The Road to Now

A few weeks ago, I snuck off with zero children to a coffee shop (ok, the Starbucks cafe at Target) and wrote. It’s a thing I do every once in a while, when the stars align and the boys are being good, and the baby naps early in the day, and I’m actually feeling like writing, and Brien has the time. He jokingly asked if I was going to write him a love letter. And I thought well, since the end of July marked our FIFTEENTH anniversary, I could try to pull something together.

I’m currently filling out this book for him, which was supposed to be a birthday present (February) and then an anniversary present (a month ago) and I justĀ finished it becauseĀ that’s a heck of a lot of things to come up with, no matter how much you love someone. But the questions in the book have really got me digging into my memories of us as a young couple, unmarried, in college. Then married. Then moving to California. Then having babies. Then buying a house and moving to Arizona. Then having another baby. And all the small things in between. It’s been quite a journey.

We have been through a hell of a lot together. Some really low times. And I mean LOW. Like, losing a baby to miscarriage low. Like me being in rehab low. Like me living a life that warranted a stay in rehab low. Like me getting a cancer diagnosis low. Like losing friends and family to horrible accidents and diseases low. Like weathering the storm of a special needs kid low. And we always, somehow, seem to come back together afterward, as strong as before, if not stronger.

Our first apartment was the size of our current dining room. I’m not even exaggerating. I dug up an old photo.

the old place

The only thing you can’t see here is the tiny kitchen to the right, with tiny, miniature appliances along the wall and no counter space. We spent our first year as a couple in this comically small apartment. We moved in together after only 5 months of dating. It was an insane decision, honestly, looking back. But, he had been subletting my apartment for me for the summer while I worked and lived at an amusement park a few hours away. At the end of the summer, I asked if he’d just like to stay. We felt really comfortable together and things were going well, so we moved in together. In a studio apartment. A tiny one.

We fought sometimes. All couples fight. But when we fought, it was either sit and deal with it and don’t go to bed until things are resolved, or truck your butt into the dark and the cold and the snow, and hope your car starts, and go who even knows where because we were both flat broke. So, sit and deal with it we did. I mean, I guess one could have holed oneself up in the 6 square foot bathroom if one wanted to, but not without looking ridiculous and getting a little claustrophobic.

I think that tiny apartment taught us a lot about relationships. About compromise. About resolving issues before they cause huge rifts. We have watched a lot of couples around us go their separate ways. And I know full well that sometimes a divorce really is what’s best for everyone involved. The statistics are pretty depressing, though, and I often wonder if we’ll be able to escape what feels inevitable. After 15 years, and a lot of bumps along the way, things still feel strong. Steadfast.

My love letter to him is just this: thank you for staying.

There have been plenty of opportunities for us to call it quits. I think neither of us could imagine getting by without the other. We have a very symbiotic relationship. But, things have been thrown in between us that were definitely difficult to move past.

He has seen me at my absolute worst. My lowest moments. I said and did a lot of horrible things when I was stuck in a slimy web of anxiety, depression, addiction and emotional baggage. But, he did not give up on me, and he did not leave me behind. He stayed. It was touch and go for a while, but he stayed. And for that I am forever grateful.

He has also been a great father to the three amazing children we created together. He’s always there to step in when I need help, or when I just need a break. There’s been zero reference to “babysitting” when he’s with them. He is their father. My co-parent. My partner in all things.

We are not perfect people. We have disagreements, petty and otherwise. We make mistakes. We still face problems and struggles. But I feel truly like we face them together. It has always been like that. Our relationship faced a lot of opposition in the beginning, but we stood there tall and proud and united, and now it’s been 15 years and I can’t imagine handling life any other way.

For everything you are, and everything you are not, I love you Brien. Here’s to the next 15.

wedding

Silk or Linen

When I look back at myself at 24, I see a naive, doe-eyed, Disney Princess of a child. So sure she had all the answers. So sure adulthood was going to be a breeze. So sure that there were no wrong life choices to be made. And somebody let me get married!

