Thursday, February 14, 2013

Always and without the "if"

Dear Husband,
I'm not sorry I ditched you this morning to go on a running date with the Mumford boys. Marcus set the pace and I settled into the trail for an hour and wrote in my head, brave and uncensored, the opposite of how I write everywhere else.  I wrote a piece about the wreck that marriage can turn me into, how the neediness and vulnerability and unmet expectations can make me the craziest kind of angry--the wounded kind.

You and I, we have only a handful of precious friends who will admit with us the depths of the scars, the sacrifice, the disappointment, the insanity that accompanies even the most grounded of marriages. Ours is a good one, I think, but I don't have to tell you, it's still totally screwed up sometimes. (If this was still a post in my head, I'd use the f-bomb.)

I'm having one of those days where I have to convince myself that it's not the end of the world to feel misunderstood and unloved. Because I've certainly cried about it like it's the end of the world, even though I swear I'm not much of a crier. More of a yeller, actually. But the yelling thing seems to make everything worse. And we need things to get better, so I'll try to stick to the crying.

I listened to "Hopeless Wanderer" at least three times during the run, and it's possible I sang out loud (loud enough for the squirrels to give me the stink eye) as the song wound toward the end. I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I'm under.

To love the skies I'm under. We've talked about what that means for us in the geographic sense--how we'll make the best home and life we can whether in Alexandria or Portland or Cleveland or (lordhelpus) even Biloxi. But today, for me, it also means finding a way to be grateful and hopeful and whole, in spite of feeling like my heart's been shredded like leaf mulch and now beats faintly in a thin layer across the lawn. Today it means moving toward you when it would be far, far easier to hide.

I know this is a pretty crappy excuse for a love letter. A normal person would list the eleventy-one ways you're wonderful or gush unabashedly on about all the reasons to love you. A normal person wouldn't choose Valentine's Day to write about how profoundly difficult marriage can be. I guess the good news is, after 17 years of marriage, you aren't counting on me to be normal.

Listen, let me just steal a few lines from yet another a Mumford song, one of your favorites.

And in the middle of the night
I may watch you go
There'll be no value in the strength
Of walls that I have grown 
There'll be no comfort in the shade
Of the shadows thrown   
You may not trust the promises
Of the change I'll show
But I'd be yours if you'd be mine

So love the one you hold
And I will be your gold
To have and to hold
A lover of the light

No more growing walls or throwing shadows, and I'm going to keep the promises. You'll see.
And as if you didn't know, I'm already yours, always and without the if.

P.S. This afternoon, your personal assistant (me) ordered a rockin' Valentine's Day present for you to give to your wife (also me): a new pair of kicks and some chocolate mint energy gels. You know how I hate Valentine's Day (like HATE. IT.) But I'm clearly not above using the V-day guilt trip to score some new running shoes. Sorry/ You're welcome.


This bizarre but heartfelt love letter is linked up to the love fest going on at Momalom. And in the spirit of Love it Up, I thought I'd share with you three love songs that won't make you want to hurl. You're totally welcome:


  1. This is good, J. I'm right with you tonight, spread as thin as the last scrape of butter on toast. I'm trying to be glad that that my husband is playing pick-up hockey tonight, that he's doing something just for him for a change, and not for work and the kids. But after racing and pushing and pulling by myself through yet another bedtime routine x 4, I just find myself fighting resentment. Must it always be him or me? Is there any way to make this feel fair? I don't believe self-care and loving others are contradictions, but how do I do both?

    1. Thanks, lady. I know this tension all too well. Resentment grows in such subtle and subconscious ways...I feel like it takes a lot of self awareness to even see it for what it is and to fight against it.

  2. Thank you for your honesty about marriage and it's ensuing challenges. It's hard, sometimes, really hard but finding universal words of solace/comfort/understanding levels the worrying field--we're all living it and knowing others are, too, makes us feel normal. A beautiful post. xo

    1. Thanks, Denise. I like how you phrased it "levels the worrying field". Somehow it does help to know that we're all struggling, that's it "normal" to have to work hard for a good marriage.

  3. I don't know if this will make sense, but there is something about this letter that makes me miss my marriage. Probably because I have always felt that it is more deeply romantic to look things in the face and say "This marriage thing is hard and we choose to do it anyway" than it is to carpet the house in roses and list off the things we love about each other. Anyway. Thank you for this. Not that I want to go back, but I want this kind of commitment, this kind of daily renewal in my world, and you give me hope. Love you.

  4. This really resonates with me. I wonder if everyone feels this at some point or another...

    Loved this, Jo.

  5. I remember talking with you while visiting in Maine about just how difficult marriage is and how much we were struggling to return to thriving instead of surviving. I was so grateful to have a friend who is real and honest and yet felt guilty later for not being all cheery and peppy after not seeing you for a while. Keep it real like you always do and more people will feel comfortable having honest dialogue with themselves, their spouses, and their friends. -Danielle

  6. I love this. The truth. And the honesty. And the vulnerability. And yet, somehow, the practicality of it all. The acceptance and acknowledgement. Maybe it's not romantic, exactly, but to share how much you love someone by acknowledging how difficult things are is something deeper than romance. Thanks so much for being a part of Love It Up!

  7. I felt myself exhale by the second paragraph--my body just relaxed in recognition. What a nice surprise! Thanks, Jen, for posting the link.

  8. I felt myself exhale by the second paragraph--my body just relaxed in recognition. What a nice surprise! Thanks, Jen, for posting the link.

  9. Jo,

    I am so grateful that I stopped by here today. Your vulnerability is palpable. These words, the struggle and maybe sometimes no triumph, is so incredibly honest that it brought me to tears. Thank you, Jo.

    And thanks to Jen and Sarah, who rock, and continue to inspire.

  10. I love, love, love this, Jo. LOVE. Love the skies I'm under. What a perfect, perfect way to say it. xoxo

  11. Congrats on winning the Love It Up challenge! This resonated with me on so many levels. Once you're married for so many years, it becomes difficult (and not totally real) to write a love letter without exposing some of the grit, which you did beautifully.