Sunday, May 25, 2014

Choosing Love

I mentioned in Thursday's post that Doug and I celebrated 15 years of marriage last Sunday. We've had a lot of laughs along the way. Even though I can't recall this one. Maybe someone hollered, "Hey! Ten years from now you'll have a herd of small children, including two sets of twins!" Now that would have made us laugh. Like, "Ha! Yeah, right!"

Twins, double twins... I didn't see any of it coming. Not even the faintest aura of it reaching from behind. Nor did I think Doug would work such a demanding job that, by necessity, would require us to go long stretches without really connecting and thriving. Just surviving. 

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The journey has been tough at times. But laugh? We have done that. 

Like when I put liquid fabric softener in the dryer. We were newly married and I poured it all over the wet towels in the dryer. I thought, I guess the heat will just dissipate it... (wha?). I grew up using dryer sheets. No one taught me how to use liquid softener. It seemed logical to put it in the dryer. Needless to say, the odd peach-colored spots on our dry towels made for incriminating evidence. I still haven't lived that one down.

We've laughed over things the kids have said. Like the time Gordon mixed up the words "quessadilla" and "diarrhea." That was problematic for a while. Or the day Eliza heard a radio commercial and was convinced that Black Friday meant we could get anything we wanted at Macy's. For Free!

We've guffawed through our share of family prayers. (Sometimes I just can't hold it in.) We've laughed at the craziness of holding inconsolable babies late into the night or watching all five children dance wild in the living room. (Spencer danced right off the table after I took this shot. I have it on video somewhere.)

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We've also cried, walked out on each other in the middle of a conversation, had some hard talks, worn out the same topics, gone to bed unhappy and frustrated, but woken with new perspective to fix what was said and make things right.

A friend told me recently that marriage has three stages:

1 - Loving and not Knowing. When you get married, you don't have the faintest clue what you're in for. You don't know how your spouse cleans toilets or irons shirts. You can't fathom that their sock lint, ground into the bedroom carpet, will drive you absolutely nutso. You don't know what buttons they will push and send you flaming through the roof. You can't imagine not getting along, or saying something hurtful. You're too in love. Too enamored by this gorgeous person who actually wants to spend their life with you.

2 - Knowing and Not Loving. And then you start to notice things, know things. Things you don't love so much. In fact, some days you sit back and say to yourself, Really, I chose to marry this person? We're soooo different! Those are hard days, sometime seasons. Times, when many marriages fall apart. When one spouse decides they just can't make it work any longer. Because they've grown apart, don't have enough in common anymore, aren't feeling the love.

3 - Knowing and Choosing to Love. Then you reach this point of decision. This final stage where the rubber meets the road. Where real marriages are made. Here love, in its healthiest and happiest form, can thrive. But it takes choosing love. Again, and again. It takes choosing to be committed. Come hell or high water. It requires looking past habits, traits, things that frustrate. It takes choosing to forgive, to improve, to let go, listen more, and well... love. And here's the catch-all; it only works when both spouses make this choice. To love.

Now I know there are situations too complicated and hurtful to even discuss here. Marriages that haven't worked, couldn't work. And for good reason. This is not a panacea for every circumstance. Nor is it an easy prescription. But I write about it because it has been the marriage road we have traveled.

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For the last two years Doug has run the Ogden marathon on the weekend of our anniversary.

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Last year it rained the entire race. Not a light rain that kept him cool, but a pouring, chilling rain, that soaked us to the bones.

As we waited at the finish line, pressing our bodies against the fence for a glimpse of Doug in his blue shirt, I found myself overcome with emotion. This was Doug's first marathon. I watched so many drenched runners push across the finish line, sometimes in pain, sometimes with a cheer of victory, some hand in hand with another runner. As I did, a huge lump welled in my throat. I have known that 26th mile - the exhaustion, the mental battle of finishing - when you don't know how you can possibly put one foot in front of the other. 

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We were so happy to see him running towards us. 

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A few months later, he ran his second marathon. The Deseret News marathon, in commemoration of the pioneer settlers who made their way down steep canyons into the Salt Lake valley. This was a killer run. Lots of downhill, which you think would make for a faster time, but all that eccentric pounding is murder on your quads and calves.

Once again, as we leaned over the metal fencing, I found my throat aching tight, tears beginning to seep out of my eyes. It was the sheer accomplishment of doing something so demanding. I was just hoping he would make it, still running, still sane, still upright.

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And he did!

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This year, as I piled little ones in front of me and we leaned out over the fence, waiting, and watching, the sun was bright and happy. The crowds were larger, the cheers louder. 

Eliza saw him first. His lucky blue shirt coming down the street. He was making great time, his fastest yet, and as I took pics, the kids gave him a high-five. 

I put my camera down to watch him cross the finish line. And there it was, that lump in my throat. A young mother ran in just ahead of Doug, about our age. And when she saw her family in front of us, she burst into tears. She lifted her small daughter over the fence and together, they ran across the finish line. That whole scene did me in.

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The kids cheered "Daddy! Daddy!" as we wandered past the finish line to find him, see how he was doing.

He looked good. And I felt a surge of love for him. A wave of gratitude that despite the bad and ugly, he has chosen our life together. 

Doug is committed. I knew that up front. After weathering dating drama, two LDS missions, and several break-ups - the last of which was pretty final - he was still willing to entertain a conversation with me. The one where I had to grovel and say, "Can we try again?" He was open to making it work. At that point, we understood quite a bit about each other. And once we decided yes, we never looked back.

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A lot has changed since that laugh at the wedding reception. Hair for one. My gray is nicely hidden every few weeks, but Doug's is showing. And I like it. It says he knows something about life. 

We've weathered a season of four babies, four cribs, four in diapers, with a big sis toddler to boot, and if you'd told me fifteen years ago, that insanity would be our life, I wouldn't have believed you. Nor would I have known how we would manage. 

But we have. With heavenly help, family, and countless good people.

Our future still holds many tax seasons, inevitable hard discussions, and moments of misunderstandings, but I wouldn't want to go the distance with anyone else.

Doug is a person of integrity. He is patient, compassionate (in a quiet, no-fanfare way). He is funny, devoted to all things good, and he cares what God thinks about him. He is a wonderful father, adored by his children, and nothing speaks more to me than the pure light in his brown eyes. 

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Doug, thank you for choosing us. For choosing me. For choosing love. 

I will always be at the finish line. Running with you, cheering for you, waiting for you.

I love you.

8 comments:

  1. Stunning love-letter of a post, Cath. Congratulations to you both!

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  2. Happy Anniversary. Our marriage is a year and a handful of months younger than yours, but reading this made me cry tears of understanding--the good, the bad, the times when you are just trying to make it through to bedtime. Lovely, lovely post. Thank you.

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  3. Love this post so much! I have never heard those 3 seasons of marriage - but it is so true and consoling to know that we are not alone in the highs and lows. You are beautiful and I long to really meet Doug someday - what a beautiful team you make. Happy 15 years - we are just a few months ahead of you.

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  4. Love you both and love you both together! xo

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  5. Thank you...this is Beautiful...needed to hear this.

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