On a sunny Saturday in March (March 15, 2003, to be precise) we were joined as husband and wife. Until the day my daughter was born, I can honestly, and with full measure of corniness, say that it was the happiest day of my life. I had married the man I thought I would never meet: the one who seemed to just love me without need for me to be anything different than who I was. Even more incredibly, he understood me. Everyone else in my world tolerated my deep thoughts and fast CPU brain, but people didn't seem to like it too much. "Do you have to think so much?" was the question I was asked again and again, as if there were some sort of psychic light switch that I could flick to turn off my brain. But not him. He liked being with someone who thought...a lot. So that day...whew! When I finally acknowledged that he hadn't been under some sort of voodoo spell that would break right before he took his vows, my wedding day was better than I had ever imagined.
Yet as things tend to happen in my life, the bottom did fall out of this magical courtship-engagement-wedding. And I never saw it coming. Not long after our fabulous honeymoon in Moorea and Bora Bora, The Drama began. And it began with a vengeance. Some of you know the long, sordid story that is The Drama. And others of you new to the blog have no idea of the tears and trauma associated with the period of The Drama. Suffice it to say that there were revelations, dysfunction, promises broken, relapses, horrific pain and assorted behaviors we refer to as the crazies.
No, I didn't know about the crazies beforehand. People can hide things very well when they feel tremendous amounts of shame. Also, not having had any reference points in my life for the crazies, I misinterpreted the little that I did see as something else...something more benign. So I was clueless and he was wrapped in shame. It all came crashing down around our ears.
I'm not up to rehashing all that we've been through. I'm especially not feeling up to reliving in any detail the time that was The Drama. My real goal here is to talk about the anniversaries, each of them a bittersweet memory of that beautiful day and the terrible loss of the dreams we had for our marriage. That there was love between us was never in doubt. But was that love enough for our marriage survive the crazies and The Drama?
Our first anniversary was filled with denial and promises that wouldn't be kept. There were tears. Oh yes, plenty of tears.
Our second anniversary happened after the issues that created The Drama were recognized and treatment started. Sadly, we had separated temporarily, we both hoped. Again, another day of tears and sadness. I watched our wedding videos feeling like I didn't know who that happy bride was.
On our third anniversary, we were still separated. It was hard to keep the crazies at bay. I cried lots more.
Yet I remember saying to him that evening in 2006, "We didn't get married to live separately. We got married to build a life together. Yet now we've spent as much time apart as we have together. I'm trying as much as I can but we've got to do better." And it did start to get better after that third anniversary. Somehow the possibility of divorce was truly enough to get the crazies under control.
Our fourth anniversary showed us the beautiful glimmer of hope. The crazies were receding and The Drama lost its bold and capitalization, appearing infrequently as some drama. We were better in many ways. But alas The Trust...that had been gutted and left for dead. Could The Trust recover from its seemingly mortal wounds?
Or to use different mental imagery, we had lived through a violent series of unpredictable earthquakes over the past 3 years. Now that the ground had finally stopped shaking, how do you learn to trust that the earthquake will not return tomorrow or the next day or the next day, open up the ground and swallow you whole?
And that became the question for our last two years. How do we build anew when we are both so freaking exhausted and spent from the work of just holding on? The answer for us...You find the love that brought you together in the first place. You dig past the pain, the resentment, and tear down the protective wall around your heart and look, really look, at the wonder that is your spouse.
This is the man who insists that you wake him, even in the middle of the night, for ice packs, medicine or a neck rub when you get one of your crippling migraines. Anyone in your immediate family ever take such care of you even in childhood? Um, no.
This is the man got all up in the face of the guy who called you a bitch in the Home Depot and was ready to do him grievous bodily injury for the sin of this insult. And your own mother couldn't even be bothered to defend you ever because whatever happened was no doubt your own fault.
This is the man who broke through your clinical reserve as the doctor told you that your oh-so-wanted 16 week miracle baby had died inside you. "What do we do now?" you asked the doctor.
