FEEL GOOD FRIDAY: Walking the Aisle
After a 14 hour travel day, I am too brain-fried to trust the column I have written. I can’t tell if it’s good or if it sucks. When this happens I will pull something from my quiver and hope it strikes a target. This piece was written as a “speech” for my friends, Eric and Michelle’s, wedding last summer. It felt good to write and felt good for me to read it again. Happy Feel Good Friday!!! -Dave
While preparing for today’s presentation, I looked around a bit to see what others have had to say about marriage. I looked to the sages and philosophers from the ages and discovered many beautiful, gushing, flowing and important words; Words that inspired and affected and sang to me. Words that made me want to marry my wife over and over again every day. As impressive as some of these words were, they in large part lacked a fundamental element important to me when saying something: they lacked truth. They were not necessarily untrue. Their words simply didn’t tell the whole story and they were, I think, likely written by people who had never actually been married and understood that a real marriage is not all candlelit kisses and longing looks. Real marriages, invariably, involves bad moods and bad breath and at some point bringing the other person a new roll of toilet paper as they sit needing more toilet paper. I think these experiences are more common than the sentiments expressed by the smart people. A real marriage is more complicated. A real marriage involves varying amounts of conflict and frustration and concession. As human beings we are all flawed and we carry these flaws to a marriage. On a daily basis, our own goofy baggage muddies the waters and raises eyebrows and sometimes the voice of our spouse, who tries to make sense of the senseless. A real marriage is not a clean and tidy business. It can get messy.
In evaluating the countless ways I have made messes in my own marriage, I have come to understand that while my messes may not be avoidable, the impact of these things can be somewhat offset by doing good things, too. Being flawed individuals, we are going to make messes. We are going to say and do some profoundly stupid things. However, these things need not completely undermine an otherwise good relation. By consciously involving our better demons on a daily basis, we can, on some level, shave the sharp edges off of our bad choices. These involve deliberate and intentional effort, but they are worth it, every time. Things we can do include sharing, giving, understanding and doing, even and maybe especially, when you don’t feel like it. I’ve found that doing something when you don’t really feel like it, is perhaps the most important time to do anything.
First, share: share ideas and hopes and dreams and the last piece of bacon. Share the parts of yourself that are awkward and uncomfortable. Share your fears and concerns. Share a true laugh and a true tear. A certain emotional nudity is vital to creating a marriage of substance. When we strip ourselves bare and trust that the other will not point and laugh, a deeper connection is built and a foundation is laid for a relationship of meaning. This relationship makes both people better.
Next, give: Give what you have. An element of service exists in a good marriage. From doing the dishes to mowing the lawn to putting away your shoes to putting the toilet seat up-or down-whichever the case requires, marriage involves doing things that prevent tension. We don’t always want to do these things, but that doesn’t matter. Doing things we don’t want to do is called giving. And doing these things says “I love you” better than the words can.
Closely tied to giving is understanding. Understanding what to give involves understanding where the other person places value. What matters to them are the things we need to be aware of: How do they like their coffee? What’s their favorite flower? What do they think about and care about? Understanding these things makes appropriate giving possible and appropriate giving makes a happy day possible.
To have understanding is very simple: one must PAY ATTENTION. People are subtle. Preferences and trends involve nuance. Being tuned into the other’s heartbeat is the cornerstone of a successful marriage. What’s important is, unfortunately, rarely obvious, thusly, we must pay attention to the gentle shifts in a look or a tone of voice to direct us. Being distinctly different animals, men and women struggle for this understanding, but by watching and learning and caring to understand, an imperfect balance can be attained.
After the “I dos” come the “I wills” and married life begins. Here lies the challenge of carrying on the wedding day bliss. Beyond the “I do” come other words that are just as valuable. Words like “Thank you” “You look nice” “Can I help?” “What do you need” and maybe most importantly the words, “I’m sorry” and “It’s OK.” Forgiveness is necessary. Given our aforementioned flaws, mistakes will be made and forgiving and moving on is the only way to have a marriage that can sustain the inevitable bonehead moves.
We live a life of days. Each day consists of moments. Some are breath-taking and some are eye-rolling and these moments make a life. Any life and certainly a married life is the sum of the moments we create. Life is not a single event. It is an anthology of moments. We have absolute control over these moments. With these moments, we humanize and encourage and support each other. With these moments, we make the other person feel good and we become better. These seemingly innocuous, anonymous little moments, a delicate touch on the back of her neck when passing in the kitchen, an unrequested, but very welcome snack, a head on the shoulder while sitting on the couch watching bad TV, these moments set the stage and a tone. Acknowledging and recognizing that these small moments matter and indeed may be the biggest moments there are, is elemental. The gentle, yet vital moments of loving being in a moment with the person you love changes us. They connect us and bind us and are the place where our truest smiles live. They are important in the ways they shape a life together. All of the beauty and magic of a married life live here. Having, making and enjoying a life of moments is the surest way to having, making and enjoying a married life together. As the sun rises and sets in a brief moment, so does life, and nothing is more majestic, powerful, or important to a good day and a good life than appreciating the significance of a single moment. Nothing matters more than a simple and fleeting moment.
So Eric and Michelle, I wish you both a life filled with a vast and wonderful collection of these simple, loving moments that will enrich you and enliven you and make it all worthwhile.
[EDITOR'S NOTE:"Feel Good Friday" is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: "Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!" Also, you can "friend" Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his new exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]