Before I married my husband, I told him to make sure that he was marrying me for who I was that day, and not for any future changes he hoped to have wrought in me through the “transforming” power of marriage. Though we were both young, I had seen enough unhappy marriages to make me wary of the institution, and who wants to be institutionalized, really? I had no question that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, but I wanted us to start off with as little illusion as possible. I wanted to know that he saw me, and not some airbrushed version of a girl to be placed on a pedestal. It is easy to fall in love if you believe all the fairy tales and movies. Beautiful women with flowing hair and flawless skin meet muscled men with pure hearts and chivalrous intentions and they ride off to his manor with servants aplenty to watch the perfectly well-behaved children gambol across the lawn.
Real life, though, is grittier. The muscled boy that you met at 18 will have to help you get to the bathroom after giving birth to an almost 9 lb baby, change that baby’s first meconium-filled diaper, and not comment on all the broken blood vessels across your face from pushing to get that giant-headed child out. Those flowing locks that you used to have time to tame into submission, will subside into their normal frizzy state, then fall out during pregnancy so you look like an alien who accidentally swallowed a giant watermelon. The manor will actually be a tiny little starter home surrounded by other tiny little starter homes where you can hear your neighbors argue and flush their toilets. Those perfectly well-behaved children will kick a soccer ball right through your basement window after being sent outside so you can think in silence for 2 blessed minutes before you erupt into acid-spewing dragon mama mode, yet again.
What is not easy, is staying in love, loving, actually choosing to love, when face it, there are times when we are not lovable. When we are angry at the burned beef stew and there is not a single, flipping thing ready to eat in the house and everyone is hungry. When we are frustrated at piles of bills and broken car innards, and then the dentist says your child needs braces and it’s going to cost you exactly what you planned to spend on the car repairs. When we are already late to church for the umpteenth time, and we scream hurry up at the child who has to go to the bathroom right now. When we slam the phone down multiple times, because once is just not enough. And does anyone else agree that hitting the end button on our cell phones multiple times is just not the same?! We are so often not at our best, so often not that serene image of our best self that we aspire to, and carry around in our heads. And yet, and yet, we continue to love one another, despite. We continue to hold on, in a world that does not value the sanctity of marriage or family or friendship.
Last Sunday’s Gospel described Jesus’ tranfiguration on the mountain. Every time I hear this passage, I giggle a little to myself at Peter’s response to the incredible change he is witness to, but then wonder myself at what I might have said or done in his shoes. In reality, though, we see one another every day transformed. We see past the imperfections and flaws–frizzy hair, receding hairlines, extra pounds, impatience, frustration, and love one another. That is the tranfigurative power of love, and we do not have to look to the mountaintops, or what others refer to as those thin places where the divine is closer to us mortals, to see that transfiguration. We see it everyday when we choose to love despite and not because. We do it everyday, when we call one another Mình ơi, or sweetheart, when we are definitely not being sweet nor acting like the best reflection of our selves.
Today I am thankful for love that echoes the divine, that transforms us into our most ideal selves. I pray for the fortitude to keep trying to love despite and not because. I am grateful for the lack of illusions that makes marriage a safe harbor despite all my fears to the contrary, and for books which not only enthrall us, but also give us inspiration through words of wisdom which are gifts unto themselves.
“It had flaws, but what does that matter when it comes to matters of the heart? We love what we love. Reason does not enter into it. In many ways, unwise love is the truest love. Anyone can love a thing because. That’s as easy as putting a penny in your pocket. But to love something despite. To know the flaws and love them too. That is rare and pure and perfect.”
― Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man’s Fear