The Truth About Mahwidge and My One Twoo Wove

” ‘The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person. We never know whom we marry, we just think we do. Or even if we marry the right person, just give it awhile and he or she will change. For marriage, [being the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary problem….learning out to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.’ ” – Tim Keller, quoting Duke University ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas in The Meaning of MarriageIMG_8045

Once upon a time a young man and a young woman were enjoying pizza and a pitcher of cheap beer at The Rat, or Rathskellar ( a German word for “council’s cellar” traditionally located in the basement of a government building where officials could enjoy a pint after hours.) It was in this cavernous, councilor’s environment that the young woman realized she had met her  twoo wove. He was handsome and so very funny.  Out of the 6.2 billion people living on the planet,  how extraordinary that she found herself in the exact same location at exactly the right time with The Only One For Her. If it wasn’t for his last minute transfer to the same college only weeks before they never would have met.
Whew!
That was close.

A year and half later the couple married on a beautiful winter’s day with just the right amount of snow on the ground to make everything sparkle. No one needed a coat for outdoor pictures and guests still say it was one of the best weddings they had ever attended.

Then the honeymoon happened.

Driving north for a trip to Old Quebec, the temperatures suddenly plummeted to sub-zero degrees. Severe wind gusts blew snowdrifts across the plains and onto the highway making driving difficult and terribly long.  The post-wedding glow on her husband’s face was fading fast but the young woman ignored it and decided to re-count the honeymoon money she’d ripped from all the cards the day before.  After settling into a quaint hotel in the historic village, the couple braved the cold to take in the attractions as much as they could, often ducking into coffee shops to keep from getting frostbite.  Most establishments did not speak English, making communication difficult, but the couple didn’t mind. They were in love. Cold and shriveled, but in love.

They had just enough money to eat at one special place and decided on a beautiful restaurant in the heart of the city. They dressed in their best clothes and headed out into a siberian-esque night. The tuxedo-ed, tight-lipped waiter, who did not speak English, handed the couple a French only menu with many dollar signs,  but the young woman was able to navigate through it having taken some French in high school.  The couple laughed at their ineptness even though their waiter clearly did not think Any Thing or Any One was funny. After a delicious meal and plunking down their last Canadian dollar, the couple again braced against the cold and within minutes of entering their hotel room the young woman began what was to become a series of embarrassing trips to the bathroom all night long due to a sudden shellfish allergy.

Wedded bliss hit the brick wall of reality.

The End.

Wait. That’s not right.
It should read: The Beginning.
Meaning: the beginning of refinement and polishing and downright scraping.

My husband and I were launched right from the beginning into the stark reality that happily ever after is a fairy tale myth because no one really just bumps into their one true love. There is more of choosing than finding in the marriage business. Even if the first blush is all romance, at some point the knight in shining armor sheds his steel and the princess lays down her crown. This is where we got all bent out of shape. One can only walk in armor and wear a crown properly for so long. We quickly realized that the person we had just married was not the person we had just married.

We were strangers.

Every circumstance, every curve around the bend brought out pieces of each other that hadn’t been seen before and those pieces sometimes cut, bruised, and buffed up against our egos, our own personal wants and desires.

The ending of the story The Princess Bride isn’t true.  Real marriage isn’t when Buttercup and Wesley finally reunite as they were meant to be, riding off on horseback together. Real marriage is more like several scenes before when Wesley is standing as the Dread Pirate Roberts arguing with Buttercup and she pushes him off the cliff and they both go rolling down the hill, hitting every rock and boulder along the way. It’s in this tumbling and bruising that she recognizes who he really is.

My husband and I have had to learn to make true love over and over again if we wanted to stay in this thing. It wasn’t just about staying together in the same geographical place, it was about staying… friends. It was about staying lovers no matter what feelings or circumstances or inconveniences or weight gains and stretch marks got in the way.  Thirty two years is a long time to wake up next to someone you think you know, and then another layer gets peeled, another depth gets plumbed. You share another crisis or another euphoria happens and you are getting to know him all over again.

He gave me a card with the boy and girl on the tricycle a few years ago.  I keep it in plain sight on my bureau.  Some days I think, yup, that’s us, whizzing along our journey, him trying to go as fast as he can and me with my arms wrapped around him for dear life. Other days I think, yea, right…he’s always wanting to steer, to be the boss, and why do I have to be the one in the back wondering if my skirt is going to fly up? Then there are the days when we’re not sharing the bike at all. We are on our own unicycles riding circles around each other because we are doing our own thing. The problem is we’re not very good at it. We’re always falling.

The truth is, it is better for us when he steers. He buffets the wind when I need a strong navigator. I need someone to lead the way when I am afraid or indecisive or lazy.

The truth is, it is better for us when I lean encouragement into him. I buffet his back when he needs a strong advocate.  He needs someone to cheer, “Keep going.” “You’re the best one for the job.” ” You might want to lean a little to the right”.

We thought we knew all of this on that sparkling February day when I wore Gunne Sax and he made the whole wedding party bust out laughing during photos.

But, we were strangers.

We didn’t know anything.

