Of all the chapters I have posted online, this one by far has been the hardest to do. And I am not entirely sure why? I mean really, I’ve written about much more difficult things in my life than the challenges that Teresa and I have had over the last twenty-seven years of our marriage (Chapter 2 for example). Yet this one…
After my last edit, I gave it to her to read with the full option to say no to publishing it. I was nervous in giving her final say so, though I knew it to be the right thing to do. This was not going to be one of those things where forgiveness over permission would be the better path, as I’ve used up too many of those silver bullets. I didn’t hear back from her for a couple of weeks and eventually convinced myself she hadn’t even read it. I finally mustered the courage to ask, fearing the answer.
“Hey, by the way,” I asked as nonchalant as I could make it one recent Saturday morning as she lounged on the couch in her pajamas, the cat and dog draped over her as she sipped her coffee and surfed the net on the iPad. “Did you ever read the chapter I sent you?”
“Yes,” she said without looking up. Great, I thought, certain on what was coming next.
“Are you okay with me posting it on my blog?” I asked.
“I guess,” she said, still not looking up.
“Are you sure?” Jesus, Rick. Are you kidding me? Take the money and run!
That was it. No discussion, no questions, no ringing endorsement. A yes, nonetheless and such as it is, it is posted below with perhaps a thought or two more for context. Slow Climb covers a short, but intense period in our marriage when multiple things were converging – a struggling business, unreconciled grief from the deaths of my parents, unrealized dreams and aspirations of whom I thought I was, and what I would accomplish. All of these and likely many more crisscrossing all at the same time.
As I think back on it and read through the chapter, I’m still not sure how we made it. And yet as I look over the span of the twenty-seven years we’ve had together, a more profound understanding begins to emerge. You see, the relationship Teresa and I have is not what one would consider as perfect soul mates. We are very different people. We have very different interests and value different things. Yet there is this intersection, like two circles on a Venn diagram that converge. The convergence includes the kids, friendships and many other things in this life that we have made together. And yet it is more cellular than that. Like mitochondria, our relationship is endosymbiotic (new word for my vocab, had to look it up). Literally, we exist in partnership within each other.
This deeply embedded relationship has implications, however. As individual as the non-intersected aspects of who we are may be, we cannot truly act on our own accord, out of our own individual desires without it affecting the other. At times we are at such a state of intimate union with the other, and at other times finding ourselves recovering from disconnections and working through détente. In fact, managing through détente has been, and continues to be, a great teacher in my life. Letting go of the individual self. Surrendering to the union.
This I know. All the things that used to, and occasionally still do annoy me – like the remnants of flour on her hands she leaves on the refrigerator door handle, or whatever other food she is cooking hand printed around the kitchen – are now treasures. They are but small blessings of the gift she has for cooking and expressing it through the preparation of amazing food made with love. And I clean up behind her, not with a muttered curse but with whispered reverence and thankfulness for what they represent.
This is my higher peace – finding the joy of the relationship with my wife through the veil of all the things that used to piss me off.