The hanging flower basket sways in the wind on this rainy morning, its blooms all but invisible. The purple and green leaves are struggling for life because of neglect. Watering the plants wintering inside the house is not one of my strong suits, so I feel a bit responsible for this, especially because of the plant’s significance.
I remember the day we picked it out, a tangible memory of the weekend we spent picking up the pieces of what was left of our marriage, seeing if we could put it back together again. It was my first time away from our youngest, still a baby at the time, but we were only a couple of hours away and both of the kids were in good hands. It wasn’t even a question, this time away, even if we couldn’t afford it with time or money.
We stood in the gift shop of the conservatory where the colors and smells had revived something inside of us in the dead of a Midwest winter. We didn’t need a knick-knack to commemorate our time. We needed a living memorial. The wandering jew caught our eye, although the name still sounds odd on my tongue. (Its official name: Tradescantia zebrina. Also a mouthful.)
That particular plant actually died years ago, but we replaced it with one that was discounted at Lowe’s. It thrived. And now it’s struggling again so it might be time to purchase another one.
I used to feel guilty about this inability to keep the same plant alive. As a metaphor for our marriage, I thought maybe it was a sign that we were destined to not make it as a couple. I’m over that now because what we’ve experienced is a continual process of planting and uprooting; of dying and thriving. The symbolism of the plant is as true when it is struggling for life as when it is thriving.
Our marriage has had those seasons, too.
Today, it’s been 10 years since the church filled with people and I donned that white dress to meet you in the sanctuary in your pink suit. Certain memories of that day will never leave me. But sometimes it seems like someone else’s life. Was that really us? (I feel the same way when I look at our engagement pictures, the last professional pictures we had taken together. Who are those people?)
It was us.
And so were all the other us-es from then till now.
Sometimes I want to toss out the uglier moments, but like the plant hanging on our porch, I come back to our marriage again and again, even if it often feels like something entirely different from what it once was. Its very existence reminds me of all the struggling and the thriving and the beauty that’s worth the result of having both.
I used to feel sad and a little bitter when I looked at pictures of younger us. I would feel sorry for them and their ignorance of the things to come. But now I know that we couldn’t be “us” now without “us” then and there are things we will face in the next 10 years that will contribute to future “us.”
I used to write these anniversary posts hoping to impart some wisdom about marriage, to celebrate and memorialize the years. I’ve never been the mushy type though I do love a good love story and to be honest, ours is my favorite. Even with all the times our union struggled for life. I’m not sure I would like us as much without all the hard stuff we’ve endured and overcome and are still overcoming.
I have no great wisdom just a lot more to learn.
And a grateful heart for where we happen to be right now, in a place of thriving. (We have known long seasons of near-death, though. I keep bringing it up because I want you to see more than appearances. We have smiled in pictures when there was no love in our hearts, celebrated our marriage while hiding hard truths.)
I still don’t understand how 10 years can feel like the longest stretch and a blink at the same time. That might be the only thing that really scares me about the future. How in 10 more years I’ll wonder how it was possible that so much time had passed.
Maybe 10 years is still too little time to really know what marriage is like but it feels as if we’ve crossed a milestone. And all that we’ve endured propels me toward the next milestone.
Marriage is no sprint. It’s a marathon.
I’m glad we’re running together.