Happy Anniversary to me (well, us).

People think that if you have been married for 34 years, it automatically means that you have graduated to a state of marital bliss. What a crock. Relationships are hard work, requiring commitment in order to foster a sense of safety and acceptance. Some things you never find out about a person until you have been married for many, many years. We all like to wear our best masks around those we wish to impress, or those whose love, affirmation, and approval we need to carry on from day to day. Perhaps it is silly to even need the love and acceptance of another. Why not ‘screw the world’ and act as if nothing whatsoever would pierce the iron clad outer shell of one’s soul? Ah me, were I that iron clad, but I am not. I am silly, sensitive, and easily wounded. But where to take all of this transparent vulnerability? For these are the same traits that make me a damned good palliative care nurse. To be finely attuned to the fluctuations of emotional temperature in those around me. To be able to deeply empathize. But it is such a double edged sword. If ever I were to shed this ‘baggage’ as it has been so named by certain family members, would I be a better or a lesser person for it? These are the stories that have defined me as a human. These are the tools that have fashioned my personality, for better or worse. I am the sum total of years of conditioning, having learned the finely tuned family dance of my forebears. The one thing that I have been able to change is the odds against a shipwrecked marriage. My husband and I love each other deeply, profoundly, imperfectly, and so completely that ‘when one weeps, the other tastes salt’. And it is something to celebrate. Sure I get frustrated. Disappointment is the interloper that flits into and out of some of the interactions we engage in from day to day. But disappointment doesn’t hang around for too long. Life is short enough without keeping long ledgers of offenses. So now when anyone asks ‘what is the secret to your longevity as a couple’, I say, ‘take the “d” -word out of your vocabulary. Seal up your escape route, and trash your plan B. This forces you to work through, to compromise, to communicate, and -yes- to bleed emotionally with each other from time to time. It has hopefully made me kinder over the years. Less impatient. More ‘other’ centred, and less ‘me’ centred.
At least, this is what I pray for. Suffering, sacrifice, and pain are after all, our most severe but honest teachers. Happy anniversary my beloved. Ani l’dodi, v’dodi li.

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