Today is our anniversary. 14 years ago we committed to love and honor and cherish each other until death do us part. 14 years ago we celebrated with friends and family, buoyed on a sense of destiny and rightness. 14 years ago we set down the road of marital bliss, convinced we knew better than anyone else how this thing called love should work.
We, as a society, go into marriage with a sense of certainty: this person, this time, this place, all of it was meant to be. We see everything in life as leading up to that moment, spend entire paychecks on a ring, months or even years planning everything to perfection, and then celebrate with an ornate ceremony and massive party. But the everydayness of life is what makes a marriage. The ins and outs of each morning and night, the little kindnesses, the small moments, the tiny generosities of spirit that make up a happy life-long bond. The constant turning toward each other, choosing each other that keeps love alive through all the daily stresses that batter us down. As so many have said before, marriage is not a destination, it is a journey.
I am no novice to a journey. Really, an ultramarathon is just that, a journey. A journey that many find unfathomable, that’s true. But all it requires is one foot and then the other, over and over, moving as best as you can with as much energy and positivity as you can find in that moment, and not accepting a way out as the answer. And when you do reach the finish line, you find it wasn’t really about the destination all along. It was always about the highs and lows, the times you felt you couldn’t continue one more step and somehow found a way, the times the struggle gave way to a euphoria so high it erased all pain, it was always about the transforming power of the journey.
14 years later we have journeyed far. We’ve changed jobs and houses, buried grandparents and watched our parents age. We have celebrated with friends as they married, and watched helpless as they drifted apart. We have travelled for work (too much) and for pleasure (never quite enough). We supported each other as we forged through graduate degrees, each in our turn. We struggled through 3 miscarriages, to find the euphoria of having our son. We faced my post-partum depression, to find the intimacy of a marriage rebuilt out of pain. We felt the lethargy of a relationship adrift in a sea of schedules and plans, goals and busyness and the disconnect of dreams not completely shared. We have experienced the passion of finding each other again, learning we were there for each other all along. At times it has felt too much, too hard to push forward. But we committed 14 years ago to never accept a way out. And so we continue, one foot in front of the other, together.
Marriage is a journey, and it has its highs and lows. It is not about the end destination, it is about the transformation we undergo as we move through life together. My husband and I have had our fights, we have had our times we pull away, when we wonder “if.” But 14 years ago we committed to love each other, no matter what. And so we turn toward each other again, we work our way back to each other. We give kindness, we find generosity. There is passion, oh yes. But at the end of the day, it is intimacy that keeps us strong. The intimacy of knowing a person sees you completely, all your faults and your strengths, and still loves you. The peace of knowing you can let down the armor your put on each day to face the world. The comfort of knowing no matter how ugly life gets, the other person will be there with you, beside you, holding your hand.
Marriage, like an ultramarathon, ebbs and flows. At times you don’t know how you will keep moving. But if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, the pain will fade, replaced by beauty and joy. You can never hang onto the highs, they will always fade to a new low. But if you keep moving forward, the highs will come again, and again, until you look back and see more beauty than pain.
Tomorrow we celebrate 14 years, years that have brought us more joy, and more pain, than I could have imagined in that church so long ago. But I still turn toward him, lean into him, love him, more today than the day before. Love him more because of the journey, not in spite of it. The journey has changed us, its true. We are neither one the person that the other married. We are transformed by our shared experiences. We have evolved through our struggles, our reaction to pain. We have turned away, only to come rushing back to each other, pushing ever forward, together. I know our years together are a drop in the bucket to some. That we will look back in another 14 years and see how much further we have come. But I also know that as long as we keep turning toward each other, moving forward together, choosing “us” together, we will find the joy is not in the destination. It is the journey.