Today is the two-year anniversary from when we stood on purple sand at dawn with the waves rolling in around us and recited unconventional vows to never part. I can’t imagine another day, another feeling ever coming close to that morning. Perfect is the closest word I can think of but it was still more than that. Magic. Ethereal. Pure. And we have weathered the last two years in a way that makes me proud of us. I am amazed at our capacity to adapt, to keep laughing, to keep coming together.
So I kind of wish I had, you know, planned something for today.
But I was tired. So tired. I did not feel celebratory. And he was tired. For five months he has been working two jobs, double shifts. We had been just been kind of existing in parallel universes, doing what it takes to maintain. And the days had kept rolling by and we had not found a sitter in time and I didn’t know exactly what we would do if we had one. There just wasn’t money for a night out and we aren’t really the dinner-and-a-movie type anyway.
I was irritable and down, feeling invalidated, holding onto little things I wanted him to do differently, cursory examples that I held as proof that he didn’t really care about my needs. The more tightly I clutched these tiny grievances the more vindicated I felt. And the more sharply they dug grooves into my palms like sharp stones. Carrying around stones also renders you pretty ineffective for anything else. When your hands are occupied with carrying stones you refuse to put down, you are pretty ineffective at anything else but, least of all for giving or receiving.
In this process I had let myself get emotionally pinched shut. And I felt least of all like being romantic. Most of all, I was upset because I had allowed myself to slip into this place again. Of waiting for validation, of waiting for someone else to recognize my efforts and to declare that I deserved a break – instead of taking a break when I knew I needed one. My hard-nosed ego was determined to deprive myself long enough (with the assistance of heavy sighs) to procure the desired acknowledgement from my partner or at the least entitle me to the express my hard-earned resentment.
The longer I waited, the more I was justified… and the more helpless I felt under this self-imposed incantation.
Worst of all was that without knowing the very extent of my struggle, he was actually trying to be compassionate towards me. And that made me realize how deeply I was stuck. When my husband took the Acorn Scout out for a walk, I saw my chance to do what any emotionally confused person who is pressed for time does: I started Google searching.
- Treasure maps. Make them yourself, lines and roads and rivers and words drawn in ink on paper. Maps for the heart, or the apartment, or the city, or the psyche, treasure waiting to be found.
- Kindness. It’s free. It never gets old or used up or worn out. It is sometimes more important than all the other things, to simply be kind.
- Laundry service.
- Letters and love notes written in unsuspecting ways and places. Chalk on the sidewalk. Written in sand and snow. Post it notes on the car windshield. Large poster board taped to the brick wall by the coffee shop frequented every morning. Tucked in the coat pocket or backpack or lunch box. Lipstick on the mirror. Sharpie on the wall and sheets, because some things deserve to be permanent.
- Time. But not just any time. Time with your full attention.
- A box of favorite scents: sweetness of orange blossom, rough of worn leather, ponds cold cream, rose water, tobacco and clove, dark perfume, old books, memory of geranium oil, comfort of cotton that has dried in the heat of summer sun.
Amnesty. For what was done to survive. For what was done in the fumbling of finding the way. For forgetting dates and numbers. For never being on time. For not being able to make it work. For wanting what we want. For being human, living.
- A nest.
- Wake him up. Shake her from the shelter of sleep. Pull them from bed, outside, to where the moon hangs low to the ground. To where the air is cold. “Why”, he says, tugging on sweater and shoes. “What are we doing?” she asks, pulling the door shut behind. “To see the sky”, is the answer. Walk to the backyard or get in the car and drive for as long as it takes. In the night. When it is quiet, and so dark, and the stars shatter and are so, so many. This. This is the present. To be here, to see this. Unable to count their number, and how, forever then, you both remember that night, when sleep was abandoned and the sky was given as gift and grace.
- The truth. A clear no. A real yes.
- Paper airplanes, with secret messages penned inside the hidden folds and creases of wings.
- A new beginning. Not the same as a second chance. This is knowing there is no going backwards. So this is where things now begin new.
- The gift of seeing someone. And naming what you see.
- An antique frame, with nothing inside. Four cornered and blank space, hanging on the wall, asking for the freedom of emptiness or the curiosity of filling with whatever is found. An empty frame, and all the words on scraps of paper, and love notes, and question marks that will come to rest there on any given day, an ever changing conversation.
- A compass. A list of navigation. Ways to remember how to come home.
- Raw honey.
- The gift of giving to yourself, whatever it is you want. Taking good care. Treating yourself like someone who is deserving of the things saved for special occasions, and can have them whenever they would like. One who needs good sleep, and good food, and good loving, and is sovereign, responsible for tending to the life that is your own. So give yourself what you want. Take yourself to buy new face cream or beautiful underthings. A trip to France. A hot bath. A week, or month, or year with no obligations. Going to the matinee, alone, eating popcorn and getting lost in another world. The room with the window that lets in the sound of the ocean while you sleep, and wakes you to the feel of heat, where, even inside, you can taste the salt in your mouth.
- Give questions. Curiosity. Suspending assumption and the belief that you ‘know’, willing to wake up and no matter how many years it has been, to still be able to be surprised and delighted, asking questions, wanting to know more.
- Holy water and the savage sacrilege of having no answers, just the seeking of a hunter heart, that will come find you, again and again.
- The gift that was always wanted, but never received. Track it down. Find it now, and give it. Which is the gift of memory, and completion, and love. The baby doll in the basket. The sheet music to the song whose name couldn’t be remembered, just the melody hummed. The coveted pocket knife, smooth and cold to the touch. The telescope. The charcoal pencils and liquid ink pens, speaking the language of who you were going to become.
- Stories written on the lines of your palm, waiting to be discovered.
One by one I loosened my grip and I let those stones clatter to the floor. I brought my elbows to the desktop and rested my eyes in my palms. If he can grant me clemency I can surely let go my paltry list of transgressions. I call acquittal. I call a truce. Sans the weight of umbrage, my suffering abated.
A second Google search told me that the traditional material for a second anniversary is cotton. When they returned from their walk, I suggested a trip to the thrift store. We had fun picking out some books and toys for the little Acorn Scout and then we each embarked separately on an item of cotton, something special to exchange. In the end we each picked out a cotton shirt for the other. Our “love” shirts, we said. On the sleeves I stitched the date. 10-14-14.
It feels perfect.