxers. Thankfully most of those have found their way into the trash, but I did keep those ones with the tiny little weight lifters. I wear them to bed every so often. They help remind me: about that moment, our innocence, and the joy we felt about getting married. They are, oddly enough, a very powerful pair of underwear. Continue reading “Broken Together”