just as it should be

10:50 AM

As I take time as of late to look back on my twenties I feel like it was almost a decade of peeling away layers that lead me to my grown-up self. During the move back in March I uncovered my old high school essays and photos of us from our dating days. As I sifted the photos, cards and letters through my hands I couldn't help but shed a tear. So much of that self-discovery was swathed in disappointment, heartache and soul-searching. It had been a tough ten years, beautiful and unforgettable but difficult too. A lot of unpacking the fairytale that we have been sold our whole lives. 
It often felt akin to falling down the rabbit hole and discovering that nothing is what it seems. True, everyone warns you "marriage is hard" but no one could ever tell you the exact flavor and finish of the trails of your marriage. And so you plod away at the soil pulling up weeds, watering, sometimes overwatering until you're both swimming in a delicious sea of love and affection. Only to arrive at a season of drought when the sun is hot and unrelenting and no matter how hard you toil and for how long the ground continues to be barren. And then you feel a drop. Perhaps you were the first one to shed a tear or your partner found some graciousness hidden away in a old forgotten mug and eventually the drops turn into rain again... And round and round we go. 
I've learned that there is no mountaintop when it comes to your marriage, or life for that matter. You'll never do "enough" work or be perpetually happy. After all you are two incredibly unique individuals that take in the world and grow at your own pace. But as time passes you two become well versed in the dance that is involved when two lives intertwine and bloom. You become so in-tune with each other's gravitational shifts that you feel it coming before she does and brace not just yourself but her too. You wipe away tears and offer midnight hugs, you stand in amazement and sit on the floor with each other at four am in the morning. You offer space and smother with affection. You give help and learn to ask for it too. You speak up for yourself and quietly forgive day after day after day. You slam doors and open windows to let the air in. You are weak and strong and needy and supportive and everything in between. 
And that's just marriage. You could have never imagined when filling out those myriads of "career assessment" tests in eight grade that your path to your "dream job" would not at all resemble a ladder but like something from the movie Elf: "I passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel." As our generation fumbled our way through the recession and quickly realized that our degrees amounted to very little in the real world we went searching for alternative routes. We sewed shoes, wrote books, started magazines, picked up photography and made blogging a million dollar industry. Once again it wasn't turning out how we thought it would but it was turning out. We were out there trying, hustling and doing everything we could to put food on the table. 
Along with all this we muddled our way through relationships. Kevin always tells me the story of a speaker he had in high school who told all the kids at assembly one morning that odds are they will be "friends" with at most one person from their class in ten years. And how right he was. We have all lost friends and made friends in the last ten years. Some of the relationships had to go and with their passing brought peace and harmony, others hurt and the wounds are still tender to the touch and some you continue to resuscitate year after year. And it can all feel achy and wrong and hard and somehow exactly as it should be...
As I near thirty I realize that it's really as simple as that - everything is as it should be. It's not perfect, it's not that it doesn't hurt or make you angry or that it isn't confusing or frustrating. But such is life. We start out with a very childish and idealized version of how things will play out in our life. It's not rooted in reality because it can't be, reality is something you have to go through in order to understand. Reality is getting dirt under your fingernails and getting your heart broken a million times. And for a long time I thought that dealing with reality meant fighting it. I thought it meant getting mad at how "unfair" it all was. At asking why over and over again with tears in my eyes. Until one day I did something very simple... I said why... NOT? Why should I be immune from hard things? Why do I think I deserve certain things? I don't deserve anything. I am here. Now. This is my story. Accepting my own narrative means I can turn the bad into good, the ugly into beautiful and the painful into joyful. 
It's my life and I am entrusted with ownership of all of it - the tears, the laughter, the successes, the heartache, the failures, the mirth, the blessings and the misfortunes. It's mine and I am grateful for it all. I didn't, don't and won't always get it right. But more than anything I'm determined to learn, to wake up tomorrow and promise to try better, to try harder. It's all part of the journey, part of the joy. 

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