Dear Husband, What I Wish You Knew
I originally published this letter over a year ago, and in that time, I’ve received all manners of feedback to this piece: too raw, too vulnerable, incredible, inspiring, cheesy, romantic, dumb. It’s likely all those things, but as any writer knows, there is often no limit to the things you’ll write if you think they’ll move you to a new place.
In this case, I needed to move past the year 2017. It was a whirlwind year — mostly politically — that left me so overwhelmed that I almost stopped writing completely. Every time I sat down to write, I became a version of myself I didn't know, didn’t understand. In many ways, this letter to my husband was an emotional and mental Hail Mary. It was my attempt to write about something I knew. Something that felt certain and hopeful. Because in 2017, not much did.
Revisiting this piece has inspired me anew. It reminded me that in hopelessness, we can always find something to give us hope. As for me and the husband, we made it to our 12th anniversary and are now working our way towards 13. Lucky number 13…
This weekend, we had an anniversary. Our 11th. To be fair, we got married so young that we should be having our fifth, but we did what we did, and we had our 11th. We’ll be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary before we’re 50. We’ll likely be too young, too close to paying for an enormous college bill, to afford that GIANT new diamond ring I totally deserve, but it’s fine. (And I’d likely lose it like I did the last one…)
Since we’ll be so damn young at our 50th, I’ll just ask for an obscene one then. And I’ll still have strength enough to hold my hand up and make people feel uncomfortable by its sheer size. Or I’ll just ask for a new toaster. Your needs become relative as you get older. You know what I mean?
An Average Celebration
We didn’t really do much of anything for our anniversary. We didn’t go on a trip or buy something huge. We went to dinner. You rolled your eyes while I took photos of our glorious-looking cocktails, and I urged you to buy the Snap-on hat with the logo of the restaurant.
In the end, you didn’t buy it because the really unattractive and obnoxious girl across the bar from us bought it, and it changed the way you thought about the whole thing. It wasn’t cool to own a hat from a bar you went to on your anniversary. It was dumb and touristy. Fair. I mean, it was a good hat, but I can understand the reasoning.
Too Much to Say
I haven’t been writing a whole lot this last year. I’ve reasoned that it’s because I don’t have much to say. But something about this anniversary, this weekend with you (because the child was in Maine — woot!) made it abundantly clear that the reason I haven’t written isn’t because I don’t have anything to say: It’s because I have too much to say.
I have so many things weighing, clinging, considering and wondering in and on my brain at any given moment these days that I feel like I can’t say anything. I can’t do anything. My brain is like a sunburn, a blister, a wet tissue in that game, Don’t Break the Ice.
Anything — the smallest thing — can feel enormous. Happiness feels like it gives way to immeasurable sadness. The triumphs of our life and our marriage — and that goddamn adorable kid — are constantly juxtaposed by the tragedy of what feels like the entire world.
Our bubble of seeming perfection is silly, trivial even, when compared to the enormous WTF of everything going on around us. Sometimes, I feel like when I go to talk about joy, I end up speaking about sorrow.
When I want to explain my pain, I can’t get past my anxiety. I feel a permanent lump in my throat. My swallowing is labored by the very weight of existence in our world. It’s so damn hard to focus here, on us, when so much is happening there. And there. And there.
Remembering How to Speak
I don’t mean to ramble. What I mean to do is keep you moving with my mental narrative. Once we were talking to someone in an airport in Bermuda. It was a woman who was there alone, celebrating her divorce. She said that they “just ran out of things to say to one another.” At the time, we were so young and we talked so much, and I remember thinking, “Jesus Christ, we will never run out of things to say to each other.”
And the good news is that it’s true. You and me, kid, we’ll never run out of things to say to one another. That won’t do us in. But I never foresaw (how could I at 26?) that we’d have a different battle, rooted in the same silly thing: words. Sometimes, you don’t stop communicating because you’ve run out of things to say. You stop communicating because you have too many things to say.
Where do you start? How do you lean in to the vulnerability of communication and give everything you’ve got to make sure that you don’t end up like some woman at an airport in Bermuda, telling young married couples that you ran out of things to say, when what you really mean is that you had too many things to say and you didn’t know how to say them? Because anger isn’t born of nothing, right?
