There was a time when the cookie sheets were not burnt and rusty, when the diamond was new, shiny, sparkling. We were young, and tan, and overly analytical. After we married, we disagreed about whether or not we should paint the walls in our Los Angeles apartment satin or eggshell. Both, we’d decided, and we slept the next year surrounded in two terrible finishes of purple – happily unhappy but deeply committed to our paint chip compromise.
And then, as it does, life gave us new disagreements – ones that did not lend themselves to compromise. Indiana or California? His job or mine? Kids? Adoption? Home birth?
There were no compromises; no gray areas to tiptoe or experiment with, no fence to straddle.
There is nothing fair about life, and there is nothing fair about love. There is no method or formula to happiness, except to choose – each and every day – to allow yourself the circumstances you are offered. To welcome them and feel them and search for the beauty in the burnt cookie sheets.
And over our years together – ten in October – we have adventured on every park apparatus we know: on the seesaw, giving and taking and giving again. On the merry-go-round, spinning faster, wild, blurred, toward corporate goals we never intended to pursue. Off the merry-go-round, and promptly. We’ve climbed the rusty ladder of hard entrepreneurial work, slid down the hot metal slide of shared grief. We’ve crossed the monkey bars into parenthood – learning as we go – one rung, then two. We have swung high and low, up and down, pumping our legs to a soundless rhythm we cannot hear or see, but can feel.
Year nine is this: unrolling the gingham blanket and laying down in porcupine grass. There is rest and cloud-watching and dream-telling and quiet. It is he with his sacked lunch and I with mine, neither of us seeking to change the contents of each others’ brown paper bag. We feed ourselves in harmony – he’ll choose strawberries, I’ll choose almonds – and the difference is okay. It’s good. We are happy as two, so we are happy as one.
Year nine is long enough to let go of the idea that you have the rest of your life to slowly, surely change your spouse, and instead, accepting – embracing – the changes your spouse has created in you.
Year nine is long enough to own your contribution to the pair, to learn to take care of yourself to learn to take care of another. It is seeking responsibility for your joy, your fulfillment, your being. It is understanding that the goal of two is to become stronger than one. Woven. Molded. Sealed.
Year nine is to grow into ourselves, to stop allowing circumstance or trial or emotion to diminish our spirits, and instead, to stretch far beyond the scratchy blanket and the picnic ants and rise above the rooted trees surrounding us. It is to plant, and to be planted.
To look above and greet the sun, and hear the rain, and feel the clouds, and return to the strawberries, the almonds, the two.