We wrote our own vows. We knew them by heart. We repeated them the next year in a simple, private little ceremony on the coast of New Zealand. And then, the next year, as we anticipated the arrival of our first born, we exchanged them again at a little inn in Maine.
But since then, I have forgotten some of the words.
After a bit of searching, I found a copy pasted onto the cover of the anniversary book that I had grand plans of maintaining for all of our years together. Except, it’s blank after year two.
That’s the year that we became parents.
And while I was slicing strawberries at the kitchen counter this morning, with my children clamoring at my feet, my husband swooped in – and planted a long, sweet kiss on my lips. And then wished me a happy anniversary.
I had forgotten this morning about that, too. Our anniversary, that is.
He then hustled himself off to work – and onto all the meetings and calls and interviews that await him at this crossroads in his career.
And I hustled the kids upstairs to dress themselves and each other (one of the blessings of having an almost seven year old), while I finished up the lunch packing and breakfast cleanup.
Once the kids were dropped off at their usual places, I made myself a cup of tea and, finally, sat down.
And read my vows.
They came back to me in full color – the conversations we had about them, the selective choice of words, the way that my husband said them to me on our wedding day.
“…I will continue to deepen my capacity for loving you. I will stand faithfully beside you, whether our days be dark or light.”
And it occurred to me that if someone had pulled me aside that day and given me a tiny glimpse into our life together nine years later, I would have been beside myself with happiness.
I would have seen all of the blessings in our lives – like our three, beautiful children; the home that we painstakingly renovated that now holds us all; the overall good health we share; the friends we cherish; the stability in our lives.
I would have seen that I chose to make my own path, with my husband’s support, and discovered a love for coaching and writing and connecting with women in meaningful, shape-shifting ways.
And from this perspective, all the little things would seem so, well, little. Nine years distance would allow me to see all that we’ve shared and created together without getting bogged down in the muck of the unfinished business of today.
You know, all the questions that are unanswered, the problems yet to be solved, the messiness that sometimes accompanies life (literally, too).
But it’s our marriage – our relationship to the very person we love the most – that often bears the weight of all that’s hard or pressing or unsettled in our lives.
Some people might argue that marriage should not be work, but I disagree.
I will continue to open my heart and deepen my capacity for loving you.
This, my friend, is not easy.
It’s far easier to go about my own business sometimes than to open myself up to – and take in- what he’s presenting at the moment.
Sometimes, I’m simply exhausted.
Other times, I’m too focused on what’s going on for me.
And then there are all the times that I’m triggered – that I react emotionally – to what he says – or doesn’t say.
We’ve been married for nine years, but together for almost seventeen. We’ve got a history here.
And yet, as I sit with those words, I feel the longing within me. That is the experience that I want more of with my husband.
Because it is the foundation for everything else in my life.
Deep, courageous, steadfast love.
It is not a matter of what my husband is or isn’t doing. It isn’t dependent upon something changing. It isn’t nit-picky or easily irritated or fragile.
It’s within me.
And while I have no special anniversary gift picked out for my husband this year, I have an intention.
To go back to my vows.
Knowing I’ll forget. And mess up. And be stubborn sometimes.
But to return to them again and again.
Because marriage, I believe, is about finding – and knowing – that tremendous capacity for love we all have within us.
And we do.
PS – I’d love to connect with you on Facebook!