He was just as wide-eyed and princess-like as I was. And in the first few years of our marriage, it was more us clinging to each other for dear life than really embracing each other in holy matrimony. Adulthood came at us fast. And never quit.

Adulthood has changed us so deeply and in so many different ways. And in the past 5 years, our relationship has endured tests that many other couples don’t survive even one of. I don’t even know how we made it through the past year. Except that I do know.

Over the years, the clinging for dear life has turned to you support me now, I’ll support you later. With my husband doing so much of the supporting in recent years, but refusing to keep score. I look back at his patience, kindness and determination to see me happy, healthy and successful, and that’s how I know he really loves me.

Rather than turn and run when things got sad or hard or felt impossible, he stayed. I stayed. We faced it head on. Together. Twelve years doesn’t seem like enough years to house the lifetime we’ve lived together. I love you so much, Brien. Happy anniversary.

 

Thankful 2011

Every Thanksgiving, in both families, we all go around and say something we are thankful for. My responses are usually inane, thought of on the spot, and not really all that heartfelt. I’m thankful I didn’t get that cold Bowie had last week. I’m thankful our plane travel went smoothly. I’m thankful I get to eat this yummy food.

But this Thanksgiving season, I find myself thankful for things in a way I never have been before in my life.

For starters, we’re able to travel to Wisconsin this year, the first time in two years, for Thanksgiving festivities, which are a pretty big deal in both families. It’s always a hassle to travel that week, and quite expensive. Add a small child to the mix…it’s enough for even the most seasoned traveler to say, “forget it.” But, once we are there, it’s fantastic to see loved ones, stuff our faces with grub and feel the cold weather on our cheeks again, just so we remember why we love California so much.

And, I’m still really bummed about my miscarriage after all this time. I’m getting to the point where a negative pregnancy test doesn’t send me into fits of misery for days on end, but I truly thought I’d be pregnant by the time my would-be due date rolled around (Nov. 19). And, since I’m not, it stings just that much more this month. But, now that the day has passed, I feel kind of relieved too. I woke up on the 20th and thought, “Well, I survived.” It might seem strange that I feel that way, but it is significant that the time I would have been pregnant has now passed. It’s like I’m through the thickest part. Not over it by a long shot, but through the worst of it. I’m thankful to have just a bit of weight off my shoulders.

I’m also at the point in this whole experience where I am just so grateful that I have Bowie. There were a handful of people that, upon hearing about my miscarriage, would say, “Well, at least you have Bowie!” Which at the time I thought was a little insensitive. I mean, yes, I do have an awesome kid already. But, I still lost something. And that’s to be acknowledged.

But after a while I kind of got the gist of what they meant. He truly and wholly has been my warm sunshine in this cold, grey world. Without him, I’m uncertain I’d have survived this ordeal. And I mean that literally. There are days I’d have only climbed out from under the covers to refill my wine glass and grab more chocolate if I didn’t have that sweet boy depending on me. So, for that, I’m eternally grateful. Any siblings he has or does not have in the future, I will never forget how his bright, smiling face made me feel during this time.

I’ve also been watching friends go through some major relationship turmoil this past year. I made an attempt to joke about it on Twitter, saying something to the effect of, “I guess we’re at the age when our friends are all getting divorced.” But, I got a zillion responses from other people who have this happening too, and it’s really not funny at all. Just so sad, and one of those situations where you’d step in and do anything and everything you could to help, but there’s really nothing you can do. Huz and I have our moments, and the difficulties we’ve been through lately have been rough. But, we still love each other, when it comes down to it. And I’m very grateful to have him a part of my life, someone to cling to when the world is threatening to blow me down.

I’m also guilty of not being so grateful each and every day that I have the luxury of being a stay-at-home mother, and that we get to live in a nice house in a super cool city. There are so many people suffering right now at the hands of our crappy economy, and we’ve tightened the purse strings, and have put off large purchase (i.e. house) plans for a while, but we can’t forget how fortunate we really are.

Yes, this year I think I finally understand true gratitude. Maybe that means I finally grew up?

Nah.