It Had to be You

Thank you, world, for welcoming me back with such gusto! You were all so kind to pretend that I hadn’t been missing for four months and instead of pointing it out, you simply swept me up in your arms, and let me tell you, that was nice of you. But I’ll say what you were all thinking: I was gone for a while. And while a break was not just nice, but necessary, I’m happy to come back and share where I was and what I learned.

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Well, not chasing sunsets. As I alluded to in my last post—the one about marriage—I got married. And if you scroll just one post up (posted four months previously), you’ll find a whole bit about getting engaged. And yes, your math is correct: We got married about 3.7 months after getting engaged. Chalk it up to whatever you want, but the only person I’ve heard get it exactly right is Harry: When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible. Besides, like I’ve mentioned before, we’d known for much longer that this was the way our roads were going to go—instead of two roads diverging in a woods, two roads would come together, if you will—and we were more than ready to get the show on the road, already! So we put our money where our mouths were (to bring the cliché count up to 16 so far) and set a date.

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And with that, we launched into the whirlwindiest whirlwind I’ve ever been a part of. It was both the fastest four months and the slowest four months of our lives. I got stressed out by wedding planning and then chose to get unstressed and then got stressed again. (Girls, I’ll just say this one time: You can have whatever kind of wedding you want. If you’re not particularly inclined toward ribbons and DIY banners, you’ll still be a lovely bride. If you are inclined toward ribbons and DIY banners, DIY your heart out. And as long as you’re marrying your best shot, it will be the wedding you’ve always dreamt of.)

And it was Caleb’s first semester of medical school (we not only survived that, but we also managed to keep a cat alive during this time as well) and I had to move and I had a full-time job and and and…it was a busy time. At the end of the day, I would head over to Caleb’s apartment, luckily located just across the way from my office, drink peppermint tea, and, quite frankly, sometimes cry. (I also ate a lot of cheese during this time. But heck, I’ve also eaten a lot of cheese today.) I hesitate to admit that, mostly because I don’t want to paint a terrible picture of a stress-filled time—it was also super fun to dream and move forward with our dreams. But it was stressful. Caleb would spend hours at his desk, popping out for 15 minutes at a time; I would spend hours trying to figure out things like flower girl dresses and deposits. We’d mutually spend hours talking about the Future and also working out logistics: What weekend(s) would we move my stuff? At whose house would we celebrate Christmas? Should Scout be eating organic kibble? WHERE SHOULD WE PUT ALL THE BOOKS? (This one remains unsolved.)

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I remember getting off work one day, after making approximately 673 wedding-related decisions, and heading over to Caleb’s. As soon as I walked in, he asked if I’d like some coffee or tea or something in his kind, selfless way. “Sure,” I said, also kindly, though I’m sure there was an edge of weariness to my voice. “OK. Coffee or tea?” he asked. “WHY DOES EVERYONE EXPECT ME TO DECIDE EVERYTHING?” I ever-so-kindly retorted. Exactly the response he was expecting, I’m sure.onestepatatime

Anyway, I promised to share where I’d been and what I’d learned. That where I’d been: dreaming, cleaning, packing, moving, marrying, unpacking, alphabetizing our library, taking Scout to the vet, discussing which bank to use, emailing wedding vendors, editing a magazine, cheering Caleb on through semester one, telling Caleb to drop out of med school, going to wedding dress fittings, going to the doctor, and so on. But let me tell you what I was not doing. I was not working out. Ever. I was not reading books. I was not writing thank you notes. I was not trying new recipes. Or any recipes. I was mostly asking if it was OK if we had sandwiches for dinner. I was not packing my lunch. I was not blogging or involved in a small group at our new church or discovering new music. And this is what I learned: It’s OK.

I have oft found great pride in the fact that I have seemed to be pretty good at managing life as a whole. Give me a planner, a fancy pen, and some extra paper (for to-do lists), and I’ll never forget a meeting. I might show up four minutes late, but I’ll be there. I have (in the past) thrived when the stakes are raised; as a journalist, most of my life revolves around deadlines and I function well that way. (Ed. Note: It makes me feel Good at Life when I function well.) But then I hit this season where my whole life shifted, and I…well, there were several mornings that I brushed my teeth at work because I couldn’t quite get it together enough to do it before I got there (Mom, pretend like I didn’t say that.) Sometimes, when I got home at night, I snapped at my fiancé over a cup of tea, and then sobbed when he asked if what I really needed was a hug (yes). We ate lots and lots of sandwiches for dinner, and the library sat untouched because there was Stuff to Figure Out all the time, and when we had a break from Figuring Stuff Out, I napped.

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All this is not to tell you that this was, like, the worst time ever; though challenging, it was a sweet time. Lots of planning and dreaming and the realization of all that planning and dreaming. It’s just to tell you that this happened to me, this sucker-punching of my pride. And if it happens to you (and at some point, unless you’re a cat, it probably will), get this: It’s OK. It’s good. It feels like you’ve gotten your wind knocked out of you, and you have; it reminds you that you are tiny and that you are as human as they come. If you let it—if you give yourself permission—it can also remind you how small Important Things like deposits and unpacked boxes are. It can remind you—He can remind you—how much you’re loved, despite what you’ve gotten accomplished or how much you’ve napped.

There are seasons when we have time to go on runs and cook spaghetti and get lots of sleep and read volumes of books; then there are seasons when our priorities shift and suddenly we’re paddling like mad to keep our heads up and with all that, we still suck water into our lungs. Those former seasons make us feel pretty swell, like we’ve got it together; the latter ones etch “new mercies” into our prideful, stony hearts until they’re softer than when we started. And seasons are just that: periods that only last so long. Sure as the sun comes up, the leaves will fade and fall and fetch winter for us. One of the things that kept me paddling—besides the grace of Jesus and the jokes of my now-husband and the soothing swells of peppermint tea—was remembering that it would all end. And what’s more, I understood that there was something there I’d miss; it may take many months, but time will turn that season over and over in her hands until we look back with fondness.

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And let me tell you this: We are much better primed for noticing remarkable things after we’ve been squeezed and stretched like that. We’ve been going to bed every night by 9:30, partly to make up for all the sleep we lost last semester and partly just because we can. And almost every night, I look around and echo my old friend Kurt Vonnegut: “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”

Inevitably, it will all shift again. We have a whole lifetime ahead of the sunlight breaking through at 6 a.m., of smelling the roses and bearing the snow. There will be days—of this I am certain—when I’ll consider it a real accomplishment if I brush my teeth, and there will be days that make me feel like I’ve got things together. There will be years when we revel in the grace of springtime, and there will be years when we only get out of bed because of the promise of new mercies. Sometimes those years will be the same years.

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That’s where I’ve been, and this is what I’ve learned. And because of grace, I am better for it.

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