Sunday, December 27, 2015

Lucky number 13.

I remember all of the things that I thought I wanted to be
So desperate to find a way out of my world and finally breathe
Right before my eyes I saw, my heart it came to life
This ain't easy it's not meant to be
Every story has it's scars

When the pain cuts you deep
When the night keeps you from sleeping
Just look and you will see
That I will be your remedy
When the world seems so cruel
And your heart makes you feel like a fool
I promise you will see
That I will be, I will be your remedy

No river is too wide or too deep for me to swim to you
Come whatever I'll be the shelter that won't let the rain come through
Your love, it is my truth
And I will always love you
Love you


A couple of months ago we had an honest, vulnerable discussion about walls built within marriage.  

I knew when he spoke, he saw me--for one of the first times in a long time, I felt understood on a deep level.  I knew when he saw me, it was a cross roads.  I could either admit the hard things I didn't want to admit, or pretend they didn't exist, hoping for them to disappear.  But I know things like this don't just "disappear."  

I see couples in Hollywood crumble all over the place.  Sometimes I wonder about them--why can't they hang on?  Is it because they didn't know each other well enough?  Is it because they didn't know themselves well enough?  Is it because their work requires them to be apart for long periods of time?  Is their foundation not strong enough to withstand the distance?  Or did they merely stop needing each other, because they couldn't--because physically they weren't there to BE there for one another?  

Ben and I are no Hollywood couple, far from it.  But we are a couple built inside of 2 years of a solid, happy, loving foundation followed by 2 years of extremely stressful, fearful parenting, followed by 1 year of traumatic, chaotic group home managing, followed by 7 years of separating grad school living combined with three more amazing, yet needy children.  

These things take tolls on individuals, which in turn take tolls on marriages--there is no way around that.  Our needs as humans had been put on the back burners for so long there have been days/weeks/months/years we had forgotten we even HAD any needs.  Our marriage also had needs we had forgotten, not because the love has not been there....they've been forgotten more because there had not been the space to take care of it.  And honestly?  We took for granted the two solid years of foundation we had built in the beginning.  Our love, happiness with each other, and strong friendship and respect for one another could withstand any storm, we believed.

So far, that has worked.  I truly feel if our foundation had not been as strongly built from our beginning, we would have crumbled like so many we see and hear about.  

Yet we remain standing, though the stress and time apart has taken its toll.  

I am a firm believer when the rope of marriage begins to fray, it takes each person to work individually on their end of the rope before they can work on things together.  We are complex humans, bringing lives together that are full of two entirely separate experiences, strengths, weaknesses, needs and emotions.  

But individual work is scary, isn't it?  It's so much easier to blame the whole of the sum instead of the parts, when those parts are made up of yourself and the person you love most in the world.  It's easier to blame a baby with seizures, and teenagers with rage issues, and grad school with its so many demands, and financial struggles leading to multiple jobs, and young children with their neediness and moving 14 times.

I know what it means to look in the mirror--really look--and realize I have personally contributed to my own unhappiness, my own loneliness, my own fears.  It is extremely vulnerable, painful, honest work.  Ben also knows  this individual work and what it means to look in this same mirror, owning his parts.  

As painful and scary and hard as this work is, it is also the work of Healing.  

I have seen the ends of our individually frayed ropes begin to heal, as we each pulled apart layer after layer of our own experiences to get down to the core.  I have never been more proud of myself, or Ben, than when we are working this way.  We have allowed one another to see each other in our most vulnerable places, and a love I never could have imagined has grown from seeing each other like this.  As individuals, we watched ourselves begin to Rebuild, and we were each other's cheerleaders and best support system.  Once the two pieces of our marriage had begun healing, we then needed to work on the sum of our parts.

So when it came to that crossroads a few months ago, looking at him in our dimly lit kitchen around 2 am, I chose to let him see me again.  

As much as I want to be that perfect wife, I know I never will be, because I am not perfect.  As much as he wants to be that perfect husband, he knows he will not be.  

But that night we laid our offerings of who we actually ARE, on the sacrificial table of marriage, again.  With our strengths, weaknesses, hopes, needs, and love for ourselves and each other.  

We promised during our 13th year, it was no longer the time for rebuilding ourselves individually, it is now the time for Rebuilding Our Marriage.  We have talked about what that looks like for each of us, with an understanding that it will take time.  As quickly as the Crumbling appears to happen--it doesn't, not really.  It's something that is slowly picked apart and chipped at, until finally a cornerstone has been worn thin enough to fall, taking the entire structure with it. 

Rebuilding is a process of picking up one piece at a time, with the hope there will now be extra support built in surrounding it now, after we know better, after the individual Healing has taken place.  It takes patience, and heavy lifting at times, and always--that constant self-check of fear and needs and individual vulnerability and honesty.  

Some may read this and think it might be a depressing Happy Anniversary! post.  But I feel the complete opposite.  I am so proud of us, and of our marriage.  Weaker people and weaker love would not have been able to even get to this point.  We are still here together, after the dust has settled, picking up our pieces and Rebuilding.  We are still laughing and holding hands, and looking at each other with a newfound admiration and strength in our love that did not exist before the Crumbling.  

Thirteen years of being married to this incredibly strong, good man.  Thirteen years of being the one he comes home to.  Thirteen years of feeling his warmth on the other side of the bed, of wrapping his arms around mine.  

I love you, Ben Strader.  Ours is a courageous Love Story.  And I'm so grateful we have chosen each other all over again.  Here's to our 13th year.  

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