this is now, and now, and now.
Live it, feel it, cling to it.
I want to become acutely aware
of all I’ve taken for granted.”
I know that marriage is one of the most fulfilling, most beautiful relationships anyone can have. For me, one of the beautiful faces of marriage appears when I think I’ve reached the end of understanding my love for my husband and his love for me. At this apparent dead end, another door opens and a new discovery of saturated love and joy continues. The love between two people who have committed themselves to one another for this entire lifetime is one of endless space. I also know, that marriage is one of the most challenging, most intense relationships. Within that endless world of love there are two hearts, two minds, two beings, learning and growing, giving and taking. It is sometimes messy and exhausting, but it is all worth it. Every bit of it. Every day, deciding to commit to the present, to the now of my marriage, to the people I am with today, is worth it.
This is my journey of finding my way to living fully in the now and recommitting myself to that endless space of love for my husband, celebrating all of the struggles, all of the joy, and all of the life that it brings.
The birth of This is Now was realized through a journey in which I found myself completely riven. It is through my discovery of the meaning and acceptance of commitment that I began to see the endless life in the now.
If someone would have told me the day that I stood barefoot next to my husband in an open field in Georgia reading our handwritten vows to one another that we would find ourselves crying in our living room together as we fell asleep knowing that I would never come back to our home in the woods, I would not believe them. If they would have told me on our wedding day that I would get so close to giving up on our marriage forever that it drove me to a 600 mile hike in England to find my fight again, I would not have believed them. And if someone would have told me that though we would walk through the most painful, hopeless journey together, we would find ourselves on the other side more in love and filled with more joy than the joy we had that day of union in Georgia as we let the transformative beauty of commitment rip us open and change us, I would, still, not believe them.
So far, our journey through marriage has not been anything we had expected. But I don’t think it ever is. I never expected to walk through an intense battle over my marriage, but I also did not expect to feel such a deep love for my husband as I do now - One that is planted below the winds of everyday life; One that is sown deep into the roots of my being. I also did not expect the man that I met at a camp in college to show me love greater than I knew one heart was able to love. Much of this love was cultivated as we walked through what we both consider the hardest time of our lives.
Although my story has felt singular at times, a series of events and inner changes unto itself, I have come to realize that everyone who decides to make a lifelong commitment to another human walks through similar struggles. We all must walk through the sobering experience of dying to ourselves in a way as we say, “yes” to someone else. We all face the fear of the unknown as we grow and change alongside someone else. We all fight doubt and hopelessness and selfishness and heartache at times. It is inevitable. It is a part of walking through this life with a partner.
I would not have been able to admit this to myself when I got married at the green age of 20. I did not have the insight and the maturity to know that marriage is a million times more than the excitement one feels when he or she is falling in love with another living, breathing being. It is far beyond the conversations filled with dreams and hopes and desires. It is deeper and greater than the emotions connected to writing vows to the one with whom I decided to spend the rest of my life. Those emotions, although tangible and important, are often young and inexperienced, yet to be rooted in the deep, tested love that is cultivated through years of conscious commitment.
It took 600 miles walking the coast of England, 7 weeks of quieting myself, 42 days of purging and accepting, and opening the folds of my heart to understand the transformative beauty of commitment.
I have now realized that I had stopped fighting for my marriage, for Eddie, long before I could consciously feel my surrender. My journey to giving up was slow and silently present. I let thoughts of disconnect and hopelessness sink into me and slowly poison my decisions. They dripped into my inner being and began to take form, building into a destructive mindset. I gave in fully to the notion that the only way I could feel at peace with my life again was to walk away from my marriage.
And so I did.
I had become a hollow, distant shell of a partner. All of Eddie’s and my conversations became elegies tainted by indignation. I lost hope in the power of love. I submitted to a passive acceptance of misery. My feelings were real, my struggles were reality, but my thoughts and emotions were rooted in unresolved issues that had been there from the beginning. Rather than walking through the struggle and learning the fluid motion of giving myself and receiving Eddie, I gave up. The reality of sacrifice stared me blankly in the face, and I turned away.
