I woke this morning to my son’s daily moan/whine “Mommy, can we get uuuuuuppppppp now?” like I do almost every morning. As I started to rise, he realized what day it was and jumped up, yelled for his sister, and told us not to come downstairs. They had a surprise they needed to pull together.
The kids love our anniversary more than we do. There is a countdown to the day. There are secret meetings to discuss our surprise breakfast, which consists of overflowing cereal bowls of Cheerios, with milk dribbling down the sides and onto the table, and a couple of frozen French toast sticks. There is also an abundance of presents. The piece de resistance this year was a masking taped tissue box wrapped in computer paper containing 4 used pencils and a brown handbraided bracelet that fit neither of our wrists.
Knowing what awaited me downstairs, I hauled my sleepy butt out of bed and looked out the window – the air looked crisp and the sun sparkled on the autumn leaves just like they did in Maryland ten years ago today on the morning of our wedding. I looked over at Ben, still stretching in bed as he mumbled “happy anniversary.”
Ten freaking years.
Ben and I were wary AF to get married. We both came from divorced families – an experience that left an indelible hurt in both our hearts. We didn’t see many examples of successful marriages around us. Frankly, we felt that we were embarking into dangerous territory.
We did, despite all this, want to get married.
We wanted our beautiful community to witness our commitment to each other. To vow with us that they would hold us up to the promise we made to each other, to offer us help or healing or understanding or advice when we struggled.
We wanted – more than anything – to build something that was our own. That took what we loved (or imagined we did, because what did we know?) about the institution of marriage and rewrite the rest. To carve our own path.
As an artist, a producer, a maker, I often think about container. What is the vessel into which you pour your creation? What is the form, the size, the shape, the canvas, the medium that will limit you just enough to set you free in your creating? To allow what you are making to become its fullest, most realized expression.
When we were planning our wedding ceremony, Ben and I chose the Warren Zevon song “Don’t Let Us Get Sick” to be sung by one of our friends just before we were pronounced husband and wife. The chorus sings out:
Don’t let us get sick
Don’t let us get old
Don’t let us get stupid alright
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight.
It’s funny, the choices we make. I had heard this song covered by our incredibly talented singer/songwriter friend, Mike, who had performed it at his shows and who we asked to sing it at our wedding. It still strikes me as a strange and melancholy song for a wedding ceremony.
This song, to me, is a prayer, a reminder, an urging to us that the container is not enough. We are quite possibly going to get sick. We will hopefully grow old. And we will absolutely, without a doubt, be stupid, a LOT of the time. This ceremony, this institution and its vows are by no means an inoculation against the shit that comes in life. Nor does it guarantee the enjoyment of the gifts it brings either.
You have to decide how you are going to be together.
That’s the creative part.
Don’t Let Us Get Sick, in many ways, represented our choice of how. Bravery, yes. Make us be brave please. And make us play nice. Our officiant, Bob, a great family friend and wise pastor, rightfully drilled down with us on what we thought it meant to play nice. I loved this inquiry. It meant to us, to not be knowingly cruel. But more than that, it meant to call forth from each other the truth and compassion we wanted for each other.
So together, we wanted to be brave. To be honest. And to be compassionate.
I realize now that these intentions were already natural hallmarks of our relationship. The first year of dating was – at that time, six years in – our most challenging (parenting has since raised the bar). We faced a lot of demons in ourselves individually and in our togetherness. In building our wedding ceremony, in choosing this song and the other tenants of the ceremony, we were calling out what we believed it was about us – as a couple – that would carry us through to the other side of worse in the “for better or worse” scenario.
I did not, so much, have my eye on the “better” side of things.
I knew we were going in with eyes wide open, that we were going to have struggles and, in those times, we were going to have to dig deep and stay true to our intentions of bravery, compassion and honesty.
I did not, I confess, make an intention for how I was going to show up for the good stuff.
I did not consider that it also takes bravery, compassion and honesty to – with equally wide-open eyes - allow in the joy. The gratitude. The daily moments of grace.
To be your full self. To show up everyday to your marriage. To commit, each morning, to those same prayers and promises.
And to turn around, from the window and the sparkling fall leaves, to your husband, stretching in the bed and reply “Good morning. Happy anniversary. Let’s go let these maniacs make us breakfast.”
Here is the song, written and performed by Warren Zevon.