I am thrilled to have joined my dear friend Aidan in her year-long exploration of presence. We are pursuing our Here Year side by side, with lots of conversations both macro and micro happening and hopefully another Twitter chat soon. Each month has a specific focus. April was home, and May was parenthood. June, I’m happy to announce, we will train our lenses particularly on marriage.
If you read this blog you know this is a topic I don’t address very often. I am very comfortable being vulnerable about many things and sharing a lot of my personal experience. I have, however, drawn boundaries around certain areas of my life that I won’t discuss. One of those is my marriage. I talk about Matt twice a year, on his birthday and on our anniversary. Other than that, I don’t talk much about him or our relationship.
Well, for this month, for today, that changes. We were married almost 14 years ago, on a day that held full sunshine, startling blue sky, torrential rain, and thunder so loud we had to pause in our vows. In short, September 9 2000 was a preview of what lay ahead. Our life together since that day when we stood surrounded by those we love most, blue hydrangeas and yellow roses, and words from Cavafy and The Book of Qualities has contained plenty of sunshine as well as rain.
During our engagement, I admit I was mystified by the incredible focus on The Wedding. I was far more interested in The Marriage. And I still am. I almost didn’t put the picture from our wedding on this post, actually, for that reason. Weddings have very little to do with Marriages, after all. Though I’ve noted before that certain things that marked that day – the weather, for one, as well as the songs we danced to and our readings – seem to have been almost eerie harbingers of what was to come.
But that’s not my focus today, nor this month, nor really ever. When it comes to marriage, at almost 14 years in, what strikes me the most is how it’s both exactly what I expected and not at all what I imagined. Last year, I wrote this, and several people told me I wasn’t romantic.
Thirty eight is thirteen years of marriage. It is knowing all the ways that marriage is both less and more than I thought it was, when I walked into a church wearing white and hearing thunder. Less score-keeping, less candlelight, less drama. More small acts of kindness, more forgiveness, more abiding. Fewer flowers, but more cups of coffee made exactly how I like them, without being asked, brought to me in bed in the morning.
The thing is, I feel like what I described is enormously romantic. I think marriage is about abiding. It is about remaining near. It is about listening and paying attention and biting my tongue when I need to (not easy for me) and celebrating achievements big and small. It is about focusing outside of myself, and recognizing the richness that surrounds me every day.
All of these things are improved for me when I am here. How can I be more here, in my marriage in particular?
I can be guilty of not particularly wanting to listen, at the end of a long day, when I’m spent from work and the children, and I know that’s something specific I have to work on. I’m ambivalent about the whole “date night” concept and frankly dislike that term, but I do know that engaging in adult conversation and being together in a non-passive way is important for a marriage. I can work on not providing “feedback” when it is not productive. These are just a few of the many things I need to do more of.
So, here we go … I will be experimenting with these specifics and with others throughout this month.
What are your thoughts on marriage, presence, and how they interact? Are there things you know you need to do better?