Today marks the 13th anniversary of my engagement to Taylor. A baker's dozen. My mind wandered back to the beginning of our journey of love and commitment. I remember clearly the day he popped the question. It was a Sunday. I was feeling crummy and fighting off a cold. My sickness mirrored the cold, wet, weather of a Chicago winter. We had gone to lunch at Red Robin with friends and upon leaving I quickly headed home to put on soft clothes and snuggle-up under a warm blanket. I fell asleep on the couch that afternoon only to be woken up by Taylor at my doorstep a few hours later. He was dressed nicely, wearing his navy blue pea coat (with a popped collar) as well as his Swiss Army cologne. I, on the other hand, was wearing stretchy work-out pants, an oversized, yellow Young Life sweatshirt, and a nose red and raw from tissue aggravation.
He greeted me with a kiss and asked if I would help him with an interview for a class assignment he needed to complete. He needed to interview a recent college graduate about their transition into the workplace. We worked through the interview questions, there were 10, and then he He shifted his body from the couch to the floor and said "I have one more question to ask...Will you marry me?"
Immediately filled with emotions and joyously overwhelmed, I said "yes". We hugged, kissed, and laughed, and then did it all once more. Taylor's parents had flown in from Oregon a few days prior and we had plans to meet up with them. I freshened up, and when heading out to the living room, bumped into one of my roommates. My first thought was "was she here the whole time? Had she observed or heard our intimate moment? I really hope not." Unfortunately, thoughts much like this one invaded my cerebral air space the rest of the evening.
We arrived at the house where my soon to be in-laws were staying and shared the events of the evening over a meal. I became aware that my dreamer-visionary-for-everything-wedding persona that overtook the conversation was a bit overwhelming for my mother in law. I explained my hopes and plans for our wedding and she kindly smiled and nodded. The night wrapped up and Taylor dropped me back at my place. As my head fell into the pillow that night, I felt confused by the myriad of emotions warring inside of me. The day that I had anticipated and dreamt about had come. I was engaged to the man I loved with all my heart. Why was I feeling anything besides joy and anticipation? I had an expectation for how this moment would feel, and it wasn't what I was experiencing.
The following day a friend of mine stopped by. She too had just gotten engaged, two days prior in fact. I had not yet heard her story or seen the ring. I welcomed her into my room and we plopped down on the white, overstuffed down comforter. We were not 5 minutes into the conversation when we looked at each other we both stopped. After a long pause she said,
" I thought this would feel different."
"Me too," I echoed. I didn't know how to untangle my unmet expectations from my current reality.
I had graduated from Wheaton College the previous May in 2002, and still lived in the area. Taylor, a bit younger than I, was in his second semester of his junior year at Wheaton. It was not long before news of our engagement traveled amongst our friends. It was before the days of social media, so the event was not documented in photo or text and sent out to the masses moments after it occurred. We had the luxury of explaining, in person, the events leading up to the engagement. But, the thing was, I was quick to launch into details about the wedding, skipping those of our engagement. It didn't take long for Taylor to notice this and he brought it to my attention.
He asked why I was acting weird. I mustered up the courage to tell him that I was a disappointed that he hadn't thought through making the moment just between us - that I had been let down knowing that we weren't alone. What he told me in response was a glimpse into parts of his personality that have continued to unfold over the course of our marriage.
He explained that he had crafted two or three, different, more "extravagant" ideas of how to propose. He had been thinking about them for weeks. He has purchased my ring when he was home over Christmas break and his parents had brought it with them when they arrived a few days prior. He said once he saw the ring he just kept looking at it over and over. Ultimately, he couldn't wait...even long enough to execute the plan he had originally orchestrated.
This response and moment revealed Taylor's eager excitement to make our impending covenant known to all by the ring he put on my finger. My response revealed that I was thinking about the appearance of something rather than the significance of what had happened. The moment I was in, was being stolen from by the expectation I had clung to so tightly. This is not a moment I am proud to admit, but I do so knowing that I'm not alone. My hope is that what I learned will not be wasted. That others who find themselves driven by expectations will lean in and listen. I am so thankful to say that is not where the story ends.
Wedding planning began in no time. We had six months to plan a California wedding while living in Illinois. Taylor and I worked together on plans and juggled the task with a grace that was unexpected. We dreamt together about what that day, and the many days to follow, would look and feel like.
When the day of our wedding arrived, it was so hot that you wanted to retreat to the indoors. While many others sweated it out during the ceremony, Taylor and I relished every moment. The lesson that had been unfolding for me over the past months was sinking in to a much greater degree. When we focus on what something looks like to others who are viewing it from the outside in, we forego the joy of being the main character in our own life. The story has a limited amount of players, and when we try to pull others in from the stadium seats, often people and perspectives that don't matter, we dilute the potency of the story being told.
The tendencies and inner workings of Taylor's personality that were put on display through the story of our engagement are things that have become more prominent throughout the course of our relationship. They are things that I love dearly and have actually become my favorite. He loves to plan surprises, but it is very rare that he can keep the secret. He is great at planning getaway trips and fun nights of adventure, but without fail, a day or two before the trip he spills the beans. I have come to enjoy that I get to experience the excitement twice - the unveiling of the surprise, and the surprise itself.
Growing in love with this man over the past 13 years has shaped me and shown me a tangible expression of grace. I am vulnerable, exposed, messy and sometimes downright mean, and He still chooses to call out what is good and lovingly helps to cover my shortcomings. We are two imperfect people, believing that because we love and serve a perfect God, that this thing can work and is actually a really good idea.
"My favorite part of a Jewish wedding is the breaking of the glass. Like most Jewish traditions, there are a whole bunch of interpretations: some say that all the shards of broken glass suggest loads of future children and future happiness. Some say that the breaking of the glass references the irreversible nature of marriage: in the same way that a glass can never be put back together after it is broken, two people can never be separated once they have been connected by marriage. But my favorite interpretation is the one where the wine in the glass is a symbol for all of life, and when the bride and the groom drink it, they accept both the bitter and the sweet aspects of life. They accept that sometimes they'll celebrate and sometimes they'll mourn, in the same way that sometimes they'll drink wine and sometimes glasses will shatter." -Shauna Niequist -Bittersweet.
We are currently coming off of a year of marriage that has felt more fragmented than the ones before. Instead of looking at this reality as negative, I am beginning to understand that hardship and difficulty are deeper and darker shades of color that help to accentuate the lighter ones. The contrast points to a love that is rooted and rich, one that is becoming strong. I'm not Jewish, and sadly, I have never been to a Jewish wedding. I hope to attend one someday. Regardless, the description above about wine and shattered glass resonates deeply with me. This many years into marriage I can attest that this phenomenon is true. I imagine this acceptance of both the bitter and sweet aspects of life will prove to be a repetitive cycle. A beautiful, repetitive cycle I choose to embrace.