July 16, 2012

And The Secret Is...

I am not a "live life on the edge" type of person. I'd say I'm more of a "read about everyone's adventures from the safety of my own home" kind of gal. I've told you that I am not a big fan of water slides; I'm actually not a fan of most amusement park rides. They are just too fast, too spinny, too knee-weakening, make-me-barf scary. But every once in awhile I'll get a little daring, step out on a limb. A time or two, I have even braved the roller coasters--usually with my sisters. How I end up getting talked into these things I'm not entirely sure, but it happens. Standing in line with everyone, the excitement is contagious. The screams and laughter and smiles from the people already on the ride, the anticipation building as I get closer to the front of the line. I even start to wonder, "Why don't I ever go on these rides? This is going to be so. much. FUN."

And then it's our turn. We are locked in, a lap bar and harness to keep us in place. The operator asks everyone if they're ready, to which we all scream, "YEAH!", even if we don't mean it because at this point it's too late to say anything else. With a jerk, the cars start moving forward...clack, clack, clack, clack, clack. Now we are slowly starting to climb, and again that anticipation is building as we all know what awaits us at the top of the track. I grip that lap bar, bracing myself for that 20 foot drop that will cause my stomach to get left behind and have to make a mad dash to catch up. We're almost there...almost there. People are starting to throw their hands up as the first car goes over and then gravity takes up the rest and we all follow, screaming, dropping, flying, my eyes closed tight. In seconds, we have sped through that death-defying drop and are propelled up again, only to be swung around tight corners and twisty bends. I see what's coming and I suddenly remember why I avoid the roller coasters. We are about to be hurtled through a loop-de-loop. This time our climb is even higher, the drop steeper as we build up the momentum we need to be turned upside down and still keep going. I tell myself I'm going to keep my eyes open so I can experience it with all of my senses; if I'm going to do it, I want to do it right. But at the last second, I chicken out--I close my eyes.  It's enough to know what awaits us on the other side of the loop; all I can handle is to feel the ride, screaming until my voice is hoarse.

The rest of the ride is less heart-in-my-throat-thrilling but still fun. As we disembark the ride, we laugh and admit that, while we peed our pants, we did actually enjoy the ride. Are we ready to go through it again? Not quite. But we admit that the fear was worth enduring because of the sheer rush of the experience.

Seventeen years ago today, I took the biggest plunge of my life. I willingly, anxiously, joyfully joined my life to that of MC and vowed to love this man for the rest of my life, come what may. People are always impressed that we've made it 17 years and I find that a bit sad, because what they are saying is they don't expect anyone to actually stay married that long. When we hear of couples who've been married for 20, 40, 60 years, the question always comes up, "What's your secret?" Because there must be some kind of magical secret that has kept them together for so long, right?

Can I be honest with you? MC and I have had some tough times. We don't fight argue a lot, but we do. And we have very different ways of approaching these arguments. I'm a poke-the-sleeping-bear-until-he-gets-mad-enough-to-growl kind of person, whereas MC is a let's-discuss-this-in-a-reasonable-way person (which only makes me poke harder because really, where is all the drama in being reasonable?). Recently though, we had a "disagreement"; we did not see eye to eye on an issue and it caused some problems. BIG problems in my mind, not so big in his. But it was bad enough that, for the first time, I barely spoke to him for 2 days. It wasn't that I was trying to punish him by ignoring him (he might actually like the break), it was just that every time I tried to say something, that hurt and anger would churn up to the surface and I would start to cry. Through it all, I had to wonder, "How are we going to get past this?" What I never wondered? "WILL we get past this?"

Being married to MC is easy. Living with someone and adapting my life to theirs can be a challenge, but honoring that promise I made to love this man every day for the rest of my life? Easy. Here is the secret to staying married for 17 years--you made a promise, now keep it. Revolutionary, right? You know how I knew that we would get through this recent struggle? Because NOT getting through it was not an option. Whatever it took to keep this marriage and our relationship together is what we were going to do. And I knew without a doubt that he was on the same page. Sometimes it may take a day or so for one (or both) of us to stew over something and pray about it before we are able to come at it with a clear head and be able to discuss it with an open and fair mind, but we will get there. That is the only solution that we will entertain. Sometimes tears are involved, sometimes raised voices (usually on my part), but never harsh words because we will be together for the next 50 or 60 years, and we don't want to put something out there that may haunt us in the future.

We've had those long climbs where we could see that something frightening was waiting just ahead. We've traveled twisty roads and been jerked around corners that we didn't see coming. Sometimes life has dealt us things that we just had to close our eyes and hurtle through because they were just a little too much to take in with all of our senses. But we've also experienced that rush of adrenaline and pure, undiluted joy. We've had those moments that bring smiles to our faces and laughter to our ears, moments of wonder and amazement, moments when we know that the ride is so worth whatever dips and scares are temporarily thrown at us. Through it all, we always know exactly what awaits us at the end--a long life of raising our children and loving each other.

Are we a cheesy, Hallmark card couple? Absolutely--and proud of it! Knock it if you want, gag if you must, but know that there is a reason we are celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary. Whatever it takes, we honor the vow we made to each other and to God to nurture that which He has put together. And not just because we feel obligated, but because we are the other's best friend. My son recently got his feelings hurt when I said if everyone on the planet disappeared and I was left with MC, I could still live a very happy, fulfilling life. This isn't to say that I would choose for something to happen to my children or that I wouldn't be lost without them, but I was making the point that I truly enjoy being with MC. The ups have far outweighed the downs in our life, and I am constantly amazed at how "perfect" we are together. He makes me laugh, he encourages me, he supports me, he is a great father to our children and a genuinely good man. 

We both have our insecurities. He's gone completely grey and is losing his hair. My muffin top has morphed into the whole muffin, and I frequently have to explain to my family that they have no dinner because I haven't cooked it and no underwear because I forgot about laundry. We both need reassurances sometimes, but I think that's just part of being human. What I do know? No one will ever love this man like I do, and I am the only woman for him.  I don't have to wake up every day and tell myself "today I will love my husband"--that's just a given. That vow was said 17 years ago and still stands to this day. Nothing is going to change that. Period. End of story.

Wait...that's not a proper ending to the story...

And They Lived Happily Ever After! (that's better)

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