When I was younger, my mother shared with me that there was a point in her and my father's relationship where she *knew* she was going to marry him, and I loved their marriage for that knowledge. I loved the idea of *just knowing* a thing, in your guts, in your heart; finding a truth that no one else could explain. I adopted it as my own, shelving it in the back of my mind, feeling, expecting that I would have a similar epiphany, someday. But I didn't know when, or where, or who would spark this innate knowledge for me, and so I just sat back and let things happen. I was observing more than waiting; I had a big life to live and I was hardly looking for someone to get in the way of my adventures.*
[*This was how I saw marriage at that point: a burden to my self-actualization. I had to get my head wrapped around who I was and who I could become and get along on my way towards that end before I seriously joined up with anyone else. Dating was purely entertainment, until I met Bazz.]
* * * *
I had been a lot of places by the end of my twenty-second year, or at least it felt that way, at twenty-two. The cross-country exploration I'd taken at nineteen had given me a firecracking spirit of adventure, and in December of 2001, my heart was aflame over the possibility of spending a semester in Montana, to get back to the Rockies I'd fallen in love with. I was ready to get out of my home state and see and do and explore the world, writing the Great American Novel out of the back of my little red Honda as I bummed my way through hostels all over North America. The sky was the limit, and it was thrilling to be alive with such great potential. I suppose that's a great deal of what nineteen is.
On the cusp of all that action, I said yes to an invitation that would finally change my life in the big way I'd long been hoping for. A few years before, I had written in my journal that I wanted something to happen that would test me, shake up my ideas of who I was, break me down and make me learn how to rebuild myself. I did not know when I wrote those words that the bringer of this sea change would be a young man I was to meet whose walls bore the mark of an immigrant, who only somewhat ironically wore a rodeo belt buckle, who I knew *upon sight* would be my future husband.
I was at a Christmas party in a friend-of-a-friend’s home, reuniting with old buddies from college. I was enamored by this stranger's unconventional decorating style, someone who was confident enough to throw who he was up all over his walls, and when I saw the immigration papers from the country where I knew my (until-then imaginary) future husband would hail from, I couldn't believe it. I asked someone where we were, and who this person was and she pointed out the host to me.
He was across the room, pouring someone a drink, grinning the most charming, rosy-cheeked, chiclet-teethed grin I'd ever seen. The moment is still burned into my conscious mind; I hope it never fades. He was wearing a dress shirt that looked like graph paper, white with blue lines, and it was unbuttoned enough that, upon closer inspection, I could see his black undershirt had a purple Hard Rock Cafe logo. There was a silver and gold belt buckle at his waist, and a pair of black cowboy boots on his feet. I did not understand the combination of details in the house and on his body, I just knew I dug this dude for having the balls to pull it all off, and I needed to talk to him. For the first time in the history of my life, I did not walk up and immediately assert myself and my femininity all over the place. I was clueless as to how to act around this creature; I was completely smitten.
I don't know how I knew. I don't know if it was he way he carried himself that breathed his level of self-respect or his ridiculous sense of style, or the pattern of the freckles on his wide, strong wrists. I don't know if it was just excellent timing, this meeting that had been years in the making, at the height of our post-adolescence years. But by the end of that party, without so much more than awkward chit-chat and the touch of his hand, I knew beyond any doubt that I had met my future husband. Our first kiss was at midnight on New Year’s Eve; every clock in the world held onto that bewitching moment, and I could feel the pause, in my breath, in my heart, in the timeline of my life and my children’s lives and the lives of our great-grandbabies. My fate was sealed.
* * * *
This weekend we celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary. It feels like a great accomplishment to have gotten through that first tough decade of growing and learning not only about each other, but ourselves. The reason divorce is common, I now understand, is because marriage done right is really fucking hard, and so many of us, myself included, are really pretty lazy. The work that goes into creating a successful marriage is infinitely deeper than getting someone not to leave their towels on the floor and dresser drawers left perpetually open. Once you take a step back and look around, you can see that those things, annoying as they may be, don't actually matter. They’re bothersome, sure. But don’t forget - so are you.
I think that’s so much of what a successful marriage is, or has been for me – the perspective shift from ME-MINE-ME to understanding that things aren’t just about what’s good for you, but for everyone around you, too. Your joining of forces is a gateway to understanding compromise, not just the meeting halfway kind, but the ‘throw the whole damn plan out and write a new map’ AND ROLL WITH IT kind. There feels like an innumerable amount of wisdom and lessons I’ve picked up along the way, and the learning has increased exponentially over the last five years. I could never have understood these things on my own the way I have with my partner, with this partner.
I don’t think it is much exaggeration to say that I didn’t really understand marriage, despite being in it for half a decade, until I was in my thirties. I didn’t get that marriage was a partnership in every way – not just in raising kids or building a home together, but also in our own personal growth, in writing the story of our lives. I have been so cosmically blessed to have found a true friend whose life expectations and personal goals so closely mirror my own, whose wisdom and bravery urge me to challenge myself and grow beyond what I have believed was possible. My heart continues to swell and soar for this man, my very best friend, and I love him more than I could have ever imagined loving another person not of my blood. That night at his party, the evening our lives intersected, was the pivotal moment of my life and I am so wholeheartedly grateful for what that moment sparked: the life we have helped each other create. This is my co-author, my co-conspirator, my partner, not in crime but, in reaching nirvana. And sometimes, so many times, I am grateful to say, it feels like we’re already there.