Right now, as we speak, I am crashing hard and fast back to earth. I am going to land with a full-blown slam – I can tell.
I’ve been away, you guys, and I’ve had the best, most euphoric long weekend of all time. I don’t remember feeling this good since Ella was born. Well, since just after Ella was born, anyway. Giving birth and the weekend I’ve just had are certainly not on par. Chalk and cheese, really.
It felt as if the Red Tent had snuck away from its cozy hiding place and burst to life. There were some of my favourite girls EVERYWHERE. We stayed on a farm with rolling green hills bathed in golden sunlight. We dressed up and danced all night at a wedding we all went away for. We splashed in the ocean and soaked in the warmth of the sun and our babies played and kissed each other and we laughed that adoring mother laugh I have come to love. We lit campfires on the side of a hill and cooked dinner to a sunset so rich that it could have thawed the foulest of moods. We played games and ate cheese and talked about what the hell we will do when our kids are teenagers and settled on bringing bottles of wine to each other’s houses – already chilled – and fretting together. When there is fretting to do, there is certainly no time to be spent mosey-ing around waiting for wine to chill.
Anyway, I have to stop talking about it all because I am suffering major withdrawals. What I did want to tell you about, though, was the sermon at the wedding ceremony.
The man who spoke it was the kind who commanded an audience. I’m sure that when he stands in line at McDonalds and places his order, people around him would still press their fingers to each other’s lips and hush. His voice was so reverent and deep it made any words he spoke sound profound. He paused in all the right places and spoke with humour and heart. Once, I looked around and everyone’s eyes were glued to him.
This is what he said:
Love is not a feeling. Love is a choice. Feelings we cannot control. We can’t say to ourselves, “Tomorrow when I wake up I am going to feel good.” We may wake up tomorrow and have a headache. We may wake up and feel tired and low. If love is a feeling, it takes away any control – any responsibility – we have towards participating in it. Love is a choice. It’s to choose to put another’s well-being before our own. It’s to choose to endure. It’s to choose to sacrifice. It’s joyous and happy as well – to share those good times – but above all, it’s a choice we make in every moment, every single day for the rest of our lives.
The first thought I had was, I so don’t love like that. With Ella, yes, but children are different. Joel? Joel never. Well, hardly ever, anyway. Then, I thought, Shit. We really need to get married. We really should. We need to say those vows and get serious with loving one another. And then I thought, No way in HELL can I actually walk down an aisle while everybody stares at me. And that’s where I always get stuck. So THEN, I thought that I could just do it. Instead of standing up and making wild promises of love and devotion, endurance and sacrifice, I could just do it. I could sacrifice and endure and compromise, but in the spirit of joy rather than duty. I could stop looking for perfection and taking for granted and just be patient enough to love properly. Without fuss.
Then, The Art Of Marriage was read out, and I immediately vowed to try harder. Not to Joel. Not to all our friends and family. Not to a priest, or God. Not in a white dress. Not holding onto a bunch of flowers. I just vowed to myself. Because it’s myself I’m going to have to reason with when it’s hard and boring and repetitive and stale and messy and broken. It’s myself I’m going to have to master when I’m angry and impatient and burnt out and busy. It’s myself that has to put aside some things I want to do in order for Joel to be free as well, and to not resent doing so. It’s myself that has to be the right partner, too.
So, I’m trying.
“The Art Of Marriage” – by Wilferd Arlan Peterson
Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens.
A good marriage must be created.
In the art of marriage the little things are the big things…
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say “I love you” at least once a day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is at no time taking the other for granted;
the courtship should not end with the honeymoon,
it should continue through all the years.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world.
It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.
It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude
of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.
It is speaking words of appreciation
and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience,
understanding and a sense of humour.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.
It is finding room for the things of the spirit.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal,
dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.
It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner.
It is discovering what marriage can be, at its best.