So I have this infertility problem. And then I get philosophical about the infertility, and I start trying to be deep and make meaning out of it on my blog. I’m jumping up and down over here, going “Ooh, ooh, look at me! I am infertile and yet I don’t let it get me down! Admire me for my poised and spiritual approach to this totally crappy situation.”
Haha. You probably already know it, but sometimes this is a false front. There are good days and bad days, but the truth about infertility is that it makes me want to crawl under the covers and not come out. Duh. A lot of the time I keep going only because I have to, not because I am inspired and eternally optimistic like I try to make myself sound.
You know what? This post was not supposed to be about infertility, so I guess I better interrupt myself before I end up with a not-about-infertility post that has a four-paragraph introduction about infertility. Huh.
Ideas for posts have been few and far between these past weeks; thus, the song lyrics in the last post, for which I apologize. But I’ve finally come up with an idea! I’ve downloaded Google’s Picasa photo organizer and am very much enjoying it, and it has inspired me.
I give you the history of my relationship with Bryan, documented for your enjoyment with pictures.
Bryan and I had our first date in the fall of 1998. I was barely sixteen; he was a week away from eighteen. He called me one Tuesday night to ask me out. (Of course I had been expecting him to call me. This was high school, people! It would have been weird if the grapevine hadn’t informed me ahead of time.) He said he wanted to compare answers on the calculus homework. (We were the two best students in the class. We did not need to compare answers.) So we went over the calculus for, like, twenty minutes. Booooring. Then, just as I was thinking he was about to get serious, he proceeded to discuss other topics, including marching band and his dad’s love of Star Trek, until my head was ready to explode. Forty-five minutes later, I had to resort to desperate measures. I told him that my sister needed the phone, and he finally asked me if I wanted to go out for dinner with him. (Did you think I was going to say no? I thought he was really cute.)
Our first date was that Saturday, October 10th. We went to Applebee’s, not because either of us had any great love for it, but because we were driving past it when I happened to notice that his ex-girlfriend (of two years, the reason he had been previously unavailable to date me, even though I am his soul mate) was driving right behind us. She was actually a very nice girl, and I’m sure she was not following us on purpose, but as soon as I mentioned her presence, Bryan said, “How about Applebee’s?” and shrieked into the parking lot on two wheels to get away from her. He might have been a little paranoid, because she was pretty clingy when they were dating. It wasn’t a very auspicious start, but we didn’t need one because, as I said, we were meant for each other.
More than six years later, I’m amazed at how much I still remember about that night. I remember exactly what we both wore, exactly what we both ate. I remember sitting nervously on my hands during breaks in the conversation; I remember him pulling out money to pay for dinner and carefully showing me all the features of the new twenty-dollar bill. I remember walking by the river after dinner, our matching school jackets wrapped tightly around us to ward off the cold. I remember when he dropped me off at home, a little embarrassed that he had a 12:30 curfew and I had none. I reached my hand back into the car after I got out, and he held it in his for a moment.
I little knew then how quickly my life would become linked to this near-stranger’s. Thinking back, I can’t describe the linking concretely now any more than I could then. On our first date, I barely knew him, but since then there has not been a day that I haven’t thought about him.
We spent the first months of our relationship tentatively getting to know one another. We would spend hours sitting in his car by the boardwalk, talking. One evening we bought a package of glow-in-the-dark star stickers and pasted them all over the ceiling in his car. (This is now my car, and a couple of them are still up there.) When spring came we started walking by the river, enjoying the warm breezes almost as much as we enjoyed each other’s presence. I marveled at how our dates apparently defied physics – the hours before curfew sped by more quickly than I thought possible. Still, I knew that Bryan was leaving for college in the fall, and so I guarded against heartbreak. His school was only an hour-and-a-half away, but I knew that we might decide a long-distance relationship wasn’t worth the hassle, and I wanted to be okay with that.
