"sometimes brave looks more like staying when you want to leave, telling the truth when all you want to do is change the subject..."
- shauna niequist
we do not celebrate our relationship anniversaries. we do not exchange gifts. we go out to dinner because restaurants give free cake, and we bask in our cleverness at getting that cake. we celebrate birthdays, we celebrate birthdays for a whole week if we can. anniversaries? not so much. sometimes we toy with doing something special, but nearing the date we always change our mind. i mean, it's (only) been five years.
our relationship is in fifth grade.
and i barely remember being in fifth grade.
one of my favourite memories of our relationship happened during an argument. years ago, probably three years ago, during an argument that stemmed from something silly, one where we used our words without truly saying what we feared, which was do you truly understand me? i don't think you do. and midway through that argument i threw out a question. what does succeeding in this relationship mean to you? when would you think we've 'made it?'
and he answered, well, i guess when the first one of us dies.
which would have been my answer. because i truly do not believe that one year, two years, ten years is worth celebrating. as though they are milestones to hit, or a ladder to climb. and at that point i truly expected him to say something else. to say that marriage was making it. anything else, except what i also believe. when the first one of us dies.
i do not measure the days and years gone by. instead i remember the little moments. the many times one of us would climb up or down the stairs to the other, closing the gap between two separate beds and attempting to bridge the gap between our hurts. swallowing pride and ego. walking back through the door. going for days without speaking but still silently helping the other iron shirts before work, or still doing the pick up after a yoga class. sometimes brave looks more like staying when you want to leave, and i remember these moments knowing that while date nights and surprise flowers are lovely, the staying is what matters most. the choosing every single day to stick around, to find common ground between two fiercely independent people. blindly stumbling through life without a guidebook but still holding hands, especially when you really really don't want to.
hopefully the first one of us dying is still many years away. decades, i hope. and hopefully when that happens we leave behind the people who will celebrate our relationship making it. and i hope the one left then raises a glass to toast to the sweet taste of success. but right now, i'll be proud of the fifth grade lessons. learning to put sentences together in ways that make sense to the other, and learning the simple skills that are needed to answer the bigger questions down the track, and to build a bigger life.