"You grieve," he replied.
But I don't want to, I thought. And then you looked into your man's eyes and saw all the love and anguish there as he opened his arms to you. And you knew that you could cry 'til your heart stopped, howl until wolves began to circle, desiccate your body until it turned to sand and blew away, and none of these things would ever stop him from loving you and hurting with you over this abominable trick of fate.
So you tell yourself to reach in deep behind all the human, real-world clutter that we create in our lives and you find it: that pure love and connectedness with another. The great blessing of our life. You both use this love and connection to build The Trust. You build it from your heart, from your blood, and from moving through your pain. You build it from knowing that you lived through the crazies and The Drama and came out the other side stronger, more authentic, and more determined to be wholly genuine with each other. The focus becomes, what's good for our coupleship? We do that which sustains us and learn to avoid those behaviors and triggers that only serve to move us backward. The work is hard and there is much fear. Yet the structure of The Trust is formed.
Our 5th anniversary had no sad tears. Instead, I was stunned mute, when I was presented with a breathtaking diamond and sapphire anniversary band. "Thank you for not leaving me. Thank you for never giving up on us," he said. I.could.not.speak. There were words flying through my head. There were thoughts flitting everywhere. I felt undeserving of such a gift and such gratitude, especially since I had thought about leaving him many times. And you know that we guilty types think thoughts are just as bad as actions. But I also had not built up enough of The Trust to share what I was too scared to say: as much as I had thought about leaving, I just couldn't do it. I just couldn't, as long as he was still trying to keep the crazies at bay.
March 15, 2009 was our 6th anniversary...our candy anniversary, I'm told. How sweet.
This past year has seen more growth in us as a couple. The funny thing is that while we've still had some minordrama, most of the time there is a lightness and ease about us that seems to say, hey, we're getting this thing working now! That yoke of is-he-going-to-succumb-to-the-crazies is not weighing on me as heavily, if at all. If the crazies return, we will figure it out then. So for the most part we've been behaving like a normal couple...well a normal couple parenting a sweet, verbose and sometimes willful almost two year old.
So what to do, what to do for one's Candy Anniversary? Well if you live in Pennsylvania like we do, you could choose to celebrate with the Romantic Package at the Hotel Hershey in beautiful Hershey, Pennsylvania. I'd never been to Hershey, but who other than my dear daughter doesn't like chocolate?
We arranged Zizi's overnight and next day care with the precision of a NASA mission. (One of the consequences of not having a lot of family in this area.) Saturday afternoon we left for Hershey.
I wasn't sure what our time alone together was going to be like. We hadn't had a night alone to ourselves since Zara was born. Would we start sniping? Would all the old sadnesses come up? I decided not to think about it and just be in the moment, as the shrinks say.
The answer to the question above turned out to be: something completely different. We were real. Shields down. Vulnerabilities hanging out. Talking. Listening. Hearing. Reaching out. Accepting. Loving. Laughing. Connecting. Being with each other. Feelings so sweet they could not be attributed to the chocolate covered strawberries that accompanied the champagne on the nightstand next to the rose petal strewn bed that greeted us upon our return from dinner.
Could this be intimacy? I sense The Trust has been resuscitated, taken to the ICU, transferred to the step-down unit and then to the regular ward. Perhaps he might even get discharged?
On March 15th, 2003 at somewhere around 5:30 PM, I stood before my soon-to-be husband and spoke these vows to him:
I, Teendoc, cherish you, FutureAdoringHusband for being all that you are, all that you are not, and all that you can be. I love and commit to you completely, as the perfect man for this imperfect woman. Know that I will always be your support, your lover, your helpmate, and your best friend. I will both suffer your pains and revel in your joys. You will never know loneliness or isolation so long as I continue to draw breath. I will gladly grow old with you over the course of our lives together, continuing to nurture and strengthen what already is a powerful love. All I ask is you---your love, your trust, and your caring. I choose you to be my husband for the rest of my life.
And I still do...