“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.
This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that I write about how vacation running is simply the best. But even more than that, a vacation away from our kids was simply the best for my husband and me.
I had to go to Austin for a meeting with the Texas book selection committee on which I serve, and for the second year in a row, my husband and I turned it into a mini vacation. It was just the two of us, and it was glorious. Then, the following weekend, my husband and I participated in the Shiner Beer Run in Shiner, Texas. So, for two weekends in a row, we took trips without our children and we enjoyed ourselves.
So what is it, exactly about a trip away from home, not even in an exotic location, that is so enjoyable?
- Breaking routine
In short, we enjoyed no kids, no work, and no household chores. We traded in all of that routine for new experiences, meeting new people, and making new memories. It was so easy for us to enjoy each other with the absence of daily stressors. There wasn’t any yelling up the stairs, “Come on girls, we need to leave in ten minutes!” or “Callie, have you studied for your science test?” or “Are these dishes in the dishwasher clean or dirty?” It was just talking and laughing and hanging out and it was wonderful.
Like a defibrillator to our chests, these mini vacations recharged us and made us fresher. The daily grind can be quite cumbersome and a break from the constant commotion was such a relief. One doesn’t truly realize the amount of stress they are under when they are constantly coming and going from one event to another. I guess, in a way, that’s a good thing, for if a person is able to just keep chugging along without a nervous breakdown, she must be doing something right. However, even the strongest people out there need to get their batteries recharged or they will short circuit. My husband and I were able to hit the pause button on our day-to-day lives, hang out together with no real responsibility (except for that pesky all day meeting that Saturday in Austin for me) and get refreshed.
- Appreciation of our lives
Being away from the kids, the home, and work makes us appreciate all of those things that much more. We got to the point where we were actually looking forward to returning home to our family and our work, even though we were having a great time. We love our life. It is truly what we dreamt of nearly fifteen years ago when we got married. We wanted a house, healthy children, and steady jobs. We have all of these things and then some. Our lives are really very good. We have a lot to be thankful for, indeed. Being away from the grind made us truly appreciate what we have back at home.
- Good old fashioned fun
While we’re certain we couldn’t exist without wifi, it was nice to chill out on the work emails and detox from the excessivie social media interactions in favor of walks in the park, listening to live music, dining at new restaurants, and lazily cuddling. These are the things that truly make the world go round. It was quite fun to do these things with my husband. We’ve been together since the year 2000, but we’ve been parents since 2004, and we don’t always take the time to enjoy each other as we should. These weekends reminded us of this, and for that I am quite grateful.
Even though we were in cities we’ve been to countless times, we felt a bit adventurous, and this was exciting. We felt more closely bonded to each other through our shared adventure away. It got me thinking, too, that I tend to be attracted to people that enjoy adventure. The “adventure gene” should be present in all of the people with which I choose to associate. Obviously, a 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hour trip to a city within our state isn’t the same as a backpacking trip around Europe, but adventure can be found anywhere. I find adventure on my runs in my hometown, and we enjoyed the adventure we had together in Austin and Shiner. Additionally, I really enjoyed my Austin and Shiner runs, as always.
One day my husband and I will be sitting around in our rocking chairs asking each other where the time went. We’ll barely remember the specifics of soccer seasons, cross country meets, school projects, etc. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the stresses of our day-to-day lives and to forget what is really important. Taking a break away from home and away from our children really helps us to remember that.