Friday, April 23, 2010

Seven years ago today

Seven years ago, I wore a 10 foot-long veil and clutched my father’s arm as he walked me down the aisle. Waiting there was David in the first suit he’d ever bought for himself, shaking visibly. When you look at the video tape that my cousin shot you can see my chest rising up and down frantically, almost like I’m about to hyperventilate. I was so nervous that I could hardly work up the courage to say my vows. And when it was over and the priest pronounced us man and wife, we booked it down the aisle so fast, I remember the photographer was pissed because she couldn’t get a single shot of us that wasn’t blurry. We flew out of there to start the next stage of our lives.

Looking back, I’d say I was one hundred percent right to be as nervous as I was. Not about the wedding because in the grand scheme of things who cares if you trip over your veil or the florist delivers daisies instead of anemones. But about the marriage part. Taking a vow to honor and cherish someone under all circumstances all the days of your life. No loopholes, no exit strategy, no plan B. Together. Forever. Period.

That is a big-time promise. And it meant something to David and I that we did it in front of all our friends and family, in a church with a priest sealing thr deal.

In fact, I remember feeling a terrific sense of relief when the ceremony was over, and yes, it was mostly because I didn’t have to worry about my flower girl showing up on time or not me breaking a heel on the alter steps. But it was also a relief to have taken those vows, to be locked in, as it were, to a deal that was clearly stated, And not because David was some kind of slippery guy who I had to pin down – on the contrary, he’s always been extraordinary steadfast and loyal. But because in today’s world, it seems like there is nothing absolute, nothing that one can’t undo. You can get remove your facebooks posts and get tattoos removed and undo a vasectomy for God’s sake, Contrary to what you might expect, I found release in an irrevocable promise.

When I was in high school, I read Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being and I remember being powerfully struck by one passage which I’m pretty sure I scribbled down in bubbly script and pasted in my diary next to a picture of Robert Sean Leonard. Unlike my crush on Mr. Leonard, I stand by the quote.

“But in love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man's body.The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life's most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?"

To me, marriage – and parenting, for that matter – is like the big down comforter I have on my bed. I need to sleep under it, even in the summertime, because if I don’t, I shiver. Sure, sometimes I feel a little suffocated by the thing but I then I just stick a foot out or peel them down a bit. I never toss the whole thing off because without the weight of it, I can’t find any peace.

Seven years ago, what I knew about marriage was this: I loved David and I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life. During the ceremony, I had a friend read Shakespeare’s sonnet “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment,” because I really dug the idea of love as an ever fixed rock that looks on tempests but is never shaken.

But I remember that our priest, who David and I adored, corrected Shakespeare in his homily. He said, “All this stuff Shakespeare says about love never changing is a bunch of baloney. Because love changes, it changes all the time. What doesn’t change, what can’t change, is the commitment to love. And that’s what you need to renew every morning when you wake – you need to decide every day that you are going to commit to loving this person.”

Today what I know about marriage is this: I love David and I want to be with him for the rest of my life. But I know, too, that it takes work, and contrary to what I thought when we were newlyweds, the fact that you have to put in the work doesn’t make your relationship any less good, or less strong, but in fact, better and stronger.

The other thing I know about marriage now is that when you’re in it for the long haul, sometimes you have to fake it til you make it. But – and here’s the beauty part, the magic of it all – you always make it sooner or later. If you have the patience and the faith and the commitment to love, you always find your way back together again, and the union then is like the house made of bricks, compared to the house of straw you had on your wedding day.

So there you have it folks, my wisdom on marriage boils down to a Three Little Pigs metaphor. For anyone planning a wedding, I give you permission to use that in your ceremony.

To David I say this: So far, I haven’t liked anything in this lifetime as much as I’ve liked growing old with you. Here’s to another 7(0) years . . .