Tuesday, September 29, 2015

To my best friend on her wedding day

The speech I would have given if I hadn't been drinking all day...

You look amazing. It’s not just the dress and the hair and the make-up. It’s also the way you wear that smile.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to tell if that smile is a mask and behind it is all the grief you’ve experienced this summer. Or if it’s an attempt to reassure me and everyone else that you’re “fine, really, totally, literally fine.”

But today, that smile is something else.

It’s the culmination of all the work and planning you’ve put in and the excitement of starting your life with your husband. It’s having your family and friends around. It’s the party you’re throwing.

And it’s beautiful.

I hope you’ll remember that the wedding is just the beginning of it. What happens after is marriage.

Marriage is very different from weddings.

For one thing, there’s less cake in marriage. More microwave-heated restaurant leftovers, more hastily-prepared meals over the sink, and more boxed macaroni and cheese because it was on sale. Less cake.

There are far fewer people. While sometimes having just the two of you in a room will feel too crowded, sometimes having the two of you in a room you’ll feel all alone. Marriage is not the certainty of companionship. It’s the certainty of occupancy. Companionship is made up of the love and friendship and compassion and courtesy that marriage likes to think it glued in place. It didn’t. All marriage did was make sure that person (and all of his family) will hang around probably leaving the bed unmade and eating the last of the cereal.

Marriage doesn’t end with a sparklers-burning, hand-in-hand, run-off into the night. It drags on and on and on until one day you look over and think, “You’re still here?” There is no closing time. 

The permanence of marriage is a myth but it won’t feel that way.

The difficulties in marriage are much more significant than who sits at what table and whether a song on the “do not play” list actually gets played. Marriage difficulties are financial like losing employment, credit card debt, or foreclosure. Marriage is constantly challenged by what’s outside like a crazy grass-is-greener mirage that never disappears.

Every couple takes its own approach to the philosophy of their marriage. Charlie and I have run it like a business. We have annual reviews, goals, measurements, and coaching. It’s a very logical approach to what masquerades as a romantic institution.

Marriage it not romantic. It’s smelly and frustrating and humiliating. Not as bad as parenthood, that’s way smellier and much more humiliating. But marriage is the next worst.

I’m not trying to talk you out of it. I wouldn’t do that.

Because marrying Charlie was the best decision I ever made. Followed closely by going to Clemson and buying the Miata.

Marriage can be gratifying. It’s great to have a cheerleader, someone to boost your confidence and believe in you. It’s great to have someone to tell you the truth even when it’s harsh. It’s great to have someone to keep you honest.

But to get that, you have to give it. You have to be honest, tell the truth, believe in and cheer on. 

You have to hold one another accountable to maintain the integrity in your marriage.

Marriage can be fun. It’s great to have a date on national holidays, to have little rituals you perform together like naked Sunday, a playmate for things like golf and air hockey. It’s great to have inside jokes and “remember when” stories.

But to get those things you have to give them. Invite your spouse to participate in the things that matter to you, don’t require it. Be willing to attend the worst possible Saturday night thing he’s agreed to do and smile. You have to be all in on all of it. 

Marriage is not a contest with a winner and a loser. 

Do not keep score. When you compete with one another, you both lose. But if you’re on the same team, working toward the same outcome, you can be unstoppable.

I guess what I’m saying is marriage is going to be a shit ton of work. It’s like another job. Except you don’t get paid and there’s no health insurance.

Those old couples who are so devoted and cute? They had to lay a foundation for their marriage and work at it for years and years. And that’s what starts today. The work.

But marriage, above all, is a journey that will change you and Nathan. 

Let it. 

Because what you’ll become, will be even more beautiful than you are today.

I love you.
Thank you for inviting me to be part of this.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

An Overdue Thanks to Someone Whose Love I Earned

I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to earn my family. 

There are some who’d tell you family is born of you — kin, they call it — trees and blood and heritage and all that shit.

I have that.

I have the people I’m stuck with, the ones who annoy and degrade me, who take me for granted and disrespect me. I have those. I also have people I’m profoundly grateful to be related to. The ones I know I’m lucky to call my own.

My family, though, is different. 

I consider my family to be those people I’ve chosen for my inner circle. They’re the ones whose claim has little to do with blood, something to do with longevity, and everything to do with faith.

My family is made up of people who took a chance on loving me and received my love in return. They gave me their loyalty and I gave them mine in return. They stand by me, proud to know me, and I stand by them, proud to know them.

I learned a long time ago that you can choose your family. 

You may not be able to choose your kin. Them sonsofbitches might just follow you around and try to drag you into their swamp. But your family, they’re something special.

One of the earliest members of my family is my brother Josh. We met as friends in eighth grade and remained as such through school. When I went to college at Clemson, he’d moved to Atlanta to live with his mom and step-dad Randy. So every weekend, he was in Clemson and we were partying and telling people we were brother and sister.

Randy and Patty (Josh’s mom) had been high school sweet hearts who reconnected after they’d each had marriages and kids and divorces. Their marriage was something we thought was equal parts tragic (“Why didn’t they stay together in the first place?”) and romantic (“They found one another again!”).

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Outliving Our Nanas

Today’s is Tami’s first day without her Nana.

Today she’ll blink into the sunlight as it seems extra bright to tear-filled eyes. She’ll take deeper breaths than yesterday remembering how Patsy struggled to breathe. She’ll wonder about a future that Nana will not witness.