It’s a good thing that breaking up wasn’t what he wanted, because it would have hurt me more than I expected. Being away from Bryan changed the way I felt about him. It made everything more real, more painful and more joyful at the same time. He would drive back on weekends to see me and I counted the hours until he came home. We could spend whole evenings together just talking. As we sat together, I would trace the curve of his jaw with my fingers, and think that the lines of his face were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
We first started talking about marriage that winter, in early 2000. It sounds crazy to me now, because we were only seventeen and nineteen, but we were in love. We wanted to get married; we were ready. Retrospectively, I can see that things would have been much easier if Bryan and I had started dating a few years later, or if we’d realized that things were getting too serious and backed it off for a while. You can’t get married at seventeen! It’s not even legal.
But there we were, totally into each other and ready for the commitment (or so we thought). We figured out that we could probably get married as soon as he graduated from college, even though I’d have one year left. Three-and-a-half years sounded like a lot, but we didn’t really have a choice.
It’s a fun experiment. You should try it sometime. Get two hormonally-charged kids in their late teens who are madly in love (and trying to live chastely, no less) and say to them, “Sure, you can get married… In three years! Bwahahahaha!”
As crazy as we were about each other, the pressure was too much. We tried to stay together, but we broke up three times between the spring of 2000 and the fall of 2001. I definitely cried more in that time than in any other year of my life.
The weird thing was, I was the one who broke it off, every time. Actually, it’s not all that weird, considering that Bryan has a thousand times more patience than I do. He could wait, but I could not. I was miserable, waiting. Three years felt like a lifetime to me. So I tried finding happiness in other places. I tried being single; I tried dating other guys, but nothing was right. And every time I started being quiet and listening to God again, He sent me right back to Bryan.
We had a huge fight in September of 2001, and we spent the next month apart. It was the hardest month of my life. I was avoiding the truth that I was simply too scared and too weak to commit to waiting for the man I loved. I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that I had no real control over my happiness. I wasn’t ready to trust God on the timing.
One afternoon in late September, I went to confession. I hadn’t been in a long time, but I suddenly felt called to go. The peace I received in that absolution was unlike any I had felt before or have felt since. On my walk back to my dormitory in the late-afternoon sunshine, I passed Bryan’s dorm. Propelled by a force I hardly knew and yet trusted completely, I suddenly turned and walked up the stairs. In that moment I knew that he was for me, and that I could not skirt around it anymore. I walked into that dormitory prepared to commit the rest of my life to him.
I went to his room. He had the door propped open and I stood in the doorway for a moment and watched him typing, struck by my love for him. He saw me and stood up; I walked to him and put my arms around his neck. We hardly had to say anything; I think he knew that I had come back to him for good.
Only a few weeks later, we decided to throw caution to the wind and get married a year earlier than we had planned. We didn’t get officially engaged until February, but we were essentially engaged from that time forward.
This picture was taken a few days after our engagement, at his grandfather’s birthday party. It was during the six months between his proposal and our wedding in August that I learned the real truth about engagement. I always tell it to my friends when they get engaged: Getting married is not the fun part. Being married is the fun part.
That probably isn’t true for everyone, but it certainly was for us. We argued constantly during our engagement. One of my philosophy professors once said that engagement is the hardest time, because you’re committed, but there is still the possibility that things could fall apart. Marriage, for Catholic couples at least, is an assurance. Look, you’re stuck – things can no longer fall apart, because they’re not allowed to.
Bryan and I were married August 17, 2002. All the arguing we’d done during our engagement suddenly stopped, and we just enjoyed finally being married. Our honeymoon, which we spent at a resort on Hawaii’s Kona Coast, was in many ways the best seven days of my life.
And yet, in another way, every day since then has been even better. Of course our bliss-induced honeymoon tempers didn’t last, and we’ve had plenty of arguments since then, but they’ve been productive arguments. We’ve grown into each other in the last two-and-a-half years. We’ve become one emotionally, in echo of our sacramental oneness.
I would be lying if I said I had never considered that it might have been easier another way. Getting married at nineteen is no picnic. You give up a lot of things about being young, being carefree, that are fun and valuable. And yet for me, there is no question that marrying Bryan when I did was exactly the right decision. My life right now makes more sense than I ever imagined it could. He and I have had challenges, and I know we will have many more as the years wind by, but he is for me, and nothing can change that. I am so grateful.