The long haul

 

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After about twelve years, everything begins to show seams.

The wedding dishes, the ones you painstakingly selected together and thought about your daily lives together (although all things considered, he just sort of went along with because, well, it’s dishes) begin to show signs of wear and tear. Add in a couple of chips and slight cracks to make it authentic and keep you on the edge daily, wondering if the plate will hold through the next meal.

Someone’s back will go out or there will be a minor health scare or you’ll get a dog or a house or have some kids (or all of these things) which will be grand, really great in a whole myriad of ways but also will exhaust you and put you at each other’s neck sometimes about things seemingly innocuous as pee pads and pacifier use and weighing your spouse’s wall color opinion vs your own and trying to determine what color to actually paint the bedroom.

Little fights threaten at the edge of the perimeter, sometimes out of nowhere, like campfire grounds that if not tended, will turn into a forest fire. The Forest Fire, you think to yourself, that could possibly end your marriage. Instead, you try and deal with the small but feisty ones together, you and your spouse a ramshackle team of volunteer firefighters at best. Though you’re arguing, you’re a team with the same desire to not let this small fire involving the electric bill and what to bring for Thanksgiving dinner at which family’s house ignite your whole world.

The pet you had previous to marriage might die. The things you came into the marriage with that were more personal than useful, like pink cocktail glasses, might have been given away or sold in a series of garage sales. Or in strange events that you’re not sure how you became suckered into, become part of your child’s flim-flam set up of odd, unrelated things you don’t know what to do with that somehow, but they cannot part with now. These previous life things, these sweet innocent knickknacks that remind you of who you were but have outgrown, your child adores and sees the beauty in long after you’ve moved on. You’ll still hold onto to a couple of small things from your single life before the spouse/house/pets/kids but most will go. You’ve merged, changed. Merged and joined life with another person which may or may not include cocktail hours and a love of cute quote decor.

The clothes and persona don’t fit anymore, you’ll find one day while trying on an outfit for an especially important event. You’re not a new person, not a different person, but one that has stayed the course and seen some things–and felt a lot of things, both good and bad, that you’ve never thought you could feel about another person. And since your mind and heart has changed so – your wardrobe begins to slightly change alongside. And sometimes, the sizes are larger than you expected and yet you are still stunned–the perfect size 6 you were is not what has kept them here; while it originally attracted, it’s not what has made them stay. While sometimes you long for that body, that lifestyle involving all your own choices and decisions instead of hotly debated group decisions over where to vacation, wonders never cease that you are able to tuck in at night next to the one you love, size 6 or not. And you marvel how the feeling is the same but different somehow, weightier, deeper than you had ever imagined. And this contentment and happiness looks a lot more like peace and small decisions about what to get mad about and less like the widely advertised image of happiness of running through sunflowers in the early spring, smiling to the edges of your face.

The furniture begins to sag. If you have an animal of any kind (including those lovely magical ones we call children) there may be some stains – biological stains, unsightly ones, and ones that only a mother can smile and fume over at the same time that are marker stains. Try as you might, every cleaning product and process you’ve heard of and asked around about, they will not come out. You will welcome guests into a home full of love, laughter, but high imperfection including worn tiles, walls with scratches, kid art adorning the fridge and marker or some other “free artistic expression” on some piece of furniture/wall/curtain that happened the moment you turned around to turn on the stove. You will encourage guests that they are welcome here, just don’t mind the bleach spot on the carpet where there was a science experiment very quickly gone awry. Some laugh knowingly having been there; others will try to hide their slightly appalled faces while silently making a tally of just how many things in their house will need to be scotchguarded and/or replaced should they have children.

The age will show–all of it. Your face, your body, your mind. You willfully talk to your face that the joy you have in life is (hopefully) what people see first, not the wrinkles, the exhaustion, the 3 a.m. debate you had with your oldest child about how best to settle down and go back to bed.

The way you have thought of things has shifted; you now know the essential things about life, like proper car care and other practical things that you as a self-made woman would have figured out on her own but short cutting that process is okay, sometimes, you think quietly to yourself. You are so glad some days when you can’t find the keys or the last thought you thought or what that last item you needed to remember from the grocery store, that there is someone lovely, sturdy and practical to help fill in the gaps of an absent-minded, impulsive, emotional true self you’ve realized you were all along, but spent so many years hiding because who could love that?

Staying in is much more appealing than it used to be. Sometimes it’s the back, or some other irksome body part acting up or causing concern; sometimes it’s just too much loudness out there, but most of the times it’s because you have the very best person next to you. The one you love and trust and have lived life with, that you want to hear their opinion, their thoughts. You’re so close to them you needn’t go far at all, most days.

Signs of life.

Signs of the long haul.

Signs of keeping it together, even when the world wants to rip it apart.