Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Thoughts on Thirteen

Today is our 13th wedding anniversary.  We spent it working and then at Jacob's last baseball game of the season.  Our dinner consisted of post-game ice cream and milkshakes.  Definitely not what I would have pictured 13 years ago tonight if you would have asked me at our wedding how I thought we'd be spending this anniversary, but I suppose it shouldn't have surprised me, knowing we probably had youth sports somewhere in our future!  However, I probably would have been relieved that we had a child to watch, because that would have meant I survived labor and delivery, among other things!  But yeah, tonight was a long way from our wedding reception, or even the romantic dinners of our early marriage.  Eight years ago yesterday we brought Jacob home from the hospital, so that year wasn't too romantic either.  We've been a bit hit-or-miss on romantic anniversaries since then, but usually we find a way to celebrate somehow, even if it's not on the actual day.

But it's pretty amazing to think back over 13 years.  We've been through a lot, particularly with parenthood.  We had five whole years to ourselves prior to kids, and sometimes it's hard to remember what that was like.  Even life with one kid is hard to remember.  I'd love to say that we're one of those couples who grew closer upon having kids, but I don't totally feel like that's the case.  Perhaps we have in the same way that battle-tested soldiers do, as only we know all that we've been through as parents, but it's not necessarily the ooey-gooey, passionate love that I feel like some people discover.  I'm honestly not sure we ever had a real disagreement prior to kids, but our differences have certainly come to light over the past eight years.  Those differences don't always make things easy, but trust me when I say we're still going strong.  We're strong in spite of those differences, rather than because of them, but our commitment has still never wavered.  We're both in it for the long haul.  Appropriate, then, that this was our first dance song.

I used to wonder what people meant when they said marriage is hard work, and obviously now I get it.  It takes time and effort to maintain a marriage and nurture it as it gets "older".  With two kids who are constantly up in our space and interrupting every conversation, it's not always easy to connect the way we'd like.  There are always sore spots or perceived injustices to get past, or at the very least, extreme tiredness and busyness.  We dream of going off on our own and spending time alone together, but it's complicated for so many reasons.  We're looking forward to a day together on Friday, and I have no doubt we will appreciate that time to reconnect.

Earlier today I caught myself looking at my wedding ring and thinking back to when it was this new novelty.  I could barely take my eyes off it.  I often look at my wedding ring like a metaphor for marriage.  When I first got it, it was this bright, sparkling ring.  Over the years it's gotten a few little dings, but it's still gorgeous regardless.  Over time, though, it tends to get a bit dingy.  It's still pretty and sparkly to the naked eye, but if you look close, it gets grimy and not as brilliant as usual.  You'd think it would stay clean as I shower every day and wash my hands constantly, but the wear and tear of every day life gradually leaves a layer of grime behind.  While it looks fine from a distance, it's not as great as it could be.  It takes an intentional, intense cleaning to restore its original luster, and then it shines as bright as ever.  Marriage is the same way.  If you're not careful, the daily grind can take its toll.  Suddenly it's not as bright and shiny as it once was.  But with some work and intentional effort, it can be great again.  While I would like more opportunities than we have to do just that, we make it work.  It's like that blog post that I think I posted the link to here a while back--where the wife asked her husband to wait out this challenging time with her until they could get a chance to reconnect again.  The love is still there, it's just buried under tons of life stress sometimes.

I hope this post isn't a downer.  Like I said, we're still good.  It's just a sharp contrast on this day in particular, where 13 years ago we were starry-eyed and had our whole lives in front of us.  Reality isn't always pretty or easy, but part of marriage is figuring out how to navigate through it.  We're doing that.  Not perfectly, mind you, but we're finding our way, one day at a time.  You find out that the fancy dinners and romantic gestures are simultaneously more important and less important.  Or perhaps...more important but less necessary.  We know the love is there and it's important to demonstrate it because the reminder is more important than ever--sometimes the only bright light in a dark night.  But because we know the love is always there, even if those special moments don't happen, we still know the other is all in.  It's like that episode of Friends where Chandler and Monica have their first fight, and Chandler thinks that spells the end of their relationship--not because that's what he wants, but because that's what he's used to.  But he finds out that real love means sticking with it despite the disagreement.  When you love someone, you know that a disagreement is just a bump, not a cliff.

Thirteen years have given me a lot of perspective.  We've both learned a lot, about each other, about marriage, and about parenthood.  We are wiser than our thirteen-year-younger selves.  We are also more tired and less carefree.  Our waistlines are bigger and our quality time is smaller.  But we're still in love and still willing to go into battle together every day.  We don't always agree on the plan of action, but life is still a constant learning experience, so we'll keep working on it.  But I feel lucky to have a husband who loves me and our kids so much, one who just wants all of us to be happy.  Thirteen years later I miss our carefree selves, but we've built something very special in return.  Happy Anniversary, Craig.  It's been one heck of a journey so far, and despite the ups, downs, and everything in between, I'm happy you're my travel partner.  I love you :)

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