Today is my 20th wedding anniversary to this guy.
To say that I feel lucky doesn’t begin to tell the whole story.
We met at a Christmas party on Christmas Day in 1998. Neither of us were expecting to meet the person that would completely change our lives, and yet, that’s exactly what happened. I was 38 years old and had pretty much given up on the idea of marriage, children and everything that comes with that. Ours was not a conventional story: meet, date, fall in love, get married, have children, blissfully live happily ever after.
Right from the beginning life threw boulders our way, but clamber over them we did, over and over. And, now, here we are. We have worked hard, really, really hard for the happiness and love we now enjoy together. It hasn’t been easy. In fact, there were times that were so painful we didn’t know if we’d make it through, but we did. And the one thing both of us kept doing over and over again was to show up, no matter how tough things got, we kept showing up. We were willing to work on ourselves, on our relationship, and now, more than two decades later we are enjoying that “honeymoon period” people talk about.
One of the single most important lessons I’ve learned from these last 22 years is to appreciate everything, the little things, the big things, everything. So, for example, when I wake up in the morning (being a morning person, my husband is still asleep) and go out to feed the cat and make my morning tea, I notice my husband has emptied the dishwasher. He always empties the dishwasher. It would be easy not to notice. It would be easy to dismiss this fact, just one of countless things he does to make our lives (my life) a little easier and nicer. And then I might notice how he’s taken the cat dish and put it in the sink to soak over night, so that I’m not left with an encrusted cat dish to scrub out, and while I’m at it, I might also notice my laundry that is neatly folded and sitting in a little pile for me or the garbage that he took out the day before or the mail that he brought in or the little list we keep of things we need to do or get and he’s added something to it, something we will undoubtedly get together or how he makes our bed every morning after he wakes or the card he’s written commemorating our anniversary, because he remembers and commemorates all the holidays and every event that is, in any way meaningful, or, or, or… and those are just the little things, there are big things, huge things, personal things requiring tremendous courage and hard work, stripping away layers and layers of childhood trauma, things from our past that we needed to deal with individually and together so that we could show up for each other in kind and loving ways, consistently and without hesitation.
Years ago, okay probably more like 15 years now, we saw a marriage counselor who told us to list all the things the other person had done right. It was an exercise in appreciation; simple, yet incredibly powerful. I hate to admit that I needed someone to suggest I do this, but I did. Being a critical thinker it is easy for me to see what’s wrong, harder to see all that is right. And now, we see what’s right everyday without trying or consciously reminding ourselves to do so, it just comes naturally (most days). On the days it’s more difficult, I remind myself to do so. Which isn’t to say that we never disagree or fight, we do, but we show up until the conflict is resolved or at least until there’s been some understanding that we’ve been able to reach together.
This morning we did our “reading” together, just as we always do. Each morning we read an excerpt from something and then discuss. Today’s reading was, “For it’s disgraceful for an old person, or one in sight of old age, to have only the knowledge carried in their notebooks.” Zeno
We discussed the wisdom we have gained and fought so hard for and again I was reminded of how much I appreciate this man who just 22 years ago I would soon meet. This man who has changed the trajectory of my life, in myriad ways and whom I appreciate and love more today than when we first married. Which reminds me of another quote we read recently from an anonymous person, “There isn’t enough darkness in all the world to snuff out the light of one little candle.” And as I sat next to this man that I love more than I ever imagined possible, I thought of how grateful I am to get another day with him and then I thought about how one little candle flickering in the darkness, when joined by other little candles become a beam of light.