The summer before I graduated from college (circa 2003) Mike and I drove across the country. We visited 36 states in 3 weeks. It was the most magical and fun trip I had ever taken. And it’s this exact trip that convinced me that I could, in fact, get married. I figured if we could basically live in a car together for 21 days and come out the other end alive, then we could pledge eternity to each other.
If knew me growing up, you’d know I never even thought about marriage. Both my parents were on their second marriages before I came along. I am also what caused their marriage (They were married in June. I was born in January. You do the math.). Their marriage was tumultuous to say the least. Fighting, screaming, throwing, cheating, drugs, alcohol, guilt, and insults were what I witnessed almost every day. We would all beg for them to get divorced and my mom left a few times, always coming back in the end. She would tell us it was for love, but we knew the real reason: loneliness and lack of money always won out in the end. It wasn’t until I was 18 that they finally divorced and only because my mother had another person to help take care of her.
To say these experiences shaped the way I look at love and marriage would be an understatement. From a very young age I had decided I didn’t want to be married. Or have children. I saw the strain they brought to things and having pretty much raised my younger siblings, I felt like my child rearing days were over. Even when I would play with my dolls when I was younger, I never played house. I always played orphanage. That way I was still taking care of my “babies” but not having to be their mother. And I also wouldn’t be required to have a husband.
Sure, I had crushes. Who didn’t? But I never thought about them in the long term and I tended to flit from one person to another as my mood changed. Finally, in college, I met Mike, we dated, and after our car trip I figured maybe I could do the marriage thing. Maybe I wasn’t as broken as I actually thought I was.
Cut to the end of 2015/beginning of 2016. 14 years together. Almost 11 years married. Three children. And completely unsure of the future. Throughout this separation, I’ve spent my days convinced I am making the best decision for me and my family and my nights unsure. Conflicted is an understatement. Torn apart might be better analogy.
And then, lo and behold, a snow storm. And not just any snow storm…the largest single snow storm in Baltimore history. Not only would I be trapped in the house with my husband and kids, but I would be trapped in the house for DAYS. How would we manage our hostility and hurt when there was no where to go? It’s not even that I wouldn’t be leaving for work. We literally could not leave the house. And I refused to simply use the children as a buffer as my parents had done so many times.
And maybe that’s where the real story begins. Or, should I say, maybe that’s where a new story begins. Maybe being trapped by this snowstorm was the best thing that could have happened to us. Without a means to escape, we would have to face our problems head on and full force. There was nowhere to hide. And really no reason to. Without being able to leave, we couldn’t lie to ourselves or each other anymore. We would have to start being honest. We would have to actually do some work. Even if not to fix things, but to figure out a way to live in quiet harmony.
And you know what? We did. I’m not saying that everything is magically fixed. It’s not. And it won’t be for a long time. But without being able to escape I had to confront everything: my feelings, his feelings, the past, the present, the future. And for the first time in a long time, I haven’t wanted to leave. There’s a glimmer of something that I used to feel peeking up from behind the years of complacency and routine. Perhaps we need to see if this is anything worth saving. Perhaps there’s a chance that it is actually worth working for. Maybe it’s not…but maybe it is.
I feel a hope and a promise I haven’t felt for years. Maybe, just maybe, we’re finally getting somewhere.