June 17, 2021

It’s been a month over here. Or wait. Really, it’s been a year . . . and yeah, I get that it is only June. And I get that last year was a piece of work. But 2021 has been a lot for our little family. Over the course of five months we have weathered the disintegration of a friendship, shivering in our own home through a snowpocalypse and the ridiculousness that is Texas government, the death of all of our pets (fish in the previously mentioned weather event, and both our cat and dog on the same day just a couple of weeks later), a health scare, the death of my mother-in-law, the graduation of our youngest, and the first wedding within the upcoming generation.  A wedding, a funeral, and a graduation in the same week.  A whirlwind of emotions. A hurricane of emotions.

Many of our days have been about ticking off the checklist of things that needed to be done, or simply putting one foot in front of the other. But as we’ve had a small moment over these past five days to take a deep breath, I’ve been able to think back on all of it and not only hope we are through the worst, but ponder the nature of relationship and marriage. Yeah, I know. It’s weird, but it’s what I am wired to do. And in that pondering – that wondering – two things have emerged.

Now, neither of these things are epiphanies. Both are core element of my writing and my philosophy. But they have both played out in new ways over these past months.

First, particularly as we emerge from a time of social isolation and global pandemic, there is the role of community. As I mentioned, we’ve been through the wringer. But through it all, we’ve had friends and family show up for us in profound ways. Some of those ways have been small. Some have been huge. I am tempted to publicly (read: in this blog) call out particular folks. But the truth is, the list would be endless and also suggests that some ways that people show up are better than others.  And that is not true. Instead, what is true is that friends and family have shown up in their own ways, speaking deeply into how we need a multitude of voices and personalities in our lives. In today’s world of curated voices and sorted algorithms, the myriad ways that people have shown up for us reminds me that there are many ways to be someone’s friend. There are many ways to offer support. There are many ways to show up. And all of them are good.  Texts, cards, flowers, emails, FaceBook comments, physical presence, gift cards for meals, phone calls . . . what I’ve been reminded of is that the key is to simply show up. Not so much about how you show up.  (I say “reminded” because I’ve been through deep grief before – so I should have remembered this from last time.) My advice here? Show up for your friends and family when times are tough (or maybe even when they are great). Send that simple text. Drop that card in the mail. Make the FaceBook comment. Don’t assume your words aren’t helpful or right or enough. In times of grief, it’s not about helpful or right or enough. It’s about presence.

Secondly, marriage vows. I have permission to post this from my spouse. My husband is a “get it done” kind of guy. It’s his job, to be honest. Results matter to him professionally and personally. So, I knew that much of the past month was about getting it done. And he did (with some amazing help from a dear coordinator and friend of ours, who does get a shout out here: Amy Mader with Platinum Weddings and Events). He put together a beautiful memorial service for his mother, and one that is worthy of her life. But I also knew that in doing so, he set aside his feelings. He had a series of tasks that needed to be accomplished, and that was paramount. I also knew the grief would hit. And it did. And when it did, he physically turned to me and fell apart. For better, for worse. In joy and in sorrow. I held him. The way he held me for countless weeks after my mother died. And that was all. And it was enough until the moment passed. But let me say this: this is marriage. Two people, bound together. Bound to get through it together.

The vast majority of my job is writing. So, to some degree, yes, I write for a living. But a lot of my writing is spurred by visuals. And over these past months, the visual I have clung to, that I know my husband has clung to, is the “us.” It’s a visual of the two of us holding hands, doing this thing called life, side by side. Not just when it’s pretty or easy. But when it’s hard. Maybe even more so when it’s hard. I didn’t have any special words for him. Or any particular way to hold him. Rather, it was that I’d promised to do those things, and then I did them. Just as he had done for me. And that is not only a chapter of our marriage, but the story of marriage.

I hope – my entire family hopes – that things are about to turn a corner for us. We have a lot of reasons to believe that it is, as we emerge from this pandemic, look to summer vacation with our extended family, reflect on all the good that existed within these sad and difficult months and begin to send our thank you notes filled with gratitude. But even if it doesn’t pan out exactly that way, the very fact that we’ve had a moment over here to reflect may be gift and gratitude enough. For better for worse. In joy and in sorrow. That is our solemn vow.