Almost.

Hell of a summer it’s been for us. Both good and bad. The paradox of the-hell-of-a-good-summer and hell-of-a-bad-summer has weighed on my mind for most of the last 3 months. I have a different post about this prepared and ready to be published, but I haven’t been brave enough to share it yet.

What I am brave enough to share right now is that once there was a man and a woman, and for 8 years they loved each other the best way they knew how. And it almost wasn’t good enough. Almost.

They shared many laughs and tears and burdens and blessings. They grew up and they fell apart. They argued. And argued. And argued some more. And sometimes they said really mean things and forgot that they were supposed to cherish each other. They forgot to be patient. They forgot to be humble.

In those 8 years, they wrote love notes and planned surprise dates. They took care of each other in some of their darkest moments. They traveled, they dreamed. Sometimes they stayed up all night for strife. And sometimes they stayed up all night for love. Three times they made life together. Twice those babies were born. Beautiful, precious babies, born of a flawed but fierce love. They made a family. They built a life. It was never perfect. But it was theirs

I lie here tonight, cradled in the crook of my husband’s arm. He falls asleep quickly and I hear his breathing change. It slows and then his gentle breaths give way to gentle snores and I smile. He is so familiar.

I breathe him in. That smell that left me intoxicated when we were new to each other. That mix of soap and sweat and him. That smell I love. And I realize, in this moment, that once again I am drunk on his love. I smile again because this is also familiar. And I realize he is comfort and safety and home and love.

In the dim light, I watch his chest rise and fall with each breath. I trace his smooth skin with my fingers. I think about how much I love this man. How much I’ve always loved this man. This man who trusted me with his wounded and broken heart all those years ago. This man who let himself love me in spite of his fears. This man who coached me through childbirth twice, and delivered our daughter, and nursed my crumpled body and broken soul when we lost a pregnancy. This man who never once batted an eye about our son’s diagnosis and who takes extra time with our daughter for the little things because he knows the little things add up to be the big things. This man who works himself to the bone to take care of us. This man who is so familiar to me, who loves me more than I ever knew. I mouth a quiet prayer. Thank you, God, for this man. Thank you for teaching us to love each other better…

For a while, we got lost in life. And our best love almost wasn’t good enough. Almost.

…But tonight, he is here. We are here. A little battered, a little broken, but here. We are healing and growing and loving. We are doing better for each other and for our family. And I think, this is marriage. It’s hard and brutal and it sure can break you. But it’s also beautiful and precious and sustaining. It’s about so much more than just ourselves. And it’s easy to get lost. So easy. I think how different this could be–how he could be snoring somewhere else, how I could be sleeping alone, and I close my eyes to blink away the tears. I can’t imagine my life without this man.

Once there was a man and a woman. They loved each other the best way they knew how. And it almost wasn’t good enough. Almost.

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Damned Men

Since our anniversary has officially passed, I think I can safely share some words of marriage wisdom. And since I’m pretty sure my husband doesn’t even know (or at least doesn’t acknowledge) that this blog exists, I’m probably protected from any retaliation on his part.

Men, take note. The following snippets of conversations with my husband should provide examples of things one should never say to a woman.

For the love of all that is good and holy, do not ever, especially with even a hint of disgust in your voice, ask your wife (or any woman), “Um, are you getting varicose veins on your legs?” Because yes, after bearing children, she probably is getting varicose veins. And she already knows it. She sees her legs every single day, and trust me, she takes stock of EVERYTHING. She’s the first to notice new veins, new cellulite, new freckles. She doesn’t need your keen powers of observation to alert her to the formation of newly busted veins that make her legs look like stubby road maps. All those flaws on her legs used to be the reason she refused to wear shorts in public, and that was back when her legs were pretty rockin’ (she just didn’t know it back then). Now, it’s so damn hot out and she’s so sick of suffering through swamp ass that she wears shorts no matter how bad her legs looks. And if you don’t like it, don’t look. You might as well just go for the jugular and ask why she’s getting so fat or how it’s possible that she can grow a mustache that’s thicker than yours.

Do not reach into the side compartment of her car door and ask why she’s been eating GU. Then, don’t follow that up with a lecture, no matter how good your intentions are, about how there are much better snacks out there better suited to her since she isn’t a marathon runner. Don’t explain to her that GU is simply a concentrated mix of calories and sugar, specially designed for endurance athletes, which she isn’t. And then don’t end with a nonchalant, “Just sayin’.” Of course she knows she’s not a marathon runner (or any runner), let alone ANY type of endurance athlete. She’s just been waiting for you to ask her why she’s getting so fat, so in an effort to curb that conversation, she went to the gym. Along those lines, she’s been trying to diet, probably through some program like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. Or if she’s really feeling desperate, she’s trying the Master Cleanse. In other words, she’s effing starving. All the time. Not that she has time to eat anyway, since she’s pretty busy working and/or taking care of the kids. Her body doesn’t seem to care, though, and seems to be hoarding body fat. Even so, she saw the leftover GU packet and decided it might help to keep her from passing out while walking on the treadmill since she was heading to the gym just before the child care center closed (i.e. she still didn’t have time to eat). Walking on the treadmill is hard for her right now, you know. It’s boring and tedious, and she hates being surrounded by young girls with no varicose veins and no cellulite. Or worse, moms that look as though they didn’t gain a pound in pregnancy– moms with perky boobs but without cellulite and varicose veins. Moms that don’t have to pick their wedgies while they work out or tug at their shirts to make sure their bellies are still covered. Moms that make them want to shrink back into a corner for letting themselves go so badly, but instead, they smile at them and compliment them for being in such great shape and pretend they aren’t sweating b@lls from the high-speed pace of 3.5 mph. Yep, walking on the treadmill is hard. It’s no training for a marathon, but the GU got her through the workout without the need for medical and/or emergency intervention.

Speaking of medical intervention, when your wife says that someday she’d like to have her boobs put back where they go–where they were before she became a champion breastfeeder–it’s really not a good idea, no matter how supportive you think you’re being, to chime in with, “You know, if you want to get your stomach fixed too, we can do that.” She knows you were trying to be nice. She knows that was your best attempt at telling her that you’ll make sacrifices to help her to feel better about herself. And she also knows you’re an idiot. Because just like with her legs, she knows that her once taut tummy is now more like a deflated balloon hanging around her waist. She knows that the stretch marks lining her belly make it feel more like Braille than the smooth skin you used to run your hands over when you two were still hot and heavy. She knows it, and she’s self-conscious about it, and she might even be ashamed of it no matter how many times she reminds herself that those scars are evidence of the beautiful lives she brought into this world.

You see, guys, to you, the commentary is harmless. On the surface, it’s just a benign question or simple observation. But to her, it’s a gateway to all of her insecurities, all the things she frets about when she stands naked in front of the mirror before her shower (if she’ll even look in the mirror), everything she loathes about herself when she’s in the fitting room trying desperately to find something flattering to wear for your big date night. She lives in this body that overall has served her quite well during her accomplished life, but that she still struggles to make peace with after all these years. There is a lot more going on in that pretty little head of hers than she shares, and a lot of it probably isn’t pretty. She might play tough on the outside, but the inside might still be a little bit raw.

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