In January my husband and I celebrated our seventh anniversary. We picked up food curbside and had our to-go cocktails in the cup holders. My mom was watching our kids and had graciously lent her condo to us so we could be alone. We didn’t feel comfortable eating in a restaurant because of the raging global pandemic. As we drove to the condo, we saw billboards flashing signs from the FBI asking for tips about the Capitol Insurrection. We actually couldn’t get takeout from our favorite restaurant downtown because of protests and my job had sent out an emergency alert warning us to be safe. If you had told us seven years ago, this is how we’d spend celebrating our marriage, we would not have believed it. It was just so dark. But yet, we had each other. We listened to our wedding playlist and slow danced to our wedding song “January Wedding” by the Avett Brothers and “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. As they sang, “home is whenever I’m with you” I got teary because it was true. I could not imagine spending this year with anyone else. The idea of home had changed so much and it really was with him.
Changes in Marriage
On our actual wedding day, we had to go to the ICU to see my Grandma. She was in the last stages of cancer and as much as she tried, she couldn’t make it to our wedding. She passed away on our honeymoon. Later that winter we saw Rusalka (one of her favorite operas) in theater. She said that “Song to the Moon” made her realize how much my grandpa loved her.
A year later my father passed away suddenly from a cardiac arrest. My dad adored my mom and I wanted a relationship like theirs. This is something I will never fully recover from and we’ve had to accept grief in our marriage. We’ve also dealt with health ups and downs and finance fluctuations. This is to say Mark and I have been through some stuff together.
Marriage is Work
We had our second child in the middle of last March. This was just insane and something I am sure I will process at some inopportune time. We were used to rough patches and I’ve learned something through marriage. It’s surprisingly easier to get through major crises than dealing with the daily aftermath. When something is happening, it’s you and your partner against the world. When it’s over, you deal with a mundane and completely different world than you are used to.
What David Foster Wallace described in his essay “This is Water”, is the hardest part of being married. You have to be with someone you love and like. That’s a hard balance after a year of only being with your family. It’s been relentless. This year has been determined to prove my worst instincts right. However, I have been more resilient because I’ve got my family and a man I really truly love.
“The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.” -David Foster Wallace.
This is how I’ve tried to feel every day since the pandemic started.
Not the obsessive love that I had when I was young thinking about if I was pliant or turned into the girl they wanted. As opposed to Mark, who told his best friend he was going to marry me the night we reconnected. Mark has seen me at my highest and lowest. Mark loves our children so much. He loves our crabby weird kitties. He is so proud of me and my accomplishments. He makes me laugh every day.
We realized that we are the first generation since our great-great-grandparents to be married and raise children in a pandemic. How did they do it? But we’re getting through it. There’s no road map for being married during a prolonged crisis.
Marriage is work. It’s not easy and we’ve been through enough that we know what’s important and what’s not. It’s just been odd to give up so much of what we thought was normal and really lean into each other.
We are really lucky to have my mom available to help so we have little things we look forward to and stuff we love doing together. We have special meals, favorite hikes, and shows we love. We miss our friends terribly. We miss having the options for date nights, live music, travel, and parties. After having kids, we didn’t do too much of that but it was something.
We just have our family unit and our home. We’re lucky we work hard to make it special and loving. We have a print in our house that says “when a home has love in it/It’s a palace for sure” by Tom Waits. We really believe that. Is it perfect? No. We fight and disagree. But at the end of the day what we have is important and our family is our number one priority. Not everyone is meant to be with each other and love is hard. People grow apart. We are just working on growing with each other and building the other one up.
Before Mark and I got together, I had a therapist say I needed to be open to the possibility of love. Like cheesy goofy uncomplicated love. I started really listening to pop songs and trying to get back to an idea of sweetness. While looking for songs about love to title this entry, I scrolled through a few good ones. But I wanted a good, genuine love song. The Bones was suggested. I mostly listen to my indie or old music, but I love Maren Morris’ voice. She’s also in a band called The Highwomen with these incredible vocalists. The lyrics also seem like things both my grandpas and my dad would have said. My grandmothers and my mother are all these outspoken fascinating women. They all married these men who were kind of in awe of them and just adored them. When you grow up watching that kind of love your standards are really high when it comes to marriage. I wanted someone I could love and depend on. So while this song is deceptively simple, it’s definitely a song you can slow dance with your husband to after seven years of marriage. Especially, if the circumstances are you are getting some rare alone time with your husband in your mom’s condo drinking a to-go cocktail and just processing everything. Sometimes you need songs you can just lose yourself to. In the absence of live music, we need sentimental songs about making it through.
My idea of marriage has evolved from my childish idea of being Mrs. Leonardo DiCaprio, to something unattainable, to something I work on every day with a rad dark haired dry-humored dude who keeps me sane. So I’m proud of us, “the bones are good and the rest don’t matter.”