Friday, May 31, 2013

Yes and Yes and Yes

Today is the anniversary of the day my love asked me to marry him.  We were on a romantic gondola ride.  (In Vegas, not Italy).  And he asked me to spend my life with him.  Well, actually, it was more like, he kneeled down, showed me a ring, started sweating, and said …. ‘w-w-w-w-well?’.  To which I replied, “You have to actually ask me, you know.”  And he did.  And I said yes. 

It was a beautiful day. And we were filled with love and romance and gushiness and lots and lots of naivety.  Thankfully.  Otherwise, we might not have gone through with it.  He might have dove right off the side of that gondola and swam back to the Venetian to do some serious gambling.  After all, the craps table is, in many ways, far safer than marriage. 

If I had known then that the gushiness would someday wear off, and would be replaced with hurt and separations and insecurities … would I have said yes? 

Growing up, we think that marriage is about finding someone who makes us weak in the knees and then settling into a long, passionate, and blissful life together.  Umm, wrong.  At its best, marriage is about helping us discover who we truly are, and helping our partner discover who they truly are, as well.  That also happens to be what marriage is at its worst, too. 

Over the course of our marriage, my husband has discovered that he has the tendency to run and avoid situations when he feels unsafe.  I guess he saves all his fighting for the battlefield.  Because, in marriage, he sometimes hides out in the bunker.  And, during our marriage, I have discovered that I expect to be hurt.  Yeah, I act strong and confident and independent.  And, in many ways, I am.  But, I’m also scared half to death most of the time. And I expect to be hurt, so much so that I sometimes try to sabotage things just to make it happen—you know, so I can control it.  (Healthy, huh?) 

We have made these discoveries because we have been forced to be real with one another, and with ourselves.  Because it’s hard to be fake with the person who sees you wake up in the morning and shares a bathroom with you and knows you better than anyone else.  And this realness has led to silence and tears and heartache and resentments.  And it’s led to the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced. 

We really should have done some of this healing and self discovery work before we got married.  But, alas, we didn’t.  We didn’t love ourselves yet, though we thought we did.  And that made it hard to truly love someone else.  But, we’re learning.  We’re growing.  We’re loving – together. 

And, as the immortal Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City once said (yes, it is a classic), “if you can find someone to love the you you love, well, that's just fabulous.”  Though, I would go further and say that if you can find someone who challenges you to be the very best you you can be—then that is, truly, fabulous.  And painful.  And for some of us, it’s all rolled up into one messy, magical thing called:  Marriage.

So, if I had known that our journey would involve over half of our marriage being spent on different continents, and overworking, and PTSD, and parenting challenges, and family issues, and painful self-discoveries and and and and … what would I have said on that warm May day in the Vegas gondola? 

YES and YES and YES!

Because while I had no idea how challenging this road would be, I also could never have imagined how wonderful it would be either.  I would say YES every day of this life, even on the hard ones.  Because he has taught me how to love.  He has taught me how to trust.  He has helped me become the me I am supposed to be, and helped me discover the parts that needed healing.  He has driven me crazy and hurt me, as I have done to him.  But, he has loved me more than I ever believed I deserved.  And he taught me to accept his love, and to believe I was worth it.  I hope I have done at least some of that for him as well. 

I would say yes because the gushiness is still there.  The romance and love and passion are still there.  Even though years of war and separations and trauma have tried to tarnish their glow.  They’re in there.  We are in there.  And we are even better than we were when we were covered in lust and naivety.  We are us.  And he is still the most incredible, most loving, most amazing and sexiest (ok, the lust is still there, too) man I have ever known.   And he’s the man who challenges me each and every day to be the very best me I can be.  And I love him for it.    

This is marriage.  This is love.  And to this, to him, I say YES.   

Monday, May 27, 2013

On Sacrifice and Love

On Memorial Day, we honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, and given their lives for us.  We stop and think about those who have left us way too soon.  Or, at least, too soon for us.  But, perhaps, we should be honoring the gifts they left behind. 

