A few weeks ago I was cleaning the bookshelf in my living room and I found this picture of me and my husband on the night of New Year’s Eve 2010. I hardly recognized the two people in that picture and the happiness that exuded out of our smiles. We were so happy. I don’t even think that happy is the right word to describe us that night. New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday, we were new Catholics, newlyweds and we were having the time of our lives at our Parish New Year’s Eve dance. The dance included a DJ that played Selena songs so you can’t even put enough emphasis on the word “happy” to describe me that night.
And one more thing: we were rich. Plenty of people would not consider the amount of money we had in the bank to be the amount needed to be considered rich, but for two kids who grew up dirt poor, we considered ourselves rich. We could go to the grocery store and buy food with our own money and not worry about how much the bill would be. We could buy everything we needed and pay all our bills on time and buy clothes that we just wanted to buy because they were nice, not because we needed them. So for us, we were rich. We had made it.
When I look at that picture and then look in the mirror, I see two different people. The bags under my eyes, the constant stress and worry about money has killed the joy in the face of the woman in that picture. My husband does not look at me the way he used to. He is tired. I see it in his eyes every morning when he wakes up and I see how worn out he is. His face lights up for other people, but not me. I come with expectations and bills and kids who need to be fed. I come with burdens. I also come with a crappy attitude, codependency and a list of other terrible personality flaws. Ask anyone, I’m difficult to love day in and day out.
Battle fatigue is what my therapist calls it.
Either nobody warned us about this part of marriage or we were so in love with our heads in the cloud that we didn’t listen if they did, but this part is hard. This part of marriage is where the choice to love and serve when you don’t feel like it comes in. If I based my actions on how I feel, I would lay down and give up on life.We are not in a romance phase of life at all. We are both working non-stop, it’s Texas in August which means that everyone is hot and fed up with life, and we have been struggling for four years. I was thinking about something that I could do for Stacey to show him that I love him since I have to work the dinner shift tonight and my mind was blank. I had no ideas. None. Zip. Zero. That is the first time in my life since I was 12 that I could not think of something special to do for Stacey Adams.
It shook me.
I stopped to think about what that meant and realized that it must be that we are in a desert of marriage. Everything is hard here and I’m sure that there are many marriages that die here. I totally get why. There are moments when I’m not sure if we are going to make it out of here.
It’s in these times in life that I am so thankful for a faith that reminds me that love is not a feeling but a choice. Anyone not willing to walk through the deserts of life with someone that they might not like at the moment shouldn’t even think about marriage because that is the foundation of what marriage is, not the sunshine and lollipops infatuation that many mistake for love and happiness in a new relationship.
More than anything, I am so glad that I witnessed the love of my Tio and Tia as he died. She prayed for him, led us in prayer for him, sang to him and told him that she loved him. The only person he smiled for was her. There were no rainbows there, only tears and yet it was such a pure witness of what love looks like. Watching my uncle die was the great desert of their marriage and my Tia showed me how to walk through it with dignity and unwavering faith.
Right now my husband and I are in a hard place. We have been here for a long time. We are tired to that max but we both know that we have the Grace of God to help sustain us through it. When we got married, we didn’t just make vows to each other but God made vows to us too that He would always be a part of our marriage. Knowing that He is always faithful is what gives me hope to hold on until the rain comes.