Nine years ago (this week), I stood at the entrance of a small, glass chapel in southern Brazil. Inside sat a crowd of beautifully dressed strangers. The women, painted like porcelain dolls, looked at me, then through me, as my layers of tulle were fluffed and my father tenderly took my hand in his.
“You ready?”, he asked.
I smiled that smile, looked down the aisle to my future husband, and nodded my head. Then I started down the satin runner.
I was not ready to get married.
I was ready to pick out a sparkling diamond, make seating charts and choose a delicious assortment of truffles. I was ready to take engagement pictures, stamp and seal invites, and send for our set of ‘His’ and ‘Hers’ towels. I was ready to select bridesmaids, a tiara and a gorgeous gown.
I was ready for a wedding
I thought I knew a lot. And, looking back, I did about select things…a few things…teeny, tiny things. But when it came to the big things, turns out, I was quite naive.
I didn’t know much about myself.
I hadn’t put in the time.
I hadn’t done the work.
I hadn’t removed my mask (you know the one) and peered into my ugly places; the ones we try to convince ourselves, and others, we don’t have.
In short, I hadn’t been real. Not as real as marriage deserves. Not as real as my future husband deserved.
My husband and I both come from what others have defined as “broken” homes. My parents fell out of love, out of like and out of respect with each other. In the end, they could barely breathe the same air without being covered by a thick, gauzy haze of dislike and disgust. My in-laws’ end was similar, but more amicable, which led their children to believe reconciliation was possible, if not probable.
During our courtship, we spent hours identifying their mistakes and planning how to avoid making the same.
“We’re going to do things differently.”
“We’re going to be happy.”
“We’re going to love til it hurts…”
And we have…
And. We. Do.
After 11 years together (nine of those married), I’ve learned a lot.
I’d like to think I’m more kind and less cruel. More accepting and less judgmental. More loving and less vindictive. More appreciative and less envious. More transparent and less dishonest. More for us and less for myself.
I’d like to think that I know more than that 24-year-old who looked down the aisle and neglected to see her future standing there with moist green eyes and a smile laced with hope and possibility. Who neglected to understand the gravity of such a choice
that she’d made the right one.
Maybe you don’t fall in love just once, but over and over again, with the same person. The one who has seen you and your heart at their ugliest and chooses you through it and despite it.
Maybe that’s the lesson.
Maybe that’s all we need to know.