I believe each of us is given a unique gift in this life.  And our job is, simply, to figure out what it is and then give it away.  Before we are born, we are completely aware of our gift, and divine self.  And we are aware of the divine nature of everyone else. In fact, there is no separation—we are all one.  We are everything.  We are part of all.  Then, when God decides it’s time, he sends a piece of that all, a piece of himself, into a physical form.  The purpose of this form is to bring a piece of heaven to earth, and to share their gift. 

I don’t know much about how this process works since, you know, I didn’t invent it.  But, I am fairly sure that this purpose has absolutely nothing to do with a BMW or granite countertops or having 728 Facebook friends.  There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, of course.  And if they bring you joy or help you in some way become more connected to one another or be more at peace—then maybe they are helping you get closer to discovering and sharing your gift.  But, usually, these material things and desires actually keep us away from our true purpose, since they tend to be, at best, distractions and, at worst, addictions.  And addictions of any kind—sugar, drama, alcohol, social media, success, codependence—all keep us from finding out why we’re truly here.  (But, hey, that's another blog).

I think our purpose usually – no, always – has to do with love.  Loving someone else.  Letting someone else love you.  Loving everyone else.  Seeing the love in everyone else.  Truly feeling love.  Helping someone else truly feel loved, too.  Or, something like that.  As I said, I didn’t invent the process.  I just know that, when I’m doing anything that helps grow love, I feel closer to God.  I feel more at peace and closer to my gift.  So, that has to be part of the plan, right? 

And then, sometimes people leave their physical form—they leave us—long before we are ready for them too.  Today, we specifically honor those who came to earth and gave their life in service.  For me, this includes those who were killed in combat and those, like my Grandfather, who died a slower death—caused by untreated trauma and alcoholism—years after they returned home.

I can’t understand why some people are taken so quickly or brutally.  I don’t know that we are meant to truly understand.  At least, not while we’re here on earth.  Someday, maybe, it will all make sense.  But, I do believe that, just as God decided when to give us a physical form, so too does he decide when we no longer need it.  We are brought to earth to fulfill our purpose.  And I believe we leave earth, and our physical form, when that purpose has been fulfilled. 

And while I can’t imagine the heartbreak of losing a spouse (though all military spouses live with this fear), I hope and pray that those who have lost their soul mate know that he or she had accomplished what they came to do.  They loved.  They served.  They felt love.  They saved others, either directly or by serving so others didn’t have to.  They fulfilled their purpose.  You helped them do that.  And then, God brought them home.  They melted back into all. 

They are not gone.  They are in God.  And God is in us.  They are in the trees and the air and the sunshine.  They are in each of us.  They are in you.  And their sacrifice, their love has made our earth a better place, which helps each of us to find our gift, too.  Isn’t it a beautiful, incredible circle, this life of ours?  A painful, confusing, and sometimes unbearable circle—but, a beautiful one nonetheless. 

To everyone who has lost someone—the one— you love, I am so very sorry.  My heart hurts with yours.  I thank you for loving him or her and helping them fulfill what they were sent here to do.  I know it may feel unjust and horrible, because it is.  I just hope you can also, someday, feel and be comforted by how truly beautiful their life, and everything they gave us, is as well. 

For all of us, let’s not spend this day in sadness or anger over the things we cannot understand.  Let’s instead honor their sacrifice by giving and receiving what we were sent here for:  Love. 

Live your life in a way that honors them.  Live fully and passionately and without fear.  Live so that you can find and share your gift, too.  And give and receive love as much as you possibly can.  Someday, our time in our physical bodies will be over, as well.  But, we will not be gone.  We too will melt back into all, and will remain in those who love us.  Until that day, we owe it to God, and to one another, to LIVE. 

Rest in peace, heroes.  And live in love, survivors. 

Note:  I realize some people reading this may not believe in God.  Or, may believe in a different form of God. And, that’s ok.  Because, really, love is love.  And the message is the same.  Live in love.  That is all.