25 years ago I met my husband. I was 15 and he was 17. Today we celebrate our story. So let me start by telling one.
We are in Toronto for a quick visit with family. Whenever we are in town, my husband picks up his packages that are delivered to his parents’ house. Sometimes they are books from pals wanting him to check out an interesting read and sometimes they are samples from companies that want him to try out their products.
A few days ago he received a box and excitedly called me to come check out the contents. I was in the middle of prepping my lesson plan for the next class with my teen group. Although I was on a roll with my prep, I was mildly curious. I secretly hoped it was the latest solar array from Tesla. (A girl can dream can’t she?)
Needless to say it wasn’t a solar array. It also wasn’t a pile of productivity books, thank goodness. I really hate it when he gets those too.
Different sized packets and small bottles filled a box. I assume that they contained substances that were amazing for the human body. All I could hear was: “Protein…blah blah blah…hormones…blah blah blah…so good for this blah blah blah…”.
Then he pulled out this glass tube thing with some type of metal wire thing inside. I was used to some crazy contraptions he gets in the mail to test things and strange body analysis gadgets. He said, “Cool. Look?” And I said, “Dear Lord what is that? Does that go up your ass to insert, you know, like an enema?”
He laughed and said, “Babe, it’s a glass straw for the shakes with the wire brush to clean the straw!”
Cue laughing and me reminding him that he has friends who would appreciate his excitement more. But I love that he loves this and that he is always available and enthusiastic when I ask him random questions about ATP and mitochondria when I teach the kids biology.
I give him a kiss on the cheek and make my way back to what really gets me going – planning a lesson on early human history which include throwing some open-ended questions into the mix that would spark a lively discussion whether Rousseau or Hobbes got it right about human nature. (In the end it WAS a great lesson as the kids examined the two perspectives reflecting essentially what they thought of themselves.)
After the lesson, I told Chris about it – how this kid made this connection, and how this one totally had a mic drop, and how when I was researching the footnotes, I found something new in history about our early ancestors which I will use as a theme for an entire lesson. He listens, asks questions, and often ends with, “Oh God, my kids are smarter than me.”
This story pretty much sums up the secret to our marital bliss.
And so does this Mary Oliver quote:
What, indeed, is love if not the enmeshing of separate excitements?
The percentage of content in our conversations having to do with what is exciting us right now in our lives is very high. Seriously. We talk about what is making our hearts beat faster, what passions we are pursuing, and the cool people we have had a chance to connect with.
When we are responsible for our own separate excitements coupled with the feeling that the other is the first person we want to share it with, we achieve the perfect amount of tension and relaxation.
It’s a tricky dance – what the poet and philosopher Khalil Gibran calls “spaces in our togetherness.” We spent decades fused together where we lost our identities in each other. He was my Mac to my cheese – a most unhealthy and codependent relationship.
Other times, although we lived in the same house, and had baby after baby together, it felt like we were universes apart without wanting to close the gap for two reasons:
1) We would make another baby.
2) We just didn’t have the energy to maintain a relationship.
After 25 years, we have hit our stride.
He is the person I want to share what I am most excited about and vice versa. What we both love is simply seeing each other living life to its fullest with collosal failures, difficult conversations, and having the courage to try again every damn day.
We don’t get excited about the same things. Every morning, while in Toronto, he wakes up and asks me to go for a walk. I ask for the temperature outside and when he tells me, I laugh and pull the covers over my head.
Sometimes, like last night, we talk and talk and talk. Other times, one of us is in the mood and the other falls asleep. And sometimes we both pass out holding hands.
We are believers in the long game. With everything. And we trust each other enough that nothing is a rejection, that compassionate honesty (keyword is “compassionate”) breeds nothing but intimacy even if our egos get bruised and sometimes annihilated in the process. We are real with our own selves first so we have enough to be real with each other.
We still disagree but we don’t fight. There is no passive aggressive comments. If something sucks, we express it immediately. I will say, “What you just said fucking pissed me off” or for example, five minutes ago, he annoyed me mid-sentence and I stopped and took a deep breath and closed my eyes and gave him a look and he gave me a look acknowledging me and we resumed our conversation. Or if I piss him off, he leaves the room. Then when he returns, I gently touch his back, the most subtlest of white flags waved.
We don’t keep score anymore or hold on to anything for very long. It’s just not worth it and doesn’t serve us. We decided that we wanted to focus our energies on supporting each other instead of pointing out where we are most insecure and using it as ammunition.
We love our differences and we love the common ground we meet on each morning and each night – our choice to live slower so we can savor every moment and our choice to do it together.
This is my other favourite quote about marriage:
“The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”– Rainer Maria Rilke
I am not the girl you met 25 years ago. I am not the 19 year old girl you got pregnant. I am not the young woman you married in 2000 nor am I the baby-making machine of the 2000’s. I am not the crazy anxious lady that sobbed every time you left the house to work to support us because I couldn’t handle 1, 2, 3, 4, and then 5 young children on my own all day and sometimes all night when you needed to work extra hours. I am not the insecure woman that hated her body because it was transformed by a decade of child bearing and a decade of nursing. I am no longer the critic or the worrier that didn’t have faith and that expected the worst. I am not the wrathful dragon who simply had a case of stifled creativity. However, Lady Rage, the love-child of this destructive dragon with a peri-menopausal moon cycle will still rear her head from time to time.
Today, I am a middle-aged woman with graying hair and wider hips who has learned how to love every inch of herself. I am a woman who pulled away from the “we” so I could figure out the “me.” Instead of moving further way, you stayed put. You stayed and did your own work. You unpacked your own baggage before I returned. You taught me all about the long game when it comes to love and patience and trust.
I love you still.