Marriage: An Exercise in Endurance

This past year has tried to hold so much that it’s bursting at the seams. This, our eighth year, has been about schedules and details and lists and to-dos. It’s been many months of busy weekends and busier weeks, traveling close to home and far away, completing one task just to have ten more waiting in the wings, running from one event to another and another. Year eight has been about endurance. (I’ve also written about our past three years, and about faith, sacrifice, and intention).

We’ve hosted holidays and parties and barbecues. We’ve celebrated milestones and supported family and talked and laughed with so many friends we love. We’ve taken work trips and vacations, hitting Massachusetts, Canada, Washington, D.C., Greece, Philadelphia, California, and France, not to mention so many places in New Jersey and New York. We’ve cleaned and cut the grass and mulched the yard and planted herbs. We’ve spackled and sanded and tiled and painted.  We’ve marched for equality and justice. We’ve written blog posts and research papers and book chapters and thousands of emails. We’ve completed a writing conference and at least five educational courses with six more on the docket for this fall. Between the two of us, Chad and I have held eight jobs in the last twelve months, with as many as two or three simultaneously.

Sometimes marriage looks like dinner and wine in a candlelit room or a long walk, arm in arm. Sometimes it looks like Saturday morning pancakes and a crossword puzzle or snuggling up close on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and a movie.

And sometimes marriage looks like airport drop-offs and quick conversations across thousands of miles. Or one person trying to calm the other’s frustrations over another project gone awry. Or one person making dinner night after night while the other sits upstairs studying. Sometimes marriage looks like two people managing a list so long it’s hard to see when they’ll ever rest again.

Year eight was not a year of rest. It wasn’t a year of taking things slow, taking things in. We stressed and put our heads down to get things done and caught up with each other in spare minutes. We made choices and took chances and adjusted to changes. We got frustrated and got over it and carried on. We endured.

And as we enter into year nine, we’re looking at our schedules and calendars, trying to figure out what to cut and where to say a gentle no. Because enduring can only go on so long. Eventually it starts to take its toll and you need to stop and rest and take a breath, catch up with the person you love and live alongside. That’s where we are now I think. (Although frankly, I know the running and rushing is going to continue a little longer. We’re not that far from the holidays after all.)

The enduring has taught us some valuable things, too, about patience and encouragement and trust. It’s shown us some of what we’re capable of — how much we can achieve and accomplish. It’s also reminded us of how much we love to live life slowly, but anything can be endured for a little while.

The beautiful marriage moments of year eight have been small ones: Chad proofreading my research papers, me making sandwiches for our flight to California, Chad leaving me little notes all throughout the house while he was away in Greece. There were moments where we traded off being frustrated with our attic renovation, each taking a turn to talk the other off the ledge. There were moments of deep sighs and knowing eye contact, faces and bodies too tired for words. There were worries softly allayed and stresses coaxed away and so much grace about all that was left undone.

We’re creators and artists, abstract thinkers and dreamers, adventurers, romantics. Our ideas are often big and grand. This year has been small and measured, ordinary and routine while still shifting and changing. It’s kept us grounded — maybe too much at times — to the small details of our lives, our to-do lists and our goals for the next year or so. There hasn’t been a lot of big picture talk lately and that’s okay. We’ll make our way back to that soon I think.

Chad, love, I’m so proud of the things you’ve done this year. I’m so proud of you for taking on the new job and working so hard. I’m so proud of you for pursuing your wine education. I’m so proud of you for all the work you’ve done and taught me to do in the attic. I’m so proud of you for continuing to put people first, every single time. I’m so proud of you for sticking with God and the church, even when it’s hard. I’m so proud to be your wife. Thank you for reading my papers and encouraging me in those last stretches of every semester. Thank you for always making me feel like I can do it, whether the ‘it’ is school or a new job or writing a book. Thank you for supporting my dreams and for looking at our future with me. Thank you for holding my hand on scary airplane flights and for debriefing with me after hard conversations. Thanks for kissing before you leave every morning and putting your arms around me at night, and for holding me tight a million times in between. Thank you for choosing me again and again everyday. I’m so lucky to be married to you, and I will keep choosing you too, again and again everyday.

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