Danny & Annie from StoryCorps on Vimeo
Ever since I was a little girl, people would ask whether I wanted to get married and have kids. I don't know why this question is so often asked of little girls, as though it should be the focal point of our lives; maybe times have changed and this doesn't happen as much as it did when I was a child, I hope so. My response, for as long as I can remember was always: no friggin' way! (and I'm afraid it's still no friggin' way to having kids)
I think that part of the strength of my reaction came from the fact that I never wanted to be 'normal' or feel 'normal'. When I imagined a future, it was never one that kept me forever in the beautiful Canadian Prairies where I grew up. Especially as I child, I imagined that living fully meant living far away and doing exciting things every day. Now that I'm a bit older, I realize that this whole idea I had about 'normal' doesn't really exist and that location does little to create happiness except maybe in extremes (if you are lucky enough to live somewhere you love passionately or unlucky enough to be somewhere you hate). There isn't really a normal, there's just life, every day, every moment, and no matter where they're located, people are just trying to make the best of what they've got.
I am incredibly lucky because I am able to live a lifestyle that really suits me. I get to travel, do mostly fulfilling freelance work on my own schedule, I have the time for creativity and although I'm not wealthy, I've got enough to get by. I am also engaged to a wonderful man who genuinely makes me want to be a better person just because he is so bloody good and kind and brilliant. We're not getting married for religious reasons or because we have to, and we're not getting married to throw a lavish party. I can't speak for Dan, but my reasons are wrapped up in how certain I was as a child that I couldn't possibly be happy or fulfilled and be married. Marrying is my way of formally acknowledging that I can live the life I want and do it alongside someone who always reserves a soft place for me to land even when I'm not at my best. Instead of trying to control or shelter me from the world, I feel like he is there with me, opening every door, trying every lock, not afraid to see what fits and what doesn't. It's been an easy decision to make, which surprises me because I was always the girl with the reoccurring nightmare of walking down an aisle that I desperately wanted to flee from, but who also didn't want to embarrass anyone or hurt their feelings.
Are you throwing up yet?
There are some really bad statistics about marriage: the huge divorce rate, the high number of spouses who cheat and the lackluster reality that so many of us have witnessed first-hand in our own families: people who are not in love with but stay together, tormenting one another for years, wasted decades. I'm not a religious person, but marriage really does feel like an act of faith. If it all works out you'll both fight hard to hold onto the feelings and moments that brought you together in the first place and you'll continue to try, even in the face of illness and tragedy, to continue to see one another as a life raft, rather than an albatross. And even with all that, you might fail. But isn't it beautiful that knowing all that we do, we are still winning to try? This faith, it melts my heart a bit.
At the end of July my friends Carrie and Michael got married in Ucluelet, British Columbia on a beautiful beach. The ceremony was officiated by a rabbi and there were so many elements to their ceremony that touched me, that seemed to reflect so much of what a marriage should be about. The rabbi began the ceremony by asking them to look around at the 100 odd guests who were gathered in a circle around them and to realize that every single person made the long journey to be there out of love. And cheesy at it sounds, I could feel the love. About half way through the ceremony each of Carrie and Michael's siblings read a personal message to them about themes like love, patience and understanding. It was so much more powerful than just reciting a poem or scripture, every person had taken the time to write something personal and to impart some beautiful truth to them. Finally, and my favorite part of all, after the ceremony, Carrie and Michael walked away down the beach to spend 15 minutes alone together, to talk, to enter into their first moments of marriage in quiet contemplation with one another. I love that they prioritized their connection above the hoopla of the day. It was inspiring to witness a ceremony that made marriage feel real and true and not just a gong show of tulle and lace.
I'm fairly certain that wherever we decide to get married, it will be small - maybe even just the two of us. We'll come in together and leave together and in-between, we'll try to enjoy every single moment.
Photo of Carrie and Michael's Wedding by Dan.
Danny and Annie video found via the lovely Anna Coe.