That was a helluva lunch break...
Yesterday, my husband and I celebrated the anniversary of our marriage. Nine years ago, on a Monday, on my lunch break, we stood in front of a judge and told each other (and our two witnesses that we will never see again) that we would stand by one another’s side through it all: sickness and health, joy and sorrow and all the other good stuff they make you say. If I’m honest with you, I didn’t give these words the thought one might give when deciding to spend the rest of their life with another person. I was deeply in love. I saw this man as someone that would bring me only joy and unconditional love. I couldn’t imagine pain or hardship at all by his side. I was the kind of “in love” where you feel it in your bones; so deeply it hurts. I would have jumped into a pit of snakes with him if you’d asked me to. That’s how our brains work sometimes, ya know? They protect us from things when they need to. We can't see all the hard stuff all the time, or we would stand frozen in fear our entire lives. Nevertheless, I said the words. I told him I would be there through all of it. We finished reciting our vows, and I headed back to my cubicle and my spreadsheets, and he took off for training for a few months. No fancy hotel suite to celebrate our newborn future together, but rather a few months apart to really think about what we had just done.
This was the very beginning the pattern that would shape our marriage: Zack leaves, I stay. Here’s where those vows kick in, huh? Time passed, and our love changed. This deep intoxication faded into a comfort that I can’t describe, like my favorite gray tee shirt that makes me feel sexy and comfortable at the same time, the fabric of it bringing joy to my skin every time I slip it on. When we were together, everything felt better. Him leaving never changed anything. It was hard. I was lonely. But I learned to rely less on him for my own happiness. I learned what he needed to feel connected from thousands of miles apart, as well as how to ask for what I needed (still workin on that!). I learned how to fight (and make up) with someone with a 9 hour time difference. Hard shit.
In nine years, we have seen too many deployments and separations to count, a few brain injuries, deaths of loved ones, a whole lot of hospital time, self-discovery, growth, laughter and pain. The vows we said should probably have said “Do you promise to be open to the idea that this person might be a completely different person in ten years, and support them in that growth?”. Both of us have grown and changed into almost completely different people than we were when we walked into that courthouse. I've seen him be tested more times than I can count, and take every test as an opportunity to learn and grow.
When we started dating, some might have argued that he was not ready to take me and my four year old daughter on. The dude had a blow-up doll floating in his pool, for God’s sake. He would be stepping away from a whole lot of partying to go to the kids museum instead. Despite this, he dove headfirst into our life, finding joy in caring for me and learning how to be a dad to this headstrong little lady. He chose bedtime stories over bars, and I will never ever forget that. Now I see the man he’s grown into and am blown away. Life hasn’t been easy for him at all, but he views these experiences as part of a bigger “cool story” he has to share now. He’s so open to looking at life differently now, seeing that we are on a pretty amazing path, even when it feels like an absolute shit storm.
I’ve thrown some weird stuff his way along the way and he’s never batted an eye. I could tell this man I want to join a nudist colony and he would support me. I have a lot of ideas, and he’s down for them all. I very often live in the clouds, and he reminds me to come back to Earth, look around and just enjoy what’s there.
I sometimes see people that view a wedding as a culmination event; this thing they are trying to “get to”. In reality, the wedding is just the start. It’s just the first day of a truly amazing, horribly hard and beautiful journey. We choose this person, cross our fingers and leap off the edge of the cliff. We hope that decades later, when we hit the ground, we look over, our eyes meeting, both of us smiling, saying “holy shit, that was a hell of a ride!”.
I don’t know what the next 9 years will hold; there’s no way any of us do. But what I do know is that today, I am better for having been his wife. I know that he loves me like no one else has or could, and that I will keep on trying to learn about who he is and what makes him tick. I know that there’s no one else I would rather have matching airbrushed tee shirts with, and ride on the back of a motorcycle with.
This morning, he rolled over to kiss me, throwing his arm over me and pulling me close to him. “What are you doing for lunch today?”, he said. Without a doubt, I would spend my lunch break marrying him all over again.