Twenty years ago on July 5th I had no idea what I was doing. Julie checked all the right boxes that I thought a mate needed…
- Female? Check.
- Warm? Check.
- Intelligent? Check.
- Pretty? (Really, really pretty?) Check. (Bonus points applied).
- Similar family cultures? Check.
- So…what the heck? Let’s do this.
That is as much consideration as my tiny 20 year old brain could offer toward the subject of marriage.
We were both full-time college students when we got married. There were arguments. We shared illness. We were broke. Like broke-broke. Like legit broke (like random people in our community would bring us food kind of broke). Things were worse.
But we resolved our issues. We got healthier. We even had a few nickels to rub together from time to time and things got better.
Then we invented new issues, found new and creative ways to get sick, spent all of our savings and went back to worse.
Then back again. Over and over, again and again.
Today’s drama (July 4, 2017) is due to the current surplus of eggs (which Julie reminds me has been worse in the past).
Last week’s drama was due to the pillaging armies of raccoons and their tiny offspring eating our chickens. We celebrated each victory against the bandits but today I am frustrated that I have so many birds.
Does it have to be this way? Up and down?
I wish it was not so. This is, in some ways, a measure of me as a man. I was re-reading Marcus Aurelius last week and came across this:
From Apollonius I learned freedom of will and undeviating steadiness of purpose; and to look to nothing else, not even for a moment, except to reason; and to be always the same, in sharp pains, on the occasion of the loss of a child, and in long illness; and to see clearly in a living example that the same man can be both most resolute and yielding, and not peevish in giving his instruction;
Be always the same. If only I could.
I don’t know why there is an ebb and flow to my feelings toward her. There are days when I can’t stand a moment without her. There are also times when I feel differently. And I know she deals with that too.
We share a journal that gets more frequent updates than the blog does these days. When Julie and Wendy left for camp in Montana I had a rough time and made several journal entries expressing frustration and loneliness…after she had only been gone for three days. Most of the frustration was that I couldn’t share how I was feeling with her because I didn’t want to distract her from having fun with Wendy. But I needed to tell her what I was feeling so I entered it in the journal.
But as the time passed I found myself staring at the picture above and counting down the hours until she returned. Can you tell I was excited?
My entries changed from dwelling on my loneliness to my excitement about their return home. Everything changed…even though nothing had changed. No matter how I felt, she was due at the airport at noon on the 30th. No matter how I felt the 30th was always Friday. But my distance from Friday radically altered my mood.
My distance from Julie radically altered my mood.
And that applies even when we are not physically separated because the distance between us really has very little to do with the distance between us.
We drift apart. I busy myself with work or chores or fail to invest in quality time with Julie and she starts to feel lonely. She starts to make journal entries about her feelings.
We make adjustments and corrections and grow closer together. For a while.
Right now we are very close.
I don’t know what kind of an entry on my checklist can account for this behavior. I needed someone with whom I could survive the change of seasons.
Julie is that.
Not only is she kind, caring, warm, intelligent, unbelievably beautiful and has seen all Star Wars movies, she and I can weather the storm.
Richer or poorer. Better or worse. Sickness and health. I had no idea how good of a deal I was getting 20 years ago.
I love you Julie.
An additional thought about Julie not directly related to the theme of this post:
But why Julie? If census data is correct, there were 10 million other women in Julie’s age group in 1997. Even if Julie was one in a million, there were 9 others just like her. What is it about Julie that is special? I have wrestled with this idea for quite a while now. There are other women in the US. There are other nice women. There are other caring, compassionate women who watched Star Wars at least once. But Julie is special to me.
I really can’t put my finger on it. The book Start with Why talks about our limbic brain having no speech center but being responsible for our gut feelings (Chapter 4, This is not Opinion, It’s Biology).
The part of our brain that controls our feelings has no capacity for language. It is this disconnection that makes putting our feelings into words so hard. We have trouble, for example, explaining why we married the person we married. We struggle to put into words the real reasons why we love them, so we talk around it or rationalize it. “She’s funny, she’s smart,” we start. But there are lots of funny and smart people in the world, but we don’t love them and we don’t want to marry them. There is obviously more to falling in love than just personality and competence.
There is obviously more to my feelings toward Julie than just the checklist above. There is also appreciation that she loves me back. Or I love her back. I don’t know who started it. But I know through each of the low points in our relationship, one or the other of us has had to make a decision. Either we are going to end this or we are going to treat each other better. So when things look bleak I try to say something nice. And she reciprocates. Or the other way around.
It’s like my marriage is both the result of a feeling I can neither express nor define and the fruit of deliberate action taken day after stinking day.
I asked one of my major professors, Dr. Singh, how arranged marriages work. He replied, “The same as any other marriage. You wake up each morning and decide to love that person next to you.”