Difficult times and hard choices

In the final days of October, Holly and I will reach an anniversary.
Recently a relative reminded us that in 1972, five cousins headed to five altars with their partners. Marie, a widow, pointed out that Holly and I will be the only ones to reach the fifty-year milestone.
In my years of pre marriage conversations as a minister, Holly and I frequently talked about the reality of getting through difficult times and conversations. Sometimes, as we described those days, the response would be, “So why did you stay together?” The answer that slid to my tongue immediately is “we didn’t know we had a choice.”
Certainly we knew, and know, that there is a choice. A few of those ‘72 marriages made that choice. But we were also supported by the models held out to us, parents, grandparents, that vows mattered. Commitment mattered.
I often told these counselees that our marriage occurred around the ages of twelve, hence our amazing retention of youthfulness. I’m in the early years of my eighth decade so the math doesn’t quite pencil out. But what is less fanciful and more honest is that we (particularly I) were remarkably immature, convinced we knew everything that mattered (that’s definitely me) and ready to cruise into a lifetime where the answers would be obvious and easy. Youthful energy and arrogance led us (me) forth.
I’m embarrassed at how many years it took me to learn that when Holly shared something that was troubling her, was confusing her, was making her life hard, it wasn’t at all useful to simply offer solutions, “well, try this, just do that.” She was looking for soul support, someone who could hear her hard story and return empathy. I knew only how to step into my maleness and provide answers. I had many answers.
We had children early. In the exhaustion of those early parenting years, we were mostly on the same page, trying to create the best environment for our cherubs. Mistakes were frequent, as we were still trying to figure out who we were, individually and as a couple. But our common determination to parent well guided us in mostly sane directions. Then, as the cherubs grew and began leaving the nest, we looked at each other and wondered, (remember, married around age 12) what will form our common road now that active parenting is no longer our central reality? There were still many years ahead.
Through those years, I was developing a sense of myself at a spiritual level. “What will make my life good?” That search began to evolve into a spirituality of “awe.” A search for “awe.” A determination to name that which I experience as “awe.”
Such started the reformation of my relationship to Holly. I acknowledged, to myself, to her, that she could have chosen anyone of the millions of better options. Better looking, better provider, better parenting, better listener, better everything.
She chose me.
The aura of awe extended to view her gifts in new and exciting ways, the huge areas of life where she was far beyond me, had much to teach me. The awe extended to the simple and yet hard lesson of loyalty and faithfulness. I could count on her. As I identified and pursued paths that seemed good to me, she created space for me to explore those paths, even when that meant separation from family and familiar places.
Awe continues to create my lens. I marvel at our children, the important stories of their lives. They have chosen partners that bring remarkable colour and variety. They have produced a new generation that again, offers hope to the world through their kind and energetic presence. The future will be good.
Twenty years ago, I needed to acknowledge that depression is part of who I am. I offer my regret and apology to all who bore the brunt of that. Mostly that is Holly, but not exclusively so. The pursuit of finding good supports for that condition now is part of the awe of my life, the conversations that I have with all.
Maybe give it a shot. Bring your best self.