Last year was hard. The hardest one of all. This month is our eighth wedding anniversary and we have also attending three weddings on three consecutive weekends. Fidelity is in the air y’all. Surrounded by all this matrimony it’s hard not to pause and reflect on everything that has happened in my own marriage — then, now, since.
At a wedding two weekends ago I was talking to two women friends. We’ve all been married for about the same amount of years. We all have small children. I was telling them how my husband and I went to therapy for the better part of a year and just as I was saying this my husband walked up. Instead of diverting the conversation I said to him quite casually with a sly smile and an arm linked in his elbow, “So how’d you like therapy?”
He smiled and made some quick joke about wishing he could go to therapy every day because he loved it so much. We all laughed and then us ladies continued our conversation.
It was a light-hearted moment and also heavy with meaning. In that moment I knew we’d crossed a huge invisible hurdle. We passed over our awkwardness of acknowledging how close we came to the edge, and we landed somewhere in the terrain of making quips at parties about the year we spent in therapy. It was like a sail snapped open in a light breeze.
I remember our wedding day well. I planned every detail right down to our vows. I wrote them, of course. I have not looked at them since our wedding day, but instead, I saved them on a USB that’s been stuffed to the bottom of a blue tin coffee cup on my desk that also serves as my pen holder. Tonight, I popped in the dusty USB. It’s been eight years and I’m curious what I thought marriage vows should sound like back then. I had an uneasy feeling that my notions on marriage eight years ago would look nothing like the reality of marriage because frankly, in marriage-years with the addition of two children and subtraction of a career, eight years feels like another lifetime.
In reality, the two people who stood on that rocking dock overlooking Lake Union — concerned over handmade champagne flutes that were broken in transit and the fact that it might rain a little — are quite different people than the ones that went through therapy this past year. There are more wounds, greater worries, less expectations and more responsibilities.
I remember our vows were short, to the point, nothing fancy. I remember it’s how we wanted the whole ceremony to be, really. When I pulled up the vows on the USB, I was surprised at how short they were. Just four sentences. I was also surprised at what I wrote for us eight years ago:
I, Shannon, take you, Brian, to be no other than yourself. Loving what I know of you now and trusting what I do not yet know. With respect for your integrity and faith in your love for me through all the years of my life. I give you this ring as a symbol of my undying love and faithfulness to you and only you from now until forever.
I take you to be no other than yourself. Loving what I know of you now and trusting what I do not know…. faith… faithfulness… forever. Wow.
Letting go is something I write about often. Letting go is hard. Letting go is trusting what I do not yet know. Having faith in what you can’t see or prove. Being full of faith. Faithfulness. One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies, The Life of Pi is:
I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go.
The sentiment I was straining for on my wedding day is echoed in the lessons I’m still learning today. Trust. Letting go. Releasing expectations. Letting go of how and what I think should be and embracing more and more what already is. To just be.
If I had to write my wedding vows all over again I would probably be more verbose. I might mention something about unending stacks of paper on the countertops or picking up one’s underwear from the bathroom floor. I might include a little ditty about sleepless nights and stress and the sanity that may be lost from time to time. I would replace the word “undying” with “steadfast.” Other than that, I think Trust, Faith, Faithfulness are pretty spot on.
I’ve now watched three couples get married in one month. I listened to three sets of vows ranging from dedications to spouses children, commitments to one religion, and promises of supporting Lululemon shopping sprees. Some made me laugh, all made me cry.
Because in the end we are all doing something incredibly courageous when we say I do. We are all in some way surrendering to the unknown. Trusting what we do not yet know. Letting go of the reigns just a little even if that means someday heading toward a cliff. Because marriage is nothing if not a giant leap of faith.
And faith is a brave and wonderful thing.