On Sunday, June 2, we will celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary.
Six years isn’t such a long time. Six years is typically elementary school (kindergarten through fifth grade). Six years is just a little more than half a decade. It is a year longer than the time we spent dating, breaking up, getting back together, getting engaged, and planning a wedding. Still, when compared to couples who have been married 20, 30, 40, even 50 years, perhaps it is easy to say we are “newlyweds.”
But when I look at those six years, I see several lifetimes. I see the people we once were. I see These Stunning Ruins of a life we once had.
And the startling fact remains that he and I have faced things that no couple should have to face, no matter how long they are married.
It’s hard to reminisce when you’re standing in a wasteland. I know there are good memories beneath these ruins, and every once in a while I’ll find one covered in dust, a snapshot of the people we used to be and the dreams we used to have. Sometimes he will find one, too. But when we pause to share what we’ve uncovered, it’s hard not to cry, to not beat ourselves in grief, to not wish things were different. It’s so hard not to wish we were those people again, and so easy to hate the sad faces we see in the mirror.
I did the math the other day – we have already spent one-third of our marriage amongst these ruins, trying to put the pieces back together, to rebuild some of what we had. Some days we work together, smiling in each other’s company. Other days, the rain comes in sheets, and we take turns holding the umbrella. And then there are still more days where one or both of us goes crazy, and the umbrella is cast aside as we refuse to believe the sun will ever shine again. Those are the worst days of all, when it seems all hope is lost, and we are truly going to die in these ruins and be buried in our own sad memories.
Then something – or someone – gets us through to the next day. Sometimes that’s all we can hope for, just to survive to the next day, on the chance there will be a break in the clouds.
This is normal married life for us. We are just like everyone else, worrying over bills and jobs and the economy and the house and our families and friends. But unlike most people, we worry waist-deep in broken dreams and shattered hopes and unspeakable tragedies.
That you have come to visit us in these ruins, to see how stunningly tragic they really are, shows your bravery and compassion. It’s not easy to take a closer look. It’s easier to believe our smiling faces, to laugh at our silly jokes, to make fun of us from the sidelines when we seem to be acting crazy, or cast judgment when our actions don’t meet up to your own. It’s much harder to acknowledge that we are two very broken hearts just trying to survive the wake of an atomic bomb being dropped in our lives, destroying everything we ever knew about the world and about each other.
But there is one thing that has not been destroyed. In fact, it seems to have flourished here in this rubble. It feeds on the sun and the rain and the smiles we share. It thrives on our laughter, in our kindness toward one another, and in our warm embrace at the end of a particularly hard day. And it is connected to those buried memories, keeping them safe for now while they sleep.
Love. It’s what makes these stunning ruins so beautiful. It is everything, and it is everywhere, and it is the reason why we stay.
In fact, I would rather spend another six thousand years in these ruins than anywhere else, as long as I can spend them with him. Though he is not without faults, he is the greatest person I’ve ever known – selfless, patient, and kind. On a daily basis, he has me believe these ruins are the foundation of an empire, and we will live to see them in all their restored glory if we can just be patient. What is more, he tricks me into thinking we are having fun. He makes me laugh every day – and not just chuckle. I’m talking belly-clenching, doubled over hysterical laughter that echoes from these walls. He supports me wholeheartedly as I pursue my dreams, even pushing me further than my nervous paranoia will dare let me go alone, all for the shot at one twinkle of happiness in my eyes. And when I come crashing down with the weight of these ruins on my shoulders, he is there to pick me up and carry me to the next day, no matter how frustrated he is with his own shattered dreams and utter despair at the unspeakable tragedies we have in common.
We are not the same people we were six years ago. Sometimes I miss those stupid kids, but I wouldn’t trade the love we have now for the love we had then. The love I have for him now is so much greater, stronger, infinite, and real – borne in the fiery, toxic fallout of a tragedy, and refined with each passing day we spend in these ruins together.
I wish that things hadn’t turned out like this, but when I look at the people we are now and the love we share, there is no reason to be sad over something so beautiful as the depth and longevity of a love like ours.
Happy Anniversary to Us.