A lot has happened since I last stopped by.
In my previous post — which, incredibly, I published over a year ago already — I wrote about the mystery of time. The way it flourishes and fades, moving differently depending on your current stage of life. How being on the cusp of a new year can cause to you meditate more deeply on the place you’ve found yourself, how it can spur you toward change, how God can use it to bring about blessing in your life.
After a period of waiting, womb-like, for something big to happen to me, I had the sense that 2015 would be a year of renewal.
And it was.
In January, I started a new job. In March, the man I loved asked me to marry him. And in November, I did.
I hesitate to say things like “best year of my life” or “happiest I’ve ever been” because I think they’re glossy and reductive. But I also don’t want to diminish the way I’ve felt this past year. I really found myself, both in my job and in my relationship with Troy.
A person is fortunate to have stumbled upon either career or love, and lucky me — I got them both, and both within a year.
I’m not trying to gloat here. I’m trying to be honest. It’s easy to skim across life when it’s smooth, but I want to dive deeper even then — to feel the pressure against my lungs, to come up gasping for air, fully alive and grateful for it. We need to be aware of what’s going on in our lives, good or bad, at all times.
I should clarify that, although I’ve been blessed beyond measure this year, there were many moments when I felt entirely overwhelmed. Aside from the stress of wedding planning, I was often shadowed by the sense that, despite my constant busyness, I wasn’t doing enough. Or being enough. There were parts of myself that I worried were getting lost amid everything else.
For example, my writing. When I was in college, I had the luxury of learning as my sole responsibility. I was literally required to read, write, and discuss literature with people who cared about it as much as I did. College was my personal snow globe: a pretty place that was small and safe and not at all resemblant to the real world.
These days, I haven’t had much time to write. Which is absolutely an excuse — we can always find space in our lives for the things we’re passionate about. But I’ve also come to terms with the fact that this year has not been about writing, and that’s okay. Instead, it’s been about learning the field of digital marketing, designing the wedding of my dreams, and, most importantly, finding out what marriage means.
That is, what marriage means to me and Troy — not to the many marriage experts who seemed to crawl out of the cracks the instant we got engaged.
Don’t get me wrong: our friends and family were beyond supportive during our engagement. They lavished us with gifts, parties, endless help and grace in planning our wedding.
Still, there were times when it felt as though people (usually those who didn’t know us very well) only wanted to offer their advice, even admonishment: do this, not that.
It wasn’t just about the wedding, either. In fact, people seemed to think the wedding was the easy part; it was the trials to come we should be worrying about. “You won’t feel this way about each other forever,” we were warned. “The romance will fade. You’ll go through tough times.”
The problem was, we knew that. Troy and I were well aware that we wouldn’t always feel so affectionate toward one another (even then, we didn’t).
In fact, sometimes I’d become so convinced of that inevitability that I’d will it upon us prematurely. “This is supposed to be the happiest we’ll ever be!” I’d cry to Troy on a particularly rough night. “We should be taking advantage of this while it lasts!”
Now, I do have a flair for the dramatic, so some of that was surely my own defeatism rising up. But some of it, I think, was because I’d let the cynicism of others creep its way inside me. I’d heard so often that marriage is difficult that, to some degree, I’d come to believe that’s all it is.
Yet the closer we drew toward marriage, the more I began to resent the cautions of others, well-meaning as they were. For by going into marriage with a pessimistic (others would say “realistic”) mindset, it felt like we were setting ourselves up for failure, rather than success.
Let me be clear: I do think it’s important to help young people set reasonable expectations about love. And with my very limited experience of marriage so far, I know I’m no authority on the subject.
But as a newlywed, I’m not sure it’s helpful to hear, over and over again, that marriage won’t be as blissful as we think. It’s both demeaning and discouraging.
Because being happy, I’ve realized, is not the same as being naive.
Recently, a friend shared an article on Facebook that I had to applaud: “Stop Calling Marriage ‘Hard Work.'” The point of the piece was not to negate the fact that marriage requires effort, but rather to illuminate the beautiful ways in which the Lord works through it. I liked this line:
God designed marriage not only to stretch us beyond our selfishness to become more like Jesus through trials, but also to bring great joy to our lives with the myriad of gifts marriage provides.
Trials and joy. Isn’t that the balance of life?
And the way it seems to me, these highs and lows are only magnified in marriage.
Since Troy and I got married, we have experienced a richer intimacy with one another than I could have dreamt. He likes to tell people that marriage has solved more problems for us than it’s created. Not that we had a lot of issues beforehand, or that living together hasn’t been an adjustment — it has — but overall, it’s been so much easier to finally just be together, to start and end the day in each other’s arms. It’s so clear that this was what God had in mind when he gave the world the gift of love. Even just logistically, marriage makes sense.
As much as I cherish these happy months, though, I know sorrow is on the horizon. Yet I also know that sorrow was meant to make us stronger, to nudge us nearer to the heart of each other, nearer to the heart of God.
A few weeks ago, I dropped Troy off at the airport for a weeklong work trip to Orlando. It wasn’t a long time or anything, but considering we’d been married for only two and a half months and hadn’t spent a night apart yet, it felt a little longer.
In some ways, the week away from one another was refreshing. It gave us a chance to breathe, to reconnect with ourselves, to remember our individuality — the things we uniquely love to do.
Yet there were times when, I admit, I missed my husband. I feel almost embarrassed writing this, since I used to be so independent; I lived alone, loved doing things by myself. But the other week, when I returned each night to a suddenly dark, silent apartment, I felt the void Troy had left, and I wanted it filled.
When people asked how it felt to have Troy gone, though, I felt the need to minimize the fact that I missed him. I didn’t want to be “that” newlywed — the one who fawns over her too-perfect husband, the aww-that’s-so-sweet-she-still-misses-him-when-he-leaves young wife in love.
I know that Troy and I are in our honeymoon stage. That our home-cooked dinners and mid-week movie dates will soon be replaced with microwaved meals and Everybody Loves Raymond on rerun. That the tornadoes of children and sickness and death will eventually sweep their way into our world, causing immeasurable wreckage and loss.
There’s so much life left for us to live, so much heartbreak we haven’t met.
But I will not — I will not — apologize for being young and in love.
And I will not apologize for using this past year to fall into that fact. While part of me regrets that I wasn’t able to spend more time writing, reading, even going out with friends, a larger part is simply thankful for the reason I wasn’t. Because cultivating my relationship with Troy, transforming it into something permanent — that was important work.
Just wait, people have told us. As in, you have no idea what’s coming to you.
Well, I’m glad for that. If I did, I may not have signed up for this whole marriage thing in the first place. Or maybe I would have lunged for the pen even faster.
Whatever love-lens you’re looking from — whether you’re single or taken, satisfied or not — please, let love run its course. Over time, it will speed up, slow down, grow muddied and gray . . . but that is the way it goes.
Love is born pure and small as a spring. And it builds the same way: gathering strength, accepting storm, collecting soil and life as it falls to the sea.
Just wait, they said.
I plan on doing just that.