Next week we will be celebrating our 13th year of marriage. Thirteen doesn’t seem so lucky, but I’m only really superstitious about those sorts of things when things go wrong.
And what I’ve learned from 13 years of marriage is that the only thing you can count on, really, is things going wrong. And then, right again.
And what’s life but a series of triumphs, roadblocks, joy and heartache? But my favorite times with you, well, they’ve always been the millions and billions of heartbeats in between.
And so here were are, you and me and the kids and the dogs and the cows and the plans that seem to be going in a reasonable direction, until they aren’t. If we were sea people, we would say we’re good at readjusting our sails.
But we’re not sailors. We’re just two kids hell-bent on being landlocked in this rugged and unpredictable place, trying to belong here in our own way, in our own generation, knowing that even without the waves to take count, the wind can wear you down.
Dear husband, last night I left you with the kids at suppertime so I could drive into a rainstorm and sing about our lives on a stage somewhere a few hours away. When I pulled out of the drive, my guitar and stories loaded up in the back seat, our daughters were standing naked in the mud puddles, dancing and splashing in the aftermath of a glorious late summer rain and you were laughing and waving and loving them. And I was loving you there with them.
I love you. I always have.
A few days ago, our 3-year-old daughter asked me about my wedding. She wanted to know what I wore and if we danced and if I married her daddy. So I pulled out our wedding album and showed her photos and talked about that day in the cow pasture when you married me underneath the 100-year-old oak tree while our oldest daughter squealed and smiled and instructed her little sister to stop turning the pages so fast.
There was a simple quote in that wedding album that I pulled as inspiration for the special day, when I was just turning 23 and thought I knew what I was up for. It read: “Love is enough.”
And it struck me at that moment in the living room surrounded by Barbies and baby doll strollers, half-drunk milk cups and things that cost money spread out on the floor that’s never properly vacuumed in this sweet and maddening little mess we’ve made, that I was wrong there. Love is not enough. I’m sorry, all you romantics out there, but it’s true.
In order for love to be enough to survive this life together, the affection can’t stand on its own. You have to expand it, to stretch and define it more broadly so that it also means kindness, especially when you don’t feel kind, which will morph itself into patience.
And then patience lends itself to selflessness and turns the other person’s joy into yours if you let it. And if you look at love as less of a feeling and more like a doing for the other, that’s how love turns to freedom, which is one of my favorite parts about love.
And my favorite part about loving you. Because you let me be me, even in the times that makes our love a bit lonely. But I don’t have to tell you that, dear husband, because you’re the one who showed me.
And I didn’t marry you because I simply loved you. I could have loved other men, I know. Although I never really tried. I found you and here we are, more tired than we’ve ever been and more human, too. Adding years and payments and lawn care and cattle and children who spill things and who will always need us and make us worry and wonder if we’re screwing it all up will do that to the definition of love. Make it more human.
Because the stakes are higher, the days are longer and the floor is stickier and the ground is muddier, but we’re still standing on it, which comes in handy when this prairie wind blows.