It was a whirlwind weekend, much more so than we anticipated. We planned a five-day trip to Milwaukee, which is where my husband grew up and experienced (endured) the seminal, and most harrowing, episode of his life. We've been back there before, and each time I've served as a witness to the bittersweet emotions that come flooding in for him as we drive slowly through his old neighborhood, past his high school, and in the vicinity of other meaningful places.
But this time was different. If the other visits had him in the shallow depths of memories, this time he found himself in the deep end. It was one unexpected - but not unwelcome - visit or interaction after another, all in swift succession, with barely time to take a deep breath in between.
I have been with my husband for nearly sixteen years now, married for twelve. While there have been many experiences between us I could have never predicted, the one that still catches my breath has to do with the vastness of his existence. What I mean is that I am in awe of all the ways he continues to surprise me, and all the moments when I realize there is still so much about him I don't know. I'm not talking about life-shattering revelations, but subtle reveals - the instances when not a word is spoken aloud but I suddenly have a slightly better understanding of things by the look in his eyes. It is moments when a story I've heard a dozen times is shared with a new detail exposed. It is looking at a picture of him in his high school yearbook and, from his posture alone, getting a glimpse of all that was rumbling beneath the surface.
One of the biggest mistakes we can make in any relationship is thinking we know everything there is to know about the person in front of us. In a marriage in particular, there are endless possibilities available to us to be surprised. Whatever we have shared, endured, processed, or discussed, there are still immense new territories to be discovered. This past weekend, I trekked new ground with my husband, and gained a deeper understanding of how he came to be the man I fell in love with.
I have lately felt myself balancing on a tightrope of sorts, one that has me trying not to hold on to what we have right now too tightly. As our marriage and partnership grows richer and more fascinating (which makes it, in some ways, more mysterious) I struggle with a longing to cling to it - desperately. I don't ever want it to end, I think, or, What would I ever do without him?
But I know this is not the point. It is the opposite, in fact, that enables us to enjoy the riches of every effort we've made to appreciate all the beautiful, not-yet-discovered parts of ourselves that hold the key to our relationship's growth and evolution. Whatever our messy beginnings - and, boy, were they messy - whatever hurdles we have yet to overcome, there is always the here, and the now, and the invitation to look at one another from across the table and say, "Tell me more. Share it all. Teach me what I don't yet know."