Thursday, June 19, 2014

Marriage 6/19/14

I've been married for twenty days now. I haven't written about it seriously; I've only reflected on it in quick bursts. The other day Andy asked me how I feel as a married man, and I said I didn't feel too different. Not much has changed. And that's true. Jena and I had a good relationship going into our marriage, and living together and being married isn't much different than it was before.

But today, I've decided to delve into this marriage experience a little bit. And it began as I was listening to the Savage Lovecast. Two points stuck out; both were in Dan Savage's conversation with a woman who wanted to get married before she died. She had been diagnosed, for the third time, with cancer. Dan Savage said that marriage is what you make it. It is defined by those in the marriage, not by others. He also said that sometimes it's not worth it to sit around being indecisive like Hamlet. He pointed out external situations can force an issue, such as marriage to come to fruition, and it can work out.

His first point, about how marriage is what you make it, is one that I intend to share with Jena, though I think we have this mindset about our marriage already. We want to be active in our decisions rather than allowing traditions and other people to define it. Our marriage is and will be an ongoing project that includes plenty of reflection and negotiation. It will also be eclectic, I'm sure, since both of us have a tendency to stray from certain norms. (Excuse my use of ESL teaching terms here; they have a way of infiltrating everything.)

Our decision to move to Turkey together, right after getting married, is an example of such eclecticism, and it relates to the second point from Dan Savage. Sometimes decisions can be accelerated, and they work out. Over the course of this year, our timeline as professionals did influence our decision to get married, and I believe that's okay. Someone asked me during the week of wedding festivities in Nebraska how I knew that I was ready to get married. I said that I just knew. Duncan was there, and he agreed saying, yeah, you just know when you're ready. There was certainly more to my "knowing" than I let on, but I interpreted Duncan's words as follows: you can consciously suss out a situation, but you might need to take a step back and let intuition assist you in taking the leap. In this way, you just "know."

That's what occurred with my marriage. Jena and I knew that staying together as a professional couple would be easier with the bond of marriage. To me, the bond we have now is not flexible as it might be have been if we were moving to Turkey together as boyfriend and girlfriend. We're now committed to making the relationship work out despite the trying circumstances that are likely to come up personally and professionally. In other words, through the process of deciding to get married, coupled with just "knowing," I realized that I wanted a promise that I couldn't go back on. Marriage, for me, is such a promise, and I am enacting the first of Dan Savage's points. I am being active in defining my marriage.

I'm going to wrap up these musings on marriage with an epiphany I had today when I returned from a run. (It was on this run that I listened to the Savage Lovecast episode I referred to earlier--399, one of the best ones I've heard). My epiphany is about the celebration of a wedding. Before my wedding, James told me to just enjoy the fact that everyone is there to celebrate with you. You don't have to be modest during the wedding. I took his advice in that I honestly didn't spread myself thin with introductions during the wedding reception. Rather, I tried to have some authentic interactions that I knew I would cherish later. These included dancing with my aunts and a surrogate aunt to "I Saw Her Standing There." Dancing with my mother. Joking around with my college friends about the creation of a new drink (Whale Sweat). Dancing with Jena. And so many more.

A marriage celebration is what you make of it, just as a marriage is. The celebration is not purely limited to the experience of the groom and the bride. Jena and I both had a beautiful time, trying to maintain our composure while we loved each other throughout the evening. But the wedding was also about sharing the experience with all those who attended. I am so grateful that Ian, Sam, Joe, and Adam took it as an excuse to see me and each other again after a decade. I am grateful that my nuclear family and my families on both my mother's and father's side could reunite on this occasion. I am grateful that my surrogate aunts from Utah made it. And I am grateful that Jena's family was there to celebrate with us because now I have have a new family as well.

What really got to me today, though, pertained to my brother. In the recent years, his genius and generosity has really floored me. Without the wedding, I would not have had this moment with my brother: It was twenty-five minutes or so before the wedding. Guests were arriving, and the groomsmen and I were supposed to stand in a room that everyone filtered through before taking a seat outside. As a result, I was greeting what felt like thousands of people, and running out of energy fast. I don't know exactly how it happened, but I told Andy that we could use Jena's room as a green room. He and I went in there together to drink some water and catch our breath. Andy calmed me down, saying it was okay for us to be in here instead of with the guests. I told him I wanted to practice my vows, and when I was on my second run-through, Andy began practicing something of his own. It was on a folded white sheet of paper. He was mouthing the words silently and making edits with a mechanical pencil as he went. I didn't realize then that he was fine-tuning his speech, his toast, that he later gave to Jena and me during the reception. It brought me to tears. Without the wedding, I wouldn't have had that moment with my brother, and for that I am grateful.

A marriage is what you make it. Jena and I have a new future together in which we will determine the marriage's parameters along with its successes and challenges. Today I have had a glimpse of how I have begun to re-conceptualize the marriage celebration, and I have no doubt that I will do the same with the experiences that Jena and I have along the way. To answer Andy's question (How do I feel as a married man?), I feel good. I am up to the task of making the marriage work, defining it on my and Jena's terms, and accepting its timeline as pure fortuity.

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