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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Forty-Five Left to Go

We were in that tricky spot in our marriage where the honeymoon had worn off, and we were still frantically trying to figure out how to live with each other.  I think we'd been married a little over four months.  The life expectancy of our bliss was the same as the life expectancy of light bulbs, and we stood in the aisle at Lowe's trying to figure out the difference between halogen and incandescent. 

An elderly couple came by, pushing a cart with a poodle in the baby seat.  We stopped them to ask about the dog and give her the appropriate pats on her head- as fluffy white as her owners'. 

"Are you newlyweds?" the wife asked shrewdly.

I wondered if we wore our awkward affection like a sandwich board.

"We've been married fifty-six years."  She smiled at her husband.  "Don't worry - the first fifty are the hardest."



The irony was not lost on us.  Relationships are difficult.  They are agonizing and stupefying and miraculous - no matter if they've progressed four months, four years, or forty-nine years. 

This weekend we celebrated five years of marriage. Tradition dictates that a five year wedding anniversary be celebrated with gifts of wood.  We celebrated with a tarantula and a pearl necklace. 

Pearls are formed when a foreign substance such as a grain of sand finds its way in between the shells of an oyster.  The mollusk creates a substance to defend against the irritant and covers the foreign substance with a nacre.  Every pearl is an irritant surrounded by layer after layer of defense. 

And when Matt lifted the necklace to clasp it around my neck, I truly believed I could see our past five years reflected in the gleam of the pearls:  the bitter disappointments and miscommunication; the slow, painful dance of trying not to hurt each other; the realization that our dreams, bright and inflated as balloons, might never be realized. 

But, by God's grace, we have our own methods of defense.  Around each conflict we've worked to create layers of trust and true self-sacrifice.  We're learning how to recognize love in each other - it rarely looks the way the world tell us it's supposed to.  And for five years we've strung these small, countless victories like pearls on a string. 

I gave M a tarantula.  Because he appreciates and understands those things that most people squish with tissues.  And because learning to appreciate those things through his enthusiasm for them is just another layer of defense around the imperfections permeating our marriage.

Five Unexpected Adventures in Our First Five Years:

1. Losing a pet snake in the dashboard of our car and finding it wrapped around a box of take-out three days later.  It should be added that when I called the pet store they said, "Oh this happens all the time."
2.  Visiting some of our best friends in Hawaii.  We had shave ice, high tea, lumpia, cocoa puffs, lau-lau, a tour of Pearl Harbor, and a tour of a Mormon Temple, just to name a few of the experiences. It was epic.
3. Spending Valentine's Day at an overnight at the Georgia Aquarium.  Nothing says "Be mine" like sleeping next to a shark tank with 100 strangers.
4. Running a 5K together the day before the funeral for Matthew's grandfather: accomplishment is a strange sensation in the midst of grieving. 
5. Making a spontaneous trip to Hilton Head and discovering the sand was hard enough that we could "walk" together on the beach. It was the only thing I wished for - and God gave it to me.

It has been nothing short of a breathtaking, astonishing, and illuminating five years.  I'm looking forward to all the rest!

10 comments:

  1. Great post! I love your view on relationships! A working together to make thing great. Congrats on 5 years!

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    1. Thank you, Lydia! Emphasis on "working," right? :)

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  2. Sweet thoughts, Liz. You don't disappoint. ~ Eileen

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    1. Thank you, Eileen. That means a lot.

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  3. Love this. Thanks for the inspiration.

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    1. Thanks for reading! Best wishes for your wedding planning!

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  4. Well, if your gifts to each other are a reflection of your relationship, you two will have a rich next 45. love the highlights! beautiful, transparent and poignant. Blessings

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    1. Thank you so much, Marcia. That means a lot coming from you. I'm rereading your book right now, and I'm amazed all over again at how you and Bob worked together!

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  5. This made me want to cry - in a good way!

    So truly put -"We're learning how to recognize love in each other - it rarely looks the way the world tell us it's supposed to." True love is actually much more satisfying than we ever guessed, back in the day. (The term "true love" made me thing of Princess Bride for some reason!). This post also made me really miss you. :(

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    1. You are absolutely right. I often think back to all our chats out in the church parking lot looking up at the cherry trees. Life has turned out way different (and better!) than we ever could hae imagined - and we had some imaginations! I miss you too!

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