Thursday, February 27, 2014

remembering what it means to "grow old with you"

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore were on the Tonight Show, and they sang a very sweet song about their longtime movie romance. This took me back, as Wedding Singer was my first date with Valentine, and the song Sandler sings at the end, was part of his proposal to me. Fifteen years ago, we were newly engaged, with only a few months to go before we would be married. I was living in California, trying to plan a wedding (thanks mom for making that easy), get through junior year of college, and run a youth ministry, he was living on a tour bus on a national arena tour with a huge Christian band. We didn't have texts, FaceTime, or Facebook, we had emails, phone booths and calling cards. We were hardly able to spend time together, but when we could, you couldn't keep us apart. Friends joked that we always had to be touching, that they never saw us separate, and today our daughter rolls her eyes, and complains loudly about the same thing. We had no idea what life would bring, we just knew we wanted to live it together. 

There has been an awesome response to Val's amazing blog post about his struggle with mental illness,  and we have both been encouraged by people's support. Here is Val's blog link.  I have heard that we are inspiring, and amazing, and how do we do it. Well, we just do, it's part of life, not one that we expected, but it is. The truth is, I had no idea that part of that part of that life together included mental illness. I was no stranger to it, or the threat of suicide. I had a great aunt who we visited in the hospital after she tried suicide, and instead got a coma, I have a sister who tried when I was in elementary school, and a grandma whose mental illness was clear to me from a young age. My dad was a pastor, and as such walked through mental illness and suicide with families on a regular basis, and I had a front row seat. It was part of life, it was hard, but to me it was as normal and common as any other disease. I don't think there is just one, or a specific "other half" for anyone, but as I think of my history with mental illness, it seems more than coincidental that God or Josh,  had us meet in the bathroom line at that show (thanks Josh!). I didn't know though, and I am not sure he knew, the extent of the struggle he would have to live with. 

He was funny, he was fun, he was so creative. He wasn't arrogant, he didn't look down on my passion for reaching out to youth. In fact he took the time to hang out with kids at his shows, he kept in touch with them when they wrote to him, he made them feel valued and worthy of his time, so much so, that he got in trouble with other bands. He didn't just make me a mix tape of songs for me, he made me a tape of songs he wrote about me. Seriously ladies, and gents, who could resist that? He had dinner with my parents, while I was in Africa, after we had just started dating. He brought presents to my niece who lived with us. He would hang out with me even though I was surrounded by guy friends, my adopted brothers, and he didn't seem to feel the need to compete for my attention. He accepted me and loved me but was to shy to say it for a long time, and he was patient when I was too scared and hurt from previous relationships to give those words away again. Life was an adventure with him, a silly, quirky adventure, and the only road block was the distance of his life on the road.  

I didn't see the mental illness then, but sometimes now, that is all I can see. I forget the funny presents and notes, the need to constantly be holding his hand. Now sometimes I just see the need to help him, to prop him up, to make sure that he is safe. I forget the adventure and get bogged down in the anxiety of what might be around the corner. I have trouble trusting his decision making, when it seems like I can't trust him with his own life. I let the disease define him. I allow the symptoms suffocate the breathe or romance and adventure right out of me. 

But then that wittiness, that creativity, that spark push their way through and I see that guy again. I see the one who brought joy to audiences everywhere, and who now channels that in to bringing joy to our home. That guy pushes through, doesn't let his disease define him and makes a tortilla talk at chipotle. He does the hard work of therapy and meds, and while he may be extra grumpy sometimes, he is in no way abusive, or menacing, even when his brain convinces him, the world is crashing in on him. I hear the silly songs about our kids, and see the dance moves, that also make our tween groan. I see a guy that is hotter and more handsome than he is in our wedding pictures. I see him love the kids in our lives, and pour himself out into the new circle of adopted little brothers I have and I remember. I remember he is so much more. 

He is more than the tears and sobs over his brokenness, he is the guy that cries when he sees something sweet. He is more than the clinging hug for strength, he is the guy that lifts and snuggles the 150lb dog. He is the runner of hundreds of miles, the worker that everyone prizes, the dad that plays legos for hours. He is nothing short of amazing. 

And really marriage isn't about those first feelings in the beginning, all the things he did that made me feel special. It's about doing life together, like we wanted, each supporting the other. I am supposed to be there for him. My being there for him, it's not amazing or extraordinary, it's what I committed to, in sickness and in health. And he committed to the hard parts of me, my crazy ideas, my endless insecurities, the way i shut down when someone gets mad at me, my messiness, my love of bad TV and big dogs, my job that often becomes his, my own special blend of crazy. We are doing life together, and this is part of our life, but it doesn't define our relationship. It is hard to live with each other sometimes, but this is what we chose. Our love, our commitment to each other, our willingness to do life together, that defines our marriage. 

We changed the traditional vows a bit, and added that we would treasure one another. I think I have forgotten some of that. I have been so busy worrying about him that I haven't been treasuring him as much as I should. I haven't been appreciating the fantastic father, super freaking hot man, great provider, and basically fun guy that he is. You know those Facebook timeline videos, that show all your  most popular posts, mine was all Valentine. He really is one of the best parts of me. He makes me laugh everyday, even on the dark days. So, in those immortal words of Sandler, Valentine, "I want to grow old with you"and treasure many, many more days of you. And in case you need a reminder here is The Wedding Singer, I want to Grow old with you clip

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