The Cliff

Ken used to tease me mercilessly (justifiably) for my choices in footwear. Once, on a Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles, we threw a chunk of marble cheese and some sourdough into a picnic basket and headed for our favorite cliff.

You’re wearing those? he’d ask, eyeing my wedges.
They’re cute! I’d say.
You’re gonna look real cute with a rolled ankle, he’d joke.

And so it would go: heels to mini golf, platforms to the beach, wedges to the cliff.

Sometimes, we miss an experience because we prepare for the wrong thing.

When I was young and dumb and a wide-eyed newlywed, I was convinced that my marriage would save me, fulfill me, complete me. That I would be the apple of Ken’s eye and he the apple of mine, that we would fall more deeply and madly in love with each passing day. That this marriage, this life together, would certainly end in happily ever after for both of us.

So that’s what I prepared for.

I asked for advice. I read books, magazine articles. I came into marriage with my cookie recipes, my perfume, my funny stories. My shoulds, my expectations, my ideals.

I wore my wedges to the cliff.

My girlfriend wore boots under her wedding dress.

They’d been an engagement gift from her father, an adventure-loving outdoorsman. In the congratulations card, he wrote of the similarities between breaking in boots and breaking in marriage. That it takes time. That it takes determination. That it gets hard before it gets easy. That you wear them anyway.

That it’s worth it.

That someday, years down the road, after many miles walked, you’ll realize they’re finally a pretty good fit after all.

On that Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles years ago, I’d prepared for witty banter on a plaid blanket. I’d prepared for a peaceful picnic, a quiet breeze, a stunning view miles above stretches of glassy blue water. I’d prepared for love and laughter with a side of sourdough.

I hadn’t prepared for the hike it would take to get there.

I know this now, and I suppose it took a bit of rough terrain to learn it. To find my footing, to avoid rolling my ankles in vanity or selfishness or pride. To accept the fates and faults of someone else; to accept the dreams and demons of yourself.

It’s about lacing up your boots. It’s about the work and the walk. The picnic and the promise.

That it takes time. That it takes determination. That it gets hard before it gets easy. That you wear them anyway.

That it’s worth it.

I no longer wear wedges to the cliff.

Last week, after a grueling season of deadlines and demands, of busyness and sleeplessness, of a teething baby and a launching book, Ken and I declare a Time Out.

Picnic? I ask.

We throw a chunk of marble cheese and some sourdough into a basket. I tie my new boots, the ones in need of breaking in. The ones that feel tight but comfortable, strained yet promising, like the good, old-fashioned work of marriage that someday, years down the road, after many miles walked, I’ll realize are finally a pretty good fit after all.

You’re wearing those? he asks, eyeing my new, perfectly unsullied boots. It’s gonna be muddy, Erin…
Gotta break ’em in, I say, grabbing the plaid blanket.

These boots can handle it.
(So can we.)



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  • This blessed me so much! Almost 10 years in and 4 little ones, this year has been really difficult. You’re reminder that it IS hard but SO worth it encourages me to press on and gives me hope that my marriage will be made stronger through the struggles.

  • This ja si beautiful, Erin. I love a good metaphor and this one is brilliant. I’m nearly a year into not-my-first marriage, and the stakes feel even higher. Thank you so much for a lovely reminder of where it’s really at. XOXO

  • I love this post Erin! My husband and I were having a chat about this very thing last week. I think we’re taught that marriage is a perfect fairytale and it’s taken me nearly 5 years of being married to realise, that like anything, it’s something you learn to do. So wonderful to know others are on the same journey x

  • Loved this so much! My honeymoon- 33 years ago…arrived in Colorado with my cute “going away outfit” Heels and all. Not prepared for the trek in the snow to get to our romantic lodge. :) but true to words….sometimes in our married life we have to walk slow – hold onto one another. Yet other times (like the next day on the slopes…we are going full speed ahead!) Thank you for my little reminder .

  • This was exactly what I needed to hear! My husband and I have definately had some ups and downs our first year of marriage, many learning curves, and it gets so discouraging at times, This story was truly a blessing in my life and I cannot wait to share this and to break in these boots.

  • As usual, you cut to the heart of it! I too am known for wearing the wrong shoes…new wedges to climb Camelback Mnt. in Arizona comes to mind immediately…so this rings all too painfully true. And knowing that marriage is so worth the work is where the magic is. Like well worn boots, we turn towards one another again and again. Thank you for your words.

  • This is so perfectly written. It’s sweet and honest and thoughtful and the pictures are so good! BTW I am loving your book so much! I keep reading passages to people:)

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