Divorces aren’t born of empty silences. They’re born of huge, deafening, full-to-bursting silences. Well not us. I have some things to say.
I Love You
I love you. Goddamn do I love you. I love how you’ve changed as we’ve aged. How you’ve gotten more confident, but also crankier. I love that you are constantly trying to be more than you were the day before. You’re a constant gardener. You learn, absorb, adapt (slowly) and change. Not all at once, and not without pain and suffering (mine), but you do.
You stand your ground, but you’re not blind to the effects of your stubbornness. And you soften. (You did, after all, dress all 6-plus-feet of your body in a giant blue dinosaur costume last Halloween. You were a dick about it, right up to the end, but you did it. Because WE were gonna be a family of dinosaurs. And we were.)
Me Without You
I don’t know what the future holds, and it scares me. And, sometimes, I take that out on you. I confused uncertainty about the world, about work, life, my parents, for uncertainty about us. I know who we are. I know who we are almost more than I know who I am. Maybe because, after all these years, there isn’t really a me without you.
We’ve been an “us” for so long that separating us would cause me physical pain. I’ve joked that real estate prices keep us together sometimes, but that’s only partially true. What keeps us together is knowing that the very beating of my heart is tied to the beating of yours. Sure, I’d go on living if something tragic and Kickstarter-worthy happened to you, but my heart would be heavier, quieter. It wouldn’t be a heart worth listening to.
Our physical, emotional and spiritual selves are all blended together in this homogenous unit. Like Bennifer, only neither of the Bennifers worked out. And “Coreline” was some creepy animated film. But same thing. We’re a Coreline. Part Corey, part Caroline. But neither either.
Factoring You in It
Even when it seems that I am blatantly ignoring you, I’m not. (On a macro level. On a micro level I absolutely am. I’m ignoring you a lot.) Every decision I make in a day, from when to wake up to when to sleep factors you in. For starters, what would my living room look like in a world without you?
I want to pretend it would be thoughtful and warm and meticulous, but it wouldn’t be. Because our living room is only thoughtful and warm and meticulous because we are, not because either one of us, singularly is. (And frankly, I think I’d just get drunk and order things at West Elm that I would later regret.)
Together, We Are Thoughtful
I hate how we fight. Mostly because we don’t fight. We wait until we are sad about something else, something that has nothing to do with us, and we put a mask on that thing. And we assign it to us. And then we fight about it. And we think we’re fighting about us, but we aren’t. We’re fighting about the world. And our anxiety. And the mental weight of being born frustrated first-world liberals. And that shit is for real.
You know how I know? Because when it comes down to it, we have a plan. We are on a train. And we picked the car, the destination, the schedule. We are thoughtful together. Way more thoughtful than either of us could ever claim to be individually. Together, we have a sense of self that is so much bigger than our individual senses of self. (Which is saying something. Because my sense of self is, admittedly, pretty big.) We don’t know what we want for dinner, but we know what we want from our lives. And that’s something.
Building Street Cred
In this crazy, upside down world, any sense of direction, any semblance of a True North is a gift. It’s something to hold onto when everything feels like it’s going belly up. We have that, you and me. And when we lose sight of it, we know how to use a compass. We know how to ask the right questions, talk and figure out where that damn star is again. That’s not an accident. We’ve worked at that. We worked through round one of our friends’ divorces. We have street cred.
We also have a kid who is great. And he’s not an accident either. He was born all eyes and heart, but we’ve helped cultivate in him a sensibility about the world that reflects what we want for him. What we want him to want for himself.
Better for It
In seven years, which isn’t so far away, I’ll have lived my life with you longer than my life without you. All my formative, young adult (and medium adult) years will be by your side. And I’m better for it. You don’t make me a better person; you encourage me to make me a better person.
You encourage and discourage me in equal measure, but you also let me be me. You give me roots that enabled me to grow and branch out. I don’t need wings. I’m not trying to take flight. I can reach the sky without them.
I have so much to say to you, Mr. Beaulieu. One day, maybe I’ll run out of things to say, but only because my mind is gone, my words no longer summoned by the moving of my lips. And by then, we will speak with our eyes. And my eyes will say to you, “I love you. This was totally worth it.”
But not today. Today, I’m still talking. I still have so much to say.
This article was originally published on Medium.