Patrick and I attended the fortieth wedding anniversary celebration of friends last weekend, during which the couple renewed their wedding vows. We felt lucky to witness such a beautiful and rare occasion. Lucky to be sitting side by side, hand in hand, ourselves.
The divorce years are upon us like a season of wild fires. I’ve walked beside several of my dearest friends through the end of their marriages recently. Held their hands through the anger, grief and despair. Hugged their children and their husbands. Mourned as I watched the old life die, then cheered to see the new one emerge from the ashes.
Patrick and I have been through a lot in our fourteen years of marriage. I know some things about being in a relationship. I could list the things we’ve got going for us–the acquired skill set, the inherent affinities, the ties that bind. But I don’t really know why some make it, and some don’t. Only that people change. When I consider how much we’ve changed in fourteen years, it strikes me as a kind of miracle that the two people we are now should be in love as much or more than the people we were back then. The odds seem crazy.
There have been fleeting moments and occasional stretches in which one or both of us haven’t felt so lucky to be in this thing. When we’re in a good place, like now, I look back at those times with the kind of over-the-shoulder relief you feel after absently running a stop sign, or losing control on a patch of ice. Scramble around the variables of timing and circumstance, and it could have been all over. In a fingersnap.
There, but for grace. Stay awake, I tell myself. Don’t drift off like that. Ever. Again. Remember how it feels right now.
But I’ll forget again–for minutes, days, or weeks on end, and so will he. You can’t participate in your own life and observe it from an enlightened distance at the same time. Growing doesn’t happen in the observation; only measuring. The flow of days pulls you both in, takes you under. You come back up to catch your breath, and look around to see how far you’ve come, where you’re headed, and –if you’re lucky–remember how lucky you are.