Today I am celebrating. The sun is shining, the breeze is gentle, the daffodils popping up everywhere and as of today, I have been married to the most wonderful man in the world for ten months. Amazing.
People are always saying that the first year of marriage is the hardest…if that’s true then we are going to have the easiest life ever. : ) I credit Jonathan greatly for the easiness of our transition into marriage. His graciousness, his ability to let go of things quickly, and his willingness to be flexible have made what were potentially dozens of conflicts into just a handful. After almost a year, we still enjoy being together, we fight less than we did before we were married, and we laugh all the time.
I don’t and will not ever pretend that we have a perfect marriage or that we know how to do everything just right, but I do recognize some things that we are doing right and I think it’s worthwhile to look at something and say, “This is good.” The thing that stands out to me the most as I reflect on our married life is an attitude of thankfulness.
Without having ever discussed it or made a collective decision to do so, we thank each other all the time. Even for the tiniest, most insignificant things we do as a matter of routine. Thank you for making the bed this morning. Thank you for making dinner. Thank you for unloading the dishwasher. Thank you for cleaning the litter box. Thank you for hanging up my coat. Even if I’m not at home, I’ll get a text that says, “Thanks for doing the laundry yesterday!”
All this thanking might seem silly or a bit like overkill, but I think it makes a world of difference in our attitudes toward each other. When I feel appreciated for the things I do, even the everyday mundane things, I don’t resent doing them. And I’m not saying it never happens, but it’s hard to be frustrated or irritated with someone when you are in the habit focusing on the ways that they bless you. When you truly see each other as a gift, you are so much more willing to put in the hard work of communicating, compromising, and showing love unconditionally.
As I’ve been thinking about what thankfulness means in my marriage, I’ve also started to think more about what it means for the rest of my life. Or, I suppose more accurately, what it could mean. If a spirit of gratitude in my marriage has made these last ten months so overwhelmingly joyful, what could the rest of my life look like if I looked at it from the perspective of thankfulness? If I stopped resenting the fact that I have to play with small children for 8 hrs a day , the fact that I can’t eat whatever I want without consequences, or the fact that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
Several years ago I read an essay called “A Country Road Song” by Andre Dubus from his collection, Meditations from a Movable Chair. It is one of the most beautiful and moving pieces I’ve ever read and it deals directly with this theme of gratefulness. A little background on Dubus (note, this Andre Dubus I, not Andre Dubus II his son who is also a writer)–he grew up in Lafayette, LA, my hometown (woo-hoo!) but lived much of his later life in Massachusetts. One evening when Dubus was 49 years old, he stopped on the side of the road to help a man and woman having car trouble. Another motorist swerved and hit them, killing the other man and crushing both of Dubus’ legs. He later had his left leg amputated and lost all use of his right leg. Dubus had been an avid runner before his accident. This essay is primarily about his memories of running through all the different seasons. I wish you could read the entire essay, but I’ll try to choose the best passages.
” When I ran, when I walked, there was no time: there was only my body, my breath, the trees and hills and sky…I always felt grateful, but I did not know it was gratitude and so I never thanked God. Eight years ago, on a starlight night in July, a car hit me…and in September a surgeon cut off my left leg… It is now time to sing of my gratitude:for legs and hills and trees and seasons…I mourn this, and I sing in gratitude for loving this, and in gratitude for all the roads I ran on and walked on, for the hills I climbed and descended, for trees and grass and sky, and for being spared losing running and walking sooner than I did: ten years sooner, or eight seasons, or three; or one day.”
I cry everytime I read this because it overwhelms me that a man could feel and express this intense gratitude in the very face of such incredible loss. What would my life look like if I understood what this man did? What would this world look like if we chose gratitude over resentment and joy over sorrow? It literally takes my breath away to imagine.