One year ago, on a warm July morning, I woke up incredibly early to walk the beach.
A few hours later I arrived in Rowley, Massachusetts, where a houseful of beloved women bustled.
Soon I was walking toward the man I love, and the air around us fairly sparkled with the love of our friends and our family.
We had such a delicious time. I didn’t want it to be “the happiest day of my life” or expect anything remotely resembling perfection. Still, I couldn’t have dreamed up a more beautiful wedding day.
Three weeks later, we moved to Kansas. Neither of us had planned on living in the Midwest, but all signs pointed toward Wichita, and so we set forth.
The second night of our journey, we got stuck in traffic in Tennessee. The hours we sat together that night foreshadowed the year ahead. We would meet frustration. We would come to the end of our strength. We would hold each other’s hands. We would take pictures of the cat.
In Wichita, David faced a hulking giant of a school system that scarcely saw his gifts, much less empowered him. By the second day of school, we were telling each other, “It’s just a year. We only have to make it through the year.”
I spent our time in Wichita surrendering my plan for my life. Let’s just say it wasn’t what I’d planned on.
The wind is among the first things you notice when you come to live in Kansas. It’ll tangle your hair in seconds flat; it’ll swerve your bicycle or push back when you run against it. Over a long autumn and dark winter, the winds provided an appropriate soundtrack for the storms spinning within us.
When we look back on the first year of our marriage, we’ll talk about Wichita. We’ll tell stories of the friends we made and the expectations we laid down.
We sorely missed our friends in Massachusetts. (I can’t imagine how I would have made it if I hadn’t been flying back once a month for yoga teacher training.) Still, there’s something to be said for a honeymoon year: without our usual social engagements, we spent many quiet evenings reading aloud, playing cribbage, or watching Mad Men.
Last week I sat on the empty floor of our apartment, listening to the wind and thinking about all that we were leaving behind.
We sold my 14-year-old car to a friend who rides his bike everywhere but wants a car for the occasional longer trip. Perfect.
We dumped a trash can full of Gus fur by the river for the birds. We figured it would make good nest lining.
We gave away furniture that wouldn’t fit in our two big U-boxes. I hugged a beloved old hutch and said goodbye.
More than the things we let go, I considered the anxiety that bubbled up in me over our months in this apartment. I remembered the tears I shed and how often I felt like a prisoner within my own fretful mind.
Some seasons of life fill us, and some empty us. For David and I both, this first year of marriage was a year of emptying. I look back on July 2013 and recall the dreams I carried within me as I walked down the aisle toward a new life. In one way or another, each of those dreams has squirmed free of my clutching fingers.
Now we’re on our way home to Massachusetts. I’m grateful that I gave up worrying about our return before either of us landed our new teaching jobs. I’m grateful that I’ve given up worrying in general. (I occasionally worry that I’ll start worrying again, but then I catch myself and have to laugh.)
We linger in Omaha for one more long visit with family. Without question, time with the Draper clan has been the sweetest blessing of our months in the Midwest.
Last night we lit paper lanterns and danced with sparklers. Every year of our marriage will end with lights filling the sky, but this year we celebrated the 4th in a state where fireworks are legal. It was a rollicking good time.
I gaze at my precious husband and wonder what our second year of marriage will bring. Without the grounding force of David in my life, I can’t imagine how I would have withstood this year’s winds. I think of the hardest days in Wichita, and I know that not a single one of them passed without songs, silly dances, and laughter.
Marriage is not a springboard to happily-ever-after, but a threshold to deeper growth. And in our case, a lot of silly dances. Here’s to the first year.