For those of you that suffer through my long, rambling, personal posts, this one’s for you. 🙂
It’s been quite a year for my family! Most significantly, along with proud first-time parents Ryan and Natalie, my family welcomed Miles Alexander in early October. My sister and I both had dramatic pregnancies and births, and I guess Ryan didn’t want to be outdone! Miles’ entrance into the world represented the shock of our lives: much to the surprise of his parents, who had a closet full of lovely pink clothes, Miles was, well, a he. So much for the accuracy of modern ultrasounds! But we couldn’t be more happy and proud of this little guy.
I timed my long road trip to Phoenix to coincide with his due date, but that little turkey took his time and blew right past his anticipated arrival! We barely squeezed in a visit the night before I returned to Illinois. But first, my mom and sister and I made a frantic Target run, during which we probably bought one of every baby boy thing they sold – sort of an emergency baby shower. I got to meet Miles, verify that Ryan wasn’t pulling a prank, hold him, and gaze at him in wonder. My brother managed to get a photo with my camera of the two of us at the hospital:
My baby brother, a daddy! Wow. It’s amazing…he is one of my favorite people in the whole world, and I know he and Natalie are going to raise an amazing man.
Then, there are these two. Wow.
Tomorrow, Nathan and I will celebrate 5 years of marriage. Sometimes, we can’t believe 5 years flew by so fast. Other times, it’s hard to believe it’s been only 5 years!
When you join two individual lives together, you naturally get twice the drama, twice the joy, twice the life events. In our case, it’s sometimes felt more like ten times.
Since our wedding in 2009, we’ve lived in 4 states and 5 houses. We’ve remodeled and sold two houses, bought another, started remodeling that one. We’ve adopted a dog, and figured out I am allergic to him and our cat. I spent two months in the hospital on bedrest, then delivered an 11+ week premature baby via emergency C-section. We’ve traveled to New England, Moab, California, Portland, Charlotte, and Europe (**not an exhaustive list). We’ve both made career changes. We’ve done richer (oh, those “DINK” years…), and poorer. We’ve done sickness (including that cancer scare last year) and health. We’ve lost members of the extended family, and most recently, gone through my parents’ divorce.
It’s a little mind boggling, frankly. I’ve not always done well in staying positive through all of this. Those that know me well know that I am prone to self-pity and dwelling on the negative. There have been plenty of pity parties and why-me’s. I sometimes lose sight of the fact that other people have their own struggles, too, and they are just as real, and just as important. I’ve asked for too much, emotionally, sometimes, from those closest to me. I fear that I’ve taken more than I’ve given.
All that’s transpired has taken a toll on me and Nathan individually, and yes, on our marriage. We’ve had to go to depths that some people, some couples, never go their entire lives. I feel older. I look older. I look at Nathan differently. But we’ve made it. And things are getting better. We are strong.
And that is why I am so thankful. I cannot imagine weathering all of these storms without a partner the caliber of Nathan. He isn’t perfect, of course, and neither am I. Five years of marriage makes that crystal clear. But as a man, husband, and father, Nathan is a rarity in this world. I thank God for that. I would be content to just walk beside Nathan through life.
I get to do that, but, also, he gave me Rawley. Yes, a child challenges even the strongest relationships. But, I cannot imagine our marriage anymore without our son. Despite an excruciatingly difficult first year of life, Rawls brings us more joy today that we ever imagined possible. Those of you that are parents will understand how impossible it is to adequately express these emotions.
Beyond Nathan, I am feeling this year, really feeling, how deeply blessed I am by my community of friends all over the country. I cannot imagine these past 5 years without the kind of friends that show up, don’t keep score, listen patiently, and forgive my shortcomings. They have their own families, jobs, pain, and stories, but they’ve been there for me, listening, teaching, advising, meeting, loving, crying, challenging, waiting, forgiving, and cheering, while I emerged from an incredibly dark season.
I feel really weighted down by the pain in the world sometimes. I long for, and pray for peace. I am so saddened by our collective inability to see things through each other’s eyes, to listen, to allow ourselves to be changed. I get angry when religions, both western and eastern, are used as a justification for judgement and hate and violence. I grieve for people that cannot live openly and honestly because they fear what others will say or do, and so they bury their truths in shame.
When I think about the grace I’ve received from my friends and family in recent years, I know it’s because they know me, and know my story. Maybe, if you are reading this, you’ve followed our story, too, for a while, and feel like you know me, even if we haven’t met. If so, you probably are more likely to overlook my inadequacies as a photographer, my typos, my quirks.
Maybe that is what healing, and peace, requires. That we, collectively, take the time to know each other. To listen, to learn. If we did that, we’d probably speak less emphatically, be more comfortable with mystery, and less threatened by differences. When people are real in our lives, it’s easier to extend grace to them.
So, this Thanksgiving, I am saying thank you to Nathan and Rawley for how they’ve softened my heart and moved me beyond myself, and to my family and friends for showing me how to walk beside someone that isn’t at their best. I am thankful that we appear to be on the upswing, and I am going to officially declare 2015 The Year of Optimism.