Driftwood: Reflections on My 7th Wedding Anniversary and What I Should Know by Now
By Shannon_Lell on August 27, 2012
Seven years ago today I was looking out the window of a hotel room onto an habitually grey, Seattle sky trying not to bite my acrylic nails. I was thinking that the worst thing that could ever happen to me would be rain on my outdoor wedding.
On the list of things I could never know in that moment was that it wouldn’t rain that day. The clouds would dissipate, taking my worries with them, and I would be married under a perfect, bright, blue sky. Of course I would proclaim it providence—surely a sign! that my marriage was destined to be similarly divine.
Today, and no longer on the list of things I could never know, is that rain on my outdoor wedding isn't the worst thing that could happen to me, or my marriage.
I'll be the first to admit that I don't know if I'm doing this whole married thing well. I spend half the time thinking we're on a collision course for disaster, and the other half reveling in my smuggness that we are the best married couple in the history of married people. This vacillation usually leaves me exhausted and more than one definition of the word confused.
Honestly, there are days that I want to run away, take a vow of silence and solitude and live out my days on a remote, uninhabited island just so I don't ever have to make one more god damn compromise. That's the child in me, which (all too often) voices her opinions louder than she should.
Speaking of my inner child… when I was 12 my best friend moved to a new house and thus, to a new middle school. She and I would be in the same high school in two more years, but back then, it felt like an eternity. I was so upset by her "leaving me" that months before she moved I picked a silly, frivolous fight which I blew up into epic proportions. I became indignant and righteous over essentially nothing. On the list of things I didn’t know then, was that this was my preferred self-preservation tactic. I could abuse her, but I could not lose her. I could alienate her, but I could not face my own aloneness. Instead of missing her, I could hate her and my anger could take up all the space available in my heart so that pain could not take root.
I know this tendency of mine runs deep because it is the cycle I find myself in now. Anger is a feeling I sit well inside. I'm accustomed to shoring myself up with barbed wire and a pile of sticks and stones by my side. To me, that feels safer, physically stronger and more in control than sitting alone in a room made of glass and reflections.
And yet, on the list of things I should know by now, is that this never works. My highest self knows that beyond that glass room is a view worth beholding and my reflection in it, is worth beholding, too. It is only through the strictest of vigilance and mindful practice that I can calm myself amidst all that transparency and admire the view for what it is, and accept it for what it is not.
It’s not easy, but I'm trying; same story goes for mothering.
Marriage and motherhood, they are like water to me. Like the rain that I feared on my wedding day they are necessary for my growth. They imperceptibly shape me; nourish me, make me easier to hold and behold by smoothing out my rough edges and taking away my splinters. It’s like the driftwood that bobs endlessly in the Pacific Northwest tides; it goes in rough, covered in a thick layer of bark, but over time and water, it comes out something else entirely, something beautiful, worthy of being called "art."
On this day, seven years ago, my husband and I agreed to intertwine our lives on the shores of these Pacific Northwest waters. With the best of intentions we agreed to build a life together, and with all the arrogance and naivety required of young newlyweds we believed we knew what that meant. On the list of things I now know, is that no young, newlywed couple ever knows what that means because time and water will change everything you think you know.
As I write this I’m sitting on a ferry, in these same waters, on my way home from several hours spent alone on an island that sits just across the Puget Sound from downtown Seattle. I have had a rare day by myself to quietly reflect on all of these things for reasons not unrelated to the purpose of this post, our relationship. I am brimming with unnamed emotions and thoughts deeper than this ocean itself and these are the conclusions I have come to know today.
The trick to this marriage thing, is to love the wood in all it's many forms, for what it is, and is not. To know that it will change, over time and waters, but that change is a part of life. To hold in reverence the water, the ocean and the rain for the power they wield and the life they give, but know at the same time that it is not punishment or providence. That we must find a way to take the waves however they come, and yet remain entwined by a force greater than the ocean. A big part of this is letting the expectations that cling to us like bark be washed away with the tides.
What I know now is that I need to lay down my sticks and stones for good. I need to realize them not as comfort, but as combat which only leads to greater discomfort. I need to learn to behold and accept the view that is in front of me for everything it is, and is not. To let life be life, and let it wash over me, smooth my rough edges and reveal something greater underneath. To love whatever is underneath and inside me, first, before I can love it inside him, too.
While I was thinking all these things over the course of this afternoon I was solemnly roaming through quaint shops and art galleries. In one of them, I found this sculpture. It whispered to me all that I have written here. In that moment, I knew what I was getting my husband for our anniversary tomorrow--this post, sitting next to this:
Because we are all just driftwood bobbing in the tide. A few of us tangled together, most of us mangled by time and water, all of us connected through the experience.
Happy 7th Anniversary, Babe.
What do you know, or not know about marriage?
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