“To get the full value of joy, you must have somebody to divide it with.” -Mark Twain
Let’s face it, being married is hard. My husband and I are celebrating our 15 year wedding anniversary and I’d be lying if I told you that every day has been a day of wedded bliss. Just like I’d be lying if I told you that every run is great. We have struggled in our marriage, just as I have struggled with my running. There have been times that my husband and I felt like throwing in the towel and giving up on our marriage, and I’ve felt the same way about my running at times. We have had incredibly bright, wonderful, meaningful times in our marriage, and so have I had with my running. There are days where being married is very easy, just as there are easy running days. There have been low points in our marriage where I have doubted my abilities to be a good wife, just as I have often doubted my running abilities. Often I am lazy with my marriage, just as I can be lazy with my running. But one thing is for certain, I do not regret my decision to get married, and I do not regret my decision to become a runner. Being married is a huge part of who I am now; I barely remember that other woman I used to be with that different last name, just as I struggle to remember that woman that wasn’t a runner.
So, my wedding anniversary has me thinking about marriage. I have a hard time thinking about anything without bringing my running somehow into the metaphorical mix. Running is truly part of who I am at this point. So indulge me here, if you will, in my marriage/marathon training comparisons.
Marriage is hard. It takes sacrifice, perseverance, dedication, passion and commitment. Marriage is often inconvenient. I have said all of these things about running more times than I can count. Running has truly taught me that if I want something to work, I must work at it. I may feel weak and discouraged at times, but I have to get up after I have fallen down and hit the ground running. I must continue to fight even when I don’t much feel like fighting. As I reflect on marriage and running, two trite running cliches come to mind: “it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” and “stay the course,” and while they are overused, they are profound statements. Marriage is a struggle, there are obstacles in our paths and we often feel like quitting, but we don’t. We keep fighting.
I got married in 2002. Since then we created two beautiful daughters and countless fond memories. We have been through a rough bout of unemployment when the housing market crashed in 2008 and it turned our whole world upside down. We got through those tough 19 months on my teacher’s salary and our savings. We made it through that fog. We downsized our home and are still attempting to build our savings back. My running is sometimes a matter of contention for us. I have to remember to be mindful of fostering my marriage with the same fervor with which I foster my running. We find ourselves struggling with parenting, finances, household organization, and intimacy, as I know all married couples do. The bottom line is that we are family. We are a team. My husband is my best friend, and while I am not always happy with him, I love him. We love each other, warts and all, in good times and in hard times. We are committed and dedicated and passionate about our marriage.
This 15 year wedding anniversary is a milestone anniversary for us. Obviously, it’s that next big one after the important 10, but before the big 20, but it’s a milestone anniversary for us for a very different reason. The truth is, my husband and I are not the same people we were when we first got married. We are different. We have grown and changed. At 25 I was just learning to be a grownup. I was not yet a mother or a runner. At 40, I’m learning to negotiate my work, family, friends and running. I am infinitely more busy than I ever was at 25. All of this goes for my husband too. When we were first married we were dreamers. We were embarking on this adult world together. No one could stop us. These days we’re a bit bedraggled by this big, wide world. Parenting is really hard. We often admit that we’re just figuring all of this grownup stuff out as we go along. We don’t claim to have all of the answers, that’s for sure. We’re often tired and we often have a really hard time fitting everything in. We’re very busy and we let things slide. There’s always a dishwasher full of clean dishes waiting to be unloaded and items in the sink on deck to be loaded once the clean ones are emptied, and it’s the same story over in our laundry room. And that dog needs a bath, that lawn needs to be cut, those floors need to be mopped, those emails and texts need to be answered. We’re drowning in responsibility, but it’s everything we dreamed of as a young couple. We truly have everything we wanted.
I looked up the symbol for the 15th wedding anniversary and learned that it is crystal. I also read that “the ancients regarded the crystal as pure water congealed into extreme hardness by great length of time.” This concept intrigues me. I guess this could be taken in two ways. 1). we started out pure and now we are all hard and bitter. 2). We started out as two and have strengthened and become one over time. Number two is much prettier, but number one is also true. Honestly, we have had our bubbles burst a time or two by the big, cruel world, but we have always had each other, and that is really what matters. When things are rough, and we all know that things will get rough for us at times, it is comforting to have your partner with you with which to commiserate. We have each other to lean on. We are not alone. He is my family. We’ve made it fifteen years, and even though we’re different people now, we’ve grown together. We are stronger than we were in the beginning. We started out pure water and congealed into extreme hardness over time.