We didn’t know that loving right can be really hard and, when done right, builds muscle.  Love muscles, like strands twisted, braided and wrought into one unbreakable rope-thing called marriage.
So, we got bent out of shape to be re-shaped by unconditional love that only the Ancient of Days can impart to flawed human beings.

This is what is extraordinary; when two people who essentially start out as strangers are, over time, scraped together bit by bit, piece by piece until they are truly one.

It is no fairy tale.
But it is a great adventure.

Besides, if my life were a fairy tale, I’m thinking it would be more like Shrek.
 

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Confessions of a Bitter(-ly Cold) Woman

An old wive’s tale has proved true. I made a face for too long and now it’s frozen.  It has frozen into a teeth-gritting, lip puckering frown and it’s not my fault.  I have been gasping and tensing for almost four months now every time I step into the frozen enclave called a shower, sit down on the iced over commode, or run to the garage to throw a trash bag in the barrel before my nose hairs freeze.

Getting the mail is hazardous for my lungs and makes me have to pee.

Getting gas for the car makes me want to swear at the wind tunnel where all gas stations seem to be located this time of year and this also makes me have to pee.

I buy coffee to keep my hands warm.

I wear scarves over scarves.

I am a salt lick.
Everything… my car, my boots, my coat, my nice black pants, my kitchen floor… all covered in layers of salt.

I’ve got on so many layers I don’t know what’s underwear or outerwear.
I wear socks 24/7 .
There are tiny lint balls permanently embedded in my heels.

I no longer walk normally.

Instead, I walk gingerly; which takes great effort, by the way. To navigate a driveway that has ice pockets, ice ruts, snow covered ice, ice banks, icicle daggers, icicle swords and icicle javelins takes time and the concentration of a tightrope artist, which is why I instinctively spread my arms wide every time I leave the house. Or walk in a parking lot. Heaven forbid if I’m standing too close to someone.

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I’ve lost the use of my neck. I think it’s because my shoulders have risen up around it in an effort to keep warm and therefore I can’t really turn from side to side since my chin has dropped again, due to the frozen frowny thing that’s going on with my face.

In the morning before school, I want to hurl scrambled eggs at the weather man, even Al Roker, who seems like a really nice guy.  I just can’t take any more catastrophic, historic, unprecedented Snowmaggedon forecasts.

I don’t have time for a weather apocalypse.

I want my skin back. I want my lips back. I want my warm toilet seat back.

I’ve got to believe Spring is right around the corner. The farm store down the road thinks so. They’re advertising maple sugaring supplies on sale, so that’s got to mean something, right? Don’t they have an in with the Farmer’s Almanac or something?

Still, another snowstorm is forecast the day before Valentine’s Day and then we’re right back in the Arctic freeze, or so claim those guys on TV who like to say things like “doppler” and “computer models” and “historic.”

Looks like I will be hunched, layered and Vaselined for another few days.  The good thing is there will probably be chocolate in the house for Valentine’s. I just hope the person surprising me with the said chocolate will have the presence of mind to keep it near the pellet stove lest it freezes and I chip a tooth. I don’t have a layer, or a sock, or Vaseline for that.

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Winter Bites

Here’s the thing:  When winter grips glacial and the very bones in your hands knob frozen you are just going to have to fake it.

When winter’s bite keeps on biting and the oil tank keeps emptying through the chimney and the dryer breaks and the struts go on the car because the frost heaves keep rising up up up to dislodge the very teeth from your jaw, you must do whatever you can to muster up the strength to be….happy.

If you don’t, you just might become…

crotchety.

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Chronic complaint will pickpocket your joy and you won’t even know how you got to be this cynical about something so majestic and mundane as the weather.

Another storm comes from the west.

Another opportunity to fight fear.

Nine weekends in a row there has been something coming from the sky threatening peace… be still.

Who hasn’t white knuckled it at some point this winter through the drizzle and slush?

Who hasn’t clenched teeth and stiffened shoulders against sudden ice on the asphalt?

The whole lower forty-eight seems to have been bitten by Old Man Winter hard this year and frown lines are furrowing deeper. Shoulders are sagging enough already.

Complaint tries to reign and that’s when things get really dangerous. Not only is our outside frozen…we steel our insides hard, too. Bitter winds can yield bitter hearts if we let it.  When the elements pound hard we are tempted to believe no one is for us…in fact, all may be against us.

It’s hard not to keep the lips thin grim when a draft keeps pouring under the 110 year old front door because the threshold is no longer plumb. It’s hard to wake early just to clear a path. It’s hard to smile when you’re trying to stay warm.

Yet…fight and be quick about it.

Be quick to do whatever you can to keep the heart in a place of spring joy, no matter how cold it is outside. It’s the slow plodding, the resigned shuffling through life that gets us into trouble.

I say, “Let there be surgery!”

Let there be the sharp stab of Another Reality that sets our feet and our hearts back on joy and hope and, heaven help us…smiling!

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

It is not our own hearts we must fix our eyes on, it’s His.

His heart that knows the times and seasons and places where we will put our feet. He knows the end from the beginning and when the north wind will blow. He knows that we are but dust and are so easily blown, so easily settled.

And yet He  loves.

He gives us a future and a hope and there is no such thing as calamity, there is no such thing as crotchety,  for those in Him.

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