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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Nine Years

My brother, Jon Miller of Perceptional Reality Photography took this photo April 9, 2005.

Nine years ago today Steve and I were married.

It's strange what this memory is now, and I will try my hardest to describe it, if that's even possible.

Steve and I met on the school bus my senior year of high school. I was nine months pregnant with my Joshua, and we were nothing but two people who shared an equal hatred for the wild teenagers we were forced to occupy a bus with. Several weeks later, when I returned from maternity leave, Steve and I began to make conversation. We shared a history class with our favorite teacher, but other than that, we had to try to run into each other. We spent an incredible afternoon at Farmington Pond where we sat on the bench overlooking the water, with Joshua asleep in his car seat, instead of going to class. We fell into the kind of love I hadn't known existed.

We did not have a fairy tale romance. Our first three months were absolute bliss, then came troubled waters. We dated for two years before we were married. Joshua was 2 1/2 years old when we wed, and the baby-who-would-be-Asher was 4 months along.


Somehow I had no idea that we, ourselves, were still children.

How are we to know as teens, when we are feeling so developed and experienced, that our twenties are to be spent learning about ourselves, not each other? Had we spent this time learning who we were and what we truly needed, I think we would have not chosen to marry each other. As it was, we were madly infatuated, deep in the fog of love we were sure would last a lifetime. Did we think we would never experience difficulties? Not in the least. We knew exactly how difficult we were for each other. But surely our pure DETERMINATION would see us through! I recall making a private vow to each other that we would beat the odds. We would never allow ourselves to become a statistic. Our children would not be from a broken home. We, of all the people out there pledging to each other, would never give up.

The Army took him to South Carolina just two weeks after we wed. We knew this was coming, as he had made the choice to enlist in order to acquire health insurance and a steady income for our baby on the way. It was an adventure, and we were going to take it on together. Wherever they sent us, it didn't matter, we would have each other and our love to get us through. And I was desperately proud of my soldier.

He took on the challenge of raising two babies (and ourselves) bravely, giving up the ideas he'd had of his adulthood for his family's stability. He let go of himself for us. And then the Army stripped away the rest of what was left of him, to turn him into a U.S. Army Soldier.

The memory of this is more like a book I once read, than an experience I once had. I still feel all the feelings, I can still see it and smell it and breathe it in if I close my eyes, but it's so far away, like it didn't really happen in this lifetime.

Our marriage was very, very good, and very, very bad, in turn. We had the highest ups and the lowest lows, as all great love stories do. There was mad, passionate, breathtaking love... and there was childish, aggressive, festering resentment. There was heartbreak in the loss of what we had known and the fear of what we might come to know. There was distance where once we had looked into each other's eyes and seen the other's soul.

Now, nine years later, we are not divorced, but have been separated nearly two years now. Three, if you count 2009, which we also spent apart.

Steve and I have both discovered ourselves. What we have discovered about each other didn't turn out to be what we had once thought. (This is to be expected, when you begin before you even finish evolving into the person you will be.) The love we felt for each other, the dream of our future together, wasn't enough to make us right for each other. Our determination we vowed in the beginning kept us together long after we realized we were wrong for each other. And now we sleep peacefully at night, knowing that we tried absolutely everything to make our marriage work.

We are still legally married, but haven't been emotionally married in a very long time. We have grown into adulthood much later than our peers, as we were forced to skip over that growth period in our twenties. Now, in our thirties, we will do the work we should have done ten years ago.

I can wholeheartedly say, with my head held high, that the decision to separate has been good for all of us. My children enjoy their time with me, and they enjoy their time with their dad. They don't live in a state of constant contention. They have days, even weeks at a time with peace, and even fun.

There are of course still things about this lost dream that break my heart, but each day I see the progress we have all made, and I know we made the right decision. I wouldn't go back and take away our nine years. I wouldn't go back and choose to not marry Steve. I don't want to be a cliche, but I never would have had my Max had we not been married, and our lives would be immeasurably less meaningful without him.

This anniversary still brings a single tear to my cheek, just as a powerful scene at the theatre brings me to tears. But in the end there is a redemption, much like the last year of my life has been, where all the characters - no matter where they ended up - come together and revel in their progress and the potential they still hold. Today I am grateful for my experience and my growth, my past and my future.

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