“And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?”
– Talking Heads
I’ve never been married for 22 years before.
It’s a little strange for both me and Heather, like we just came into possession of a DMC DeLorean with the Doc Brown option package. Last week, it was 1998 with my hair refusing to lie flat while we said “I do.” Yesterday, it was 2011, when we moved in with Missy for the first time and became parents in a way that neither of us had ever expected.
Now it’s 2020. And even against the backdrop of The Strangest Year of All™, this still makes us pause.
How DID we get here, anyway?
Silly question, of course. I mean, this is what we promised to do, right? To keep being there even when everything else changes. Like jobs. And homes. And new family members arriving while old ones (or not-so-old ones) leave. And all the rest of it.
But somehow, when you add it all up, it becomes stunning.
Think about it: Who thought we’d last long enough for the 1980s to become cool again?
“I did it one piece at a time.”
It’s not unique to us, of course. It’s not even unique to marriage. As a species, we love to make promises that take moments to say and so much longer to live.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
“…and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity …”
Personal commitments. National commitments. All of them so much more than we can see. Our words can leap years, decades, even centuries, but we still have to put them together day by day like everyone else.
And that’s hard.
It’s hard for a young couple who puts time and energy into a fantastic wedding and then discovers that a lasting marriage is a different animal, one that has to be reinvented every day.
It’s hard for a young nation that has to reach those blessings of posterity in fits and starts: sometimes surging forward in triumph, sometimes falling back in despair and most often moving one painful compromise at a time.
It’s hard now, when so much seems to have changed so quickly, to realize that our solutions may not be as quick. That they can’t be.
We can plan. We can prepare. And we should. But all we can reach, right here and now, is today. We’re getting through it as best as we can with what we’ve got.
But if we get through it enough times, it builds into something more.
If we keep going, we can make a difference. To ourselves. To each other. Maybe even to the world.
It all starts with one day.
“Look at where we are. Look at where we started.”
Heather and I have had a lot of “one days.” Twenty-two years’ worth.
On our very first anniversary, we struggled up the ridge of the Great Sand Dunes. It’s not something either of us would have thought to do on our own, maybe not even something we could have. But together, encouraging each other, we made it step by step.
In a way, we never stopped climbing that ridge. Through chronic illness. Through Missy’s dances and softball games. Through celebration and reflection and more books than any one family should reasonably own.
And love. Love most of all.
Maybe that’s why, when we look back, the surrounding landscape feels so staggering. There’s a lot of journey ahead. But we’ve come so far.
Here’s to all our journeys, wherever we may be on the path. May we all find what we need to take the next step.
We have a day ahead. Let’s make the most of it.
Heather and I certainly plan to.