Iâ€™m not sure why I feel compelled to write about the messy sharp-edged rawness; skies the color of cement, thunder storms, evening clouds ripped to shreds and stained vermillion with the setting sun. Except to say that I write because these things matter, and my words are like the layers of snow buried within a glacier of all the winters that have come before. Maybe itâ€™s because I want to know that I was here, that we were, again and again. I want others to know this too; perhaps to offset the Hollywood happily ever after weâ€™re all fed as teenagers.
As a culture we spin so many myths and prick ourselves in the process like the princess in Sleeping Beauty. We easily fall into a slumber of illusion, the roses growing thick around us, all those velvet petals and sweet fragrance blurring our view of the thorns that grow there too. We lie about our happiness, over and over again. Perhaps we cannot help ourselves.
Flip through any magazine, and without fail there are the glossy images of women defying death: skin taught and unwrinkled, eyes bright as they stare dreamily into the eyes of some muscular man poised to sweep them off their feet (or at an equally dreamy handbag.) The illusion is complete: beauty, possessions, moneyâ€”these things make you happy.
I remember when my husband and I were camping in Puerto Rico long before we were married. We were both in college still. It was spring break. The sand was like sugar and flecked with shells. The water bluer than blue. Every evening postcard perfect clouds in rose and choral decorated the sky just for us. We were in love. Naturally we decided to spend a night sleeping under the stars right there on the beach, without a tent, just us, and our sleeping bags zipped together and partly open to the warm night air, our naked bodies tangled and salty from playing all day in the waves.
How many times have you seen the image of lovers sleeping on the beachâ€”or making love for that matter, hip deep in salt water, her shirt white and wet hugging the alluring curves of her firm round breasts? Enough times to believe it, right? Well it fucking sucks in actuality. Sleeping on the beach feels like being rubbed down with sandpaper. Sand in every crevice: eyelids, nostrils, ears, unmentionable places. There are also sandf flies and the endless worry of an unusually high tide.
Sometime after midnight when the full moon was directly above us and we both finally stopped pretending to be blissfully asleep, DH turned to me, â€œWanna go back to the tent?â€ he asked. Hell yes. Still we kind of felt like romantic failures--until we burst into uncontrollable laughter, and rolled together into a heaving heap in our tent.
But isnâ€™t that what we learn? That true love, true happiness, and a real romantic marriage is always happy and glamorous and exquisite. The beach is never really sandy. There are never any sand flies, or sunburn or yeast infections or heartache or ego.
So I write about the days when things are tense and the friction feels like the sand felt on my sunburned skin.
Maybe by circling back to these moments I create a different illusionâ€”that my marriage is fraught with conflict, which is hardly the case. There is so much sweetness between us, so many moments jam-packed with goodness like this morning, when we went to the farmers market and wandered around grinning at each other licking cinnamon and sugar from our fingers. So many hours, days, weeks even, when we fit together like seals basking on salty rocks: effortless in our play and our contentment.
But I want to record the other times too, because they are hard. Because growth never comes from the moments of easy pleasure. Growth comes when the ache is greatest, when wanderlust and terror swell equally in my chest and I choose instead to stay, to say Iâ€™m sorry, and to grow with this man at my side. Again and again and again.