“Just as people might assume that the period of eight years or so since I wrote the last book has been a period of diminishment, so might they assume that the same holds true for my married life, and that as I have become enfeebled, my marriage has become encumbered. But, in fact, it has been a time of enlightenment that has led to tremendous enrichment. Much of what has gone so right in the last twenty years had to do with how what has gone wrong has been mitigated by our relationship, our partnership, our friendship, and in a broader sense, the possibility of a marriage done right. Parkinson’s is always putting me in a box and Tracy has become an expert at folding back the flaps, tipping it over, and easing me out.” Always Looking Up Michael J. Fox
when our guests arrived at our reception and found their place at the two long wooden tables, they found a small card with the quote above and a note that said a donation had been to the michael j. fox foundation in their honor. ryan & i read "always looking up" while we were long distance dating, both of us had highlighted that quote as a profound picture of marriage. a friend had it written in calligraphy as a wedding gift; it's hung in our house since then. i've read it countless times.
as we approached this anniversary, i found myself thinking that we will look back on this year as one of the really pivotal ones in our marriage. where we say -- that's where this was forged. where it was learned. where we dug in and we learned to love each other better. and so that quote rings more true to me than ever. i love that idea of a marriage done right. not perfectly, by any stretch, but right. to say -- 'you know, we've made something of this.' something that's worthy of acknowledging.
i rarely hear people name what's going right in their marriage. what is beautiful and true about that bond. i'm not trying to skirt around the pain or hardness in marriage -- we need to talk about that, to acknowledge it. but it seems like it's far less likely we'll ever say out loud what's going well. perhaps because it feels like bragging or rubbing happiness in the faces of friends who are single or in unhappy marriages. before i met ryan i was was there, in those hard places. and while yes, it was comforting to know i wasn't alone and that others had been there too, what i was deeply longing for, was to know that marriage could go right. knowing it could require worthy hard work, but not always be hard or painful. i wished people would tell small and big stories about how their marriage had been a great provision. how their ordinary lives had contained a love worth acknowledging.
i especially love the idea of marriage mitigating what goes wrong in life -- that your spouse alone had the power to make life more bearable. i have seen beautiful examples of this in my own marriage to ryan, but also the marriages of some of my dearest friends. this year, more than any other so far, i had friends face really painful life events. i saw many of their marriages rally beautifully in those moments. i saw how a loving spouse knew best how to comfort, how to love, how to carry that person through. i saw how that bond deepened. in february we were spending the weekend at the house of a dear friend, who had endured more in one year than any one person should have to bear. at one point i looked over and she and her husband werelaughing and kissing in the kitchen. as we all sat down to dinner, her husband delivered the most beautiful toast to my friend -- about her strength to endure. all this to say, i want to hear more of those stories, i want to know more of them exist, to be inspired by them.
the idea of some of the work of marriage being folding back the flaps of the box you find your spouse in, tipping it over, and easing them out is so visual for me. on our wedding day, i embraced this idea, i thought i "got it" -- that i could guess what ryan's "boxes" were (not all are as concrete as parkinson's -- in my mind, it can be anything that's a struggle); that i was pretty good at easing him out. when i look back on that first year of marriage it's clear that at best, i knew about 10 percent of ryan's “boxes” and i was pretty terrible at getting him out of them. picture me picking up the box, tipping it over, but when he didn’t come out, i would shaking it up, kick the box a few times (gently) and wonder why he hadn’t come out yet. i had a lot to learn. i’m sure most of you were probably much better. i by no means have it all figured out now, but i've come to appreciate how different his "boxes" are from mine, to not resent them, or hope they would just disappear. i've come to see them as an essential part of who he is.
ryan has always known mine well -- it was what made me fall in love with him & feel safe with him. in that first year of marriage, he was closer to knowing 75 percent and much better at easing me out. as i think about what has been so pivotal about this year of marriage, it's that we've been so relentlessly focused on loving each other through the hard things. on reminding the other person what they're good at, how they carry the team, what we're grateful for. and in the harder moments, being that current of reassurance, taking each other's unnecessary burdens, saying aloud, once again, that we're here for the long haul. we've found each other funnier and laughed harder. we've listened better. we've forgiven quicker.
i was talking with a friend about one of my go-to "boxes," which is hard to specifically define, but let's call it enthusiasm/intensity -- which can be good and bad for me. i have it in spades. what i've realized is that for my very low key, unflappable, calm husband, it's one of the things he loves most about me. that's often hard for me to imagine. it's easy to think he probablylongs for me to just slow down a bit. but instead, after 6 years of marriage, i am learning he loves the way i tell stories with an absurd amount of adjectives and hand gestures, that i tackle a to-do list like my life depends on it, that i can make something fairly simple into an a force of nature. what he is really, really good at -- is appreciating my intensity, because it is a huge part of who i am, but also seeing when it's going to wear me down, when it's unsustainable, and gently helping me slow down. i have calmed (a bit) since i married him, but the goal is not to get rid of that "box", he wouldn't want that.
i'm going to end this with my favorite quote about marriage -- which i will read at every rehearsal dinner i'm invited to from here on out:
“It all matters. That someone turns out the lamp, picks up the windblown wrapper, says hello to the invalid, pays at the unattended lot, listens to the repeated tale, folds the abandoned laundry, plays the game fairly, tells the story honestly, acknowledges help, gives credit, says good night, resists temptation, wipes the counter, waits at the yellow, makes the bed, tips the maid, remembers the illness, congratulates the victor, accepts the consequences, takes a stand, steps up, offers a hand, goes first, goes last, chooses the small portion, teaches the child, tends to the dying, comforts the grieving, removes the splinter, wipes the tear, directs the lost, touches the lonely, is the whole thing. What is most beautiful, is least acknowledged. What is worth dying for is barely noticed." Laura McBride "We Are Called to Rise"
here are some of the other posts i've written on our first, second, third, fourth & fifth year of marriage, practical things we did during the first deployment for our marriage, a note to ryan, one of my favorite posts -- on our getting home ritual, a newlywed mini-date night, a post that still cracks me up about ryan's thoughts on my eyeliner one night & a short post on a card i gave him. oh, and here are a ton of our wedding photos!