We’ve all heard the expression, “the road of life”. For me, it always generates one image; a desolate, long, straight road stretching into the sunset, with one solitary traveler (a walker), plodding along down the middle. For some reason, the road looks exactly like a stretch of highway in Death Valley (minus the blistering heat). There are no visual obstructions; no trees or boulders and no significant dips or rises in altitude. Aside from the occasional cheerful cluster of Poppies, it’s an empty, flat, open path with matching terrain.
Why my imaginary “road of life” looks so irritatingly tranquil is beyond me. It lacks even a glimmer of realism. My real-life road has seldom felt straight or level. I’ve had seasons where my clear path has diminished and faded, but still faintly existed. Other times it’s completely disappeared for stretches, forcing me down on my hands and knees to feel my way through wilderness. Real life is filled with ruggedness; mountains, valleys, meadows and deserts…and ohhh the hidden obstacles!
Parts of life we can prepare for (sort of), but wouldn’t it be nice if it were possible to be equipped for all of it?? I came across an intriguing article the other day. I was lured in by the tantalizing title, “Don’t Go Into Marriage If You Haven’t Done These Things”. Of course I had to read it! I was dying to know all the ways this expert would assess my pre-wedding (lack of) preparedness.
Since I’m such a generous girl, I will share these lovely little nuggets of wisdom. As you read, try to keep your eye balls in reading stance. Rolling them might be tempting, but work against the urge. Here’s the list…Readyeeee, GO!
1. Get your heart broken.
2. Experiment with online dating.
3. Learn from your mistakes.
4. Fall in love more than once.
5. Come up with a definitive list of what you won’t compromise on in a relationship.
6. Learn to trust others.
7. Learn not to make being married your sole identity.
8. Spend time alone.
9. Get to know all the facts.
10. Live with someone that is not a member of your family.
11. Spend some time on your career.
12. Spend time around kids.
13. Figure out why you want to get married.
14. Learn to fight fairly.
15. Learn to love people as they are.
16. Learn to DIY.
17. Meet your future spouse’s friends.
18. Meet your future spouse’s family.
19. Get to know yourself.
20. Learn to apologize sincerely.
That list makes my head spin and leaves me feeling a bit speechless…OK, maybe not truly speechless, because here is where I plan to begin my pontificating.
What a full-bodied list! In spite of both the crushing length of this inventory and the absurdity of some of these requirements, I have a genuine soft spot for this author. Who wouldn’t want to be as thorough as thoroughly possible for that leap into ‘all things shared’? That being said, I am convinced this writer is very, VERY single.
Preparation is a good thing! But marriage preparation…that’s practically an oxymoron! Falling in love and planning a life with Mr. or Mrs. Right is beyond exciting. But there’s a little known side affect to love/engagement. It temporarily damages a person’s hearing. All voices of wisdom fragment into indiscernible static noise. Even the guy/gal leading the marriage counseling class magically morphs into the teacher from Charlie Brown. Bride and groom retain only, “wha, wha, wha wha…blah, blah blah”. And then that engaged couple marry.
And marriage is incredible! But even the best, most mentally and emotionally stable and prepared individuals encounter the "OSWHID moment" (Oh sh**, what have I done!?). All the pre-wedding chain dating, self-help reading, string of loves and heartbreaks, alone time, career building and babysitting will not prevent that moment of doubt or future trouble. Sadly, there is no marriage struggle vaccine.
I walked the aisle while I was practically still in my mama’s womb. Just shy of 23 years old, I was a BABY!! I had definitely not accomplished most of this list. I still lived with my parents. I certainly didn’t know who I was. I hadn’t cyber-dated, I hadn’t loved a plethora of men/boys, but I had babysat the heck out of my neighborhood. I wouldn’t say the kid component has added any value to my marriage. It didn't reduce my selfishness, my pride or stubbornness any…and in my most honest moments I've feared that I might have been a better babysitter than I am mom…but that’s another blog post for a different day.
It would be magnificent if my imagined “road of life” could be each of our realities. I’d love it if there were a single uncluttered, straight, wide path directing each of us to our supreme destiny. And each milestone could wait patiently for our approach, clearly labeled and dressed in 80’s neon; making them unmistakable. Then maybe 100 paces or so before contact, Mr. or Mrs. Milestone could gently toss a handbook listing the steps that must be accomplished in order to graduate into the realm of “prepared”. After graduation, change is joyfully welcomed with open arms; because we're READY for it! All the pieces fit nicely together. There are no lose ends or huge threatening question marks…and NO tattered hearts. But that's not real life.
Learning to walk securely and confidently, in tandem is tricky. It takes practice to find a rhythm together. Enrolling in three-legged race 101 can be helpful, but understanding how to make it work requires actual real life application. It’s never very graceful at first. Sometimes it’s not graceful until the very end and for some, it's not ever graceful. There’s tripping and stumbling, repositioning (over and over) before finding a comfortable pace and synchronization.
Marriage pinches and squeezes a person; not so much like a bear hug (well, sometimes like that), but also like a vice-grip. The squeezing tends to make unlovely things squish out of a person…things we don't realize are inside of us (selfishness, greed, pride, self-righteousness, judgment, and a whole lot of unrealistic expectations). It’s the unique pressure of marriage; of being forced to communicate honestly, vulnerably and sensitively (lovingly), choosing to not just listen but also truly hear another person, and choosing to evaluate the (inward) unloveliness and change it, that makes a person marriage worthy. Marriage requires a fight. Sometimes a spouse can feel a lot like an enemy but that's only a diversion. The true fight is two for one: two people fighting side by side, for one another.
Marriage is a BIG, big thing! Striving for a touch of preparation is good and wise. But when you’re sure you’ve found that one person; the one you can’t imagine taking another step in life without…jump in! Be ALL in and fight!
Writer and fellow traveler on the road of life.