I was broken and bitter. I wanted out. So I lay on our couch with Eddie on the floor beside me, wrapped in an ill-fitted blanket. We were holding hands - trying to cling onto what we had left - and weeping. That was the last night I spent in our home in Franklinville, NC. It was the last night I stopped trying until I finally did again.
I have learned that it is when we are completely cracked open and our vessels are exposed to both the life and the toxins that fill the air that we are most susceptible to change. How deep, how transformative, and how life giving this kind of change is depends on the way in which we allow our bare selves to accept that cold air and allow it to move through and awaken us.
The night we lay and wept together, something deep within me began to soften. A mass of sorrow began to unthaw and melt away. And for the next five months every day was a step closer to unclenching my hands from that dark rock cloaked in fear that sat inside me.
The urgency for solitude grew in me as I became more malleable. The Southwest Coastal Path, a 630-mile trail that follows the western coast of England from North Devon to Dorset, became my pilgrimage - my way of healing and learning to forgive myself and sit within my own skin. More importantly though, I found within the song of the Atlantic Ocean, within the stir of the cliff-worn wind, within the faces and hearts of the English country people, and within my own journey of crying out into the depths of this world, the transformative beauty of sacrifice. I found a truer face of love than I had ever known.
Every day, every 10-20 miles I walked along the cliffs, another layer of the dark mass inside of me softened and slipped away. I could write pages and pages on the sobering moments I endured along the way. One ethereal moment came when a flock of birds flew up from below the cliff face as if they originated from the ground on which I walked. They soared past my wind-blown hair, as if on a mission to devour the thoughts that plagued me, and left me feeling weightless and a little more free. I stood on the edge of the green cliff and cried, thankful that part of my burden was lifted.
I could write forever about the roaring ocean that became my constant friend. I would fall asleep to its roars and wake up with it still shouting, still conducting its sleepless orchestra. It sang a song of diligence. Of commitment. It would take a lifetime to explain how healing it was to meet Raymond, tears streaming down his face, telling me about his life as a sailor over two Americanos and gently grabbing a day pack out of my hand and buying it for me – such a selfless and caring act.
My journey to discovering the transformative beauty of commitment is a puzzle of stories and people and kindness and crying and laughing and shouting and silence and being. It is complex yet so incredibly simple. It is a journey of learning to live so completely alive in the now. I learned how to take in, to be consumed by now, by here. I found through solitude complete contentment in just being, and in turn, I learned how to be more present.
As I walked along the cliffs of Devon, into Cornwall, and up to Dorsett, I whispered Sylvia Plath’s words to myself. “This is now,” I would repeat to myself. “This is now.” The more I spoke them, the more I forgot the words themselves and felt myself pour into the air I breathed. One very small step at a time, I was learning to actually live in the moments of my days. I was not thinking about the destruction I had created in the past nor was I thinking about how I was going to fix everything in the future. I was grateful for where I found myself right there. Wading through a stream of rocks and moss, opening a napkin from my pocket filled with toast from the morning’s breakfast, sitting in the quiet of a small room with just a bed and a table, content and grateful. It is these words and this transformation of living deeply in the present that I was able to return to the states and pursue the renewal of life in my marriage with hope and deep joy.
My relationship with Eddie is ever-changing, as all relationships are. Marriage is fluid. But what will always be present is the opportunity to commit selflessly and fall into a love that is deeper than our base desires. It may not take everyone 600 miles to find the true face of deep, enduring love. I hope that it doesn’t. But what I have learned to be true is that the love that binds two people together is a choice to be made every single day that we are alive. What took me so long to realize for myself, though, is that it is a choice that when made, is more freeing and more fulfilling than anything I could imagine. Every time I recommit to the now, to Eddie, to living uninhibitedly within our marriage, another flock of birds rises above the earth and makes my heart a little more free. I believe that.
I believe in the transformative beauty of marriage. I believe in the fulfillment of sacrifice with its rewards of deep, unimaginable love. I would not have said this in the past, but I have learned through this journey with my husband that there is an endless world of fulfillment and joy in loving him beyond myself - in loving him now, with everything in me, and therefore, forever.