My marriage is 29 years old today. That age when you hope you’re focused on the right path, you’ve learned a thing or two, have some experience, you’re feeling more mature. That word that made you laugh a few years ago is here. But the big three zero looms around the corner, and when you hit that number you are really going to have to look back and assess what the hell you’ve done. This is the year you cross out of your youth into something much more serious, you’re that much closer to death.
I was in hot pursuit of the career I wanted in my twenties, but if I’m honest, marriage has been my steady focus, the ball I never let hit the ground when the career ball at times hit with a thud. And it is only in the last few years that I’ve been able to confess this to myself -- a confession that has taken decades to coax out of my subconscious because it involves a lot of shame. I don’t have the career I dreamed of that includes money-making work and a large community, I have a body of work that I have made and a smaller group of people who know me and support me.
And I have a 29 year old marriage. If we add the time before the legal document it’s really 33 years since those sweet early moments when our lives slid together without any real discussion, just moved forward by the forces within both of us that suddenly felt heard and seen by the other.
It began in the theater at the University of Colorado at Denver talking to him in classes with ease, surprised by his thoughts, his point of view, his understanding, surprised that I could move my way in and through what he expressed and find my own voice expanded and appreciated. Surprised how my breathing slowed down as I settled into one of those black metal chairs on the risers in the theater next to him listening to the professor -- such a lovely place to be. Belonging. The most powerful elixir I know.
29 years of making theater together, packing it all up to move across the country, chase the dream, don’t look back, graduate school in New England, petty petty painful theater-people shit, another big push to land in New York City, throw ourselves at auditions, stand in line at Equity open calls at 6:00 a.m., rejection, rejection, rejection, find day jobs, stare into restaurant windows obsessively, look around us at the quintessential NYC life and wonder if we’d ever crack the code, start a theater company, make many beautiful shows, get pregnant because it’s getting to be that time, miscarriage, the summer of grief and endless episodes of Law & Order, get pregnant again – Oh Dear Lord, stop everything – just look at her.
Get going again, he walks away from the theater, it’s unfulfilling, he stares the beast directly in the eye and calls a truce, he’s going to do something else, move to the Bronx, another summer of grief, is the NYC dream gone, get pregnant again – stop – see, how extraordinary.
Getting through those early days with small kids, nothing cool and sexy about it, just day in and day out. It’s an odd mix of routine and discipline, while watching two beautiful creatures come into their own. Surviving the years of brutal fights where it all comes out, every hidden criticism, every thwarted desire, every mean truth, you say it all, and it almost breaks everything.
29 years of sitting on the bed every morning drinking hot black coffee talking, working it out, having it out, hoping, planning. Did any of what we said really matter or is the fact of the sitting the point. Have I been a good partner? I don’t honestly know if I can answer that or if it matters. I know I have been ... a partner. I have been a part of this thing and the ball never hit the ground with a thud, came oh so close many times, but that’s life I think. I chose this partner thing, this marriage thing, this kind of life thing. And in choosing that I didn’t always see myself clearly and make what I thought I wanted with my life, a bigger life with a bigger career.
But maybe 29 years in, what this soul of mine lurking here in this body, really wanted, needed, to self-actualize herself and put another foot forward in this plane of existence was exactly what I did, not what I thought I should be doing. So maybe, 29 years in, I can loosen the lid on the shame jar and let a little bit of it go. And breathe in this partnership, this person, who all these years on still makes room for my voice to expand.