Where am I?
Well, honey, you weren't born yet. You aren't in these pictures.
But I am part of this family!!! I should be in these pictures!!
So, we talked about it, and decided that renewing our vows would not only be an economical way to celebrate 15 years, it would also be let her be in our wedding pictures.
We set a date near our actual anniversary, and we decided to keep it low key, we worked that day, we put it in a Facebook event without actual invitations, talked to some people about it, and just went about our year. We decided that THIS time, we would write our own vows (no officiant = less cost) - I kinda challenged him to do that the first time, but he declined, so I was proud to see him agree to that.
Life went on. I thought long and hard about what I wanted and needed to say to him. I spent most of the year really happy & content with where we are as a couple, as friends - a place I really have not been before very often. I wrote soliloquies in my head, Great Odes to love and to my husband and to our history... and knew they were just too much to say. The week of the ceremony, I FINALLY started writing all these ideas down, to condense them into something that was hearable...
Here's some of the things I came up with:
1) A mother puts up with the man because she loves the boy. A wife puts up with the boyishness because she loves the man. This has been poignant this year as my mother-in-law ails. She now calls our son by my husband's name. And I have watched my son grow a lot this year. He has ASTOUNDED us with his understanding of people and human dynamics. He is approaching puberty and I need to prepare myself... I compared the way in which I love my son to the way I look at my husband, and tried to see how my mother-in-law sees my husband... and I came up with this Truth. I did NOT mention it in my vows BTW.
2) My son said to me out of the blue on a car ride this spring, "Don't worry Mom, your secret is safe with me." Oh Crap, I think. What the heck have I done that is so bad?! "Um, what secret is that, honey?" "That you and Daddy fight." That's it?! Thank goodness...
"Sweetheart - it is no secret that your daddy & I fight. ALL people disagree and misunderstand each other. The point is not that we should never fight, it's that we say we are sorry, that we forgive each other, and we try to fix when we hurt each other." It became important to me to acknowledge that we HAVE struggled to keep this relationship, to build it through time - it HAS been a LONG hard road, with a good share of doubters. I wanted to be sure that whatever I said in my vows acknowledged that LOVE is a VERB, and we have to actively choose it. What I wanted to say was:
"There were times I couldn't help but love you, and there were times that I wanted to love you, and there were times I wished I loved you, and there were times I decided to love you... but through any of it - I always LOVED you. I am looking forward to seeing how I will love you in the future." But then I thought about how the ending could be taken to be sexually suggestive, so I decided it might be a little too irreverent to say all that...
4) I started retelling all our stories, our history, to coworkers & family, to myself. The time we met, the prolonged unromantic story of our engagement, the years it took me to forgive him for thoughtless words spoken when he first met my family, the time I told him he HAD to go on a vacation away from me, the times I felt judged by him, the time he walked across DC on 9/11 to find me, the winter before the kids that was dark and suicidal for me, my journey to redefining intuition and God, the times he pushed me, the times he carried me, the times I pushed back, the times I asked too much, the times we forgave each other for being too young... I realized:
It takes a lot of woman to love a man like him. And it takes a LOT of man to love a woman like me.So that is what I told him.
I said other stuff too. I don't actually remember the exact words, but it made him tear up (the only time I have seen him do so) - so I am grateful that the Holy Spirit gave me the words he needed to hear!
Here's what I didn't tell him (well not until 2 weeks later - 'cuz I can't keep secrets to SAVE MY LIFE)
The inside of our rings are engraved with the words we used to sign our letters to each other during our 3 years of distance relationship. He always signed his letters, "Love Always" - so that is what my ring says. I always signed his letters, "Yours Alone" - so that is what his says. As I thought about what to say, I thought about those rings, those words - and I couldn't bring myself to repeat them in the ceremony, because I haven't lived up to them.
Not because I have EVER given my body to another! The truth is that he is and has always been the only man who's touch has not disgusted or frightened me. I am a touchy-feely person, but the sexual touch is totally different! I hug, but I cannot bring myself to kiss another person.
Did I share my heart? Yes, and no. Not that I gave my heart to another man, but that I continue to ALWAYS give my heart to my students, my coworkers, my friends, my family. It has been a point of argument for us MANY times, because he feels my loyalty to others trumps my loyalty to him. We both work TOO HARD, and spend way to much time on work. As kids came, and there were even more pulls on my time (and his), and this became clearer, and easier to handle because we both saw that we NEEDED to share that loyalty and love.
There was a time in the not distant past that I said to him, "I am a mother first, an instrument of God's will second, and your wife when and if I have time." I finally reached a point that I felt his demands on me compromised my ability to teach, to make a difference in the world around me. I decided that I had heard the Call, that I was being directed to move down a particular work path, that the Kids needed to see "mom's work" as a sibling and be prepared to share me with my commitments to others. Not only would I be doing what I was Divinely Made To Do, but they would learn a good work ethic.
This issue with saying "yours alone" was not that I had given me to someone besides him - it is that I realized I had RECLAIMED part of myself FOR ME! And I was not gonna be giving that back! I am NOT "his alone", because I am mine too.
At first I felt I had violated my promises, but then thought about that "it takes lots of man" thing - I am a VERY VERY intense person. He does not deserve to be saddled with all that intensity all the time. Even I have trouble living with my intensity all the time! And I did tell him all this just last night, because he deserves to know that I am True to him while I am True to me too. I will continue to love him and honor our life together - as it was meant to be. We teach each other. And I will continue to love others too. 'Cuz that is what God made me to do. I have to.