Maddie and I had twin hilarious moments when reading submissions this week. One where Maddie said, “If you quote from Mean Girls, you’re my people.” And one when I read this post and said, “If you quote Edna St. Vincent Millay, you’re my people.” The APW staff, ladies and gentlemen. But, staff commentary aside (achem), Anya’s post on discovering what your partnership really is during hard times echoes everything I’ve learned this year, and echoes it with such grace.
I’ve always been worried that C. and I didn’t know how we would act in a truly difficult situation—that inevitable moment when things took a turn for the miserable. We have dated and been engaged through the best and smoothest years of my life, and I have worried, from time to time, that our relationship had never truly been tested. Did we know what we were getting into? We were comfortable, happy, at ease in a cute apartment halfway between our respective jobs. I was the main breadwinner while he contributed what he could to our expenses out of his graduate student salary.
Losing a job is never easy, and, thankfully, we have a wonderful support network, but when I lost my job without notice the world seemed to drop out from under me. My first thoughts were not of my own fate—but of ours. I was terrified that C. relied on me and that I could no longer deliver. If I were alone, this would be easier, I thought. It would be my loss, and I could bear it. I would move back home if I had to, and no one else would have to cut out meat from their diet in order to afford breaking the lease. I knew I could do this alone—I’d done it before—but together? Could he rough it with me? Could I bear letting someone else down?
When I got home that evening I was still not convinced it was easier together, but it was a relief to see him. It was a relief to have someone there, to hold me, to get angry on my behalf so I didn’t have to wallow in my own self-pity. It helped a lot to have someone who sat with me quietly, didn’t ask too many questions, and focused on the here-and-now. It turned out that I knew this man well, and he was just as wonderful in caring for me when I was heartbroken as he was in caring for me every other time. He didn’t let his worries overwhelm my need. He didn’t ask about tomorrow until I was done crying out today. And yet, while it was great to be in his arms, it was still awful to think about how he could live comfortably on his own salary alone, but now had to spread it thin to cover two people’s expenses through no fault of his own.
As the days passed, I noticed how his silent and constant presence calmed me and gave me fuel to persevere. With another person beside me who would sink or swim with me, I could not wallow and fall into depression. This was a true blessing. Dealing with adversity is different for everyone, but I deal best with difficulty when I can care for someone else through it. I am at a loss for how to heal my wounds, but with someone who is relying on me in the picture, I know exactly how to put one foot in front of the other. Action has always been my best medicine through hard times, and his presence spurned me into it, where otherwise I may have wallowed.
Is it easy to know that he must deal with this storm along with me because he has chosen to marry me? No. But I’ve come to see that this nagging worry of mine is entirely beside the point. I am marrying a man who loves me, whose life is made fuller by my part in it. Wealth is a meager solace in the face of loneliness. That is why the trope of being young and in love despite poverty is so powerful—because our needs are not only bread and water, shelter and clothing. A life rich in such basic needs is pallid and lackluster without the love, companionship, and trust that fills our souls with light. That is why, even when it’s harder to be together, we do not trade in our lovers for an easy life. Edna St. Vincent Millay said it better than me (of course), but she didn’t say it first:
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
pinned down by need and moaning for release
or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It may well be. I do not think I would.
Does it really matter whether or not we’ll be able to afford a band at our wedding? Sure it does, because it sucks to short ourselves on things we want. But weddings are not love, and love is not all. Whatever this thing called love is—I wouldn’t trade it for the meager ease of not being responsible for C.’s joy and well-being. He is too much a part of my own joy and well-being.