Well guys, it’s here. It’s the second week of December. I’m not sure when that happened, or how it happened so quickly, but it feels like the year flew by (I know, everyone says that every year, but 2012 went like it had rocket boosters attached to its back). Next week is going to be a shortened week at APW as the staff takes some time off to spend the holidays with family (cross your fingers for me. Michael and I will be on a redeye when Armageddon happens) so this week we’re going to take some time to explore endings and beginnings (and we promise not to use the word “resolution” if you don’t).
To kick things off we have the second of our year-end intern Reclaiming Wife posts, this time from Zen (who, by the way, also writes a personal blog over here if you’d like to continue following her writing). What Zen has to say about life after a wedding is so much of how I felt after Michael and I got married, but couldn’t articulate at the time. We’ve spent a decent amount of time on APW talking about how nothing changes or lots of things change after you get married, but what Zen articulates so well is that often it’s a little of both. Sometimes thing are exactly as they were, but still a shift is felt.
—Maddie for Maternity Leave
I’d kind of thought things would calm down after the wedding. No more last-minute guest list upheavals. No need to worry about hauling things, and people, around. (You might think a wedding is all lace and flowers and smooches and cupcakes, but actually it’s mostly hauling. I would say at least 85%.) No more planning!
I hadn’t pictured what married life was going to be like in too much detail, but I figured it would be pretty much the same as life had been before I got engaged. Quieter. I figured I’d have more time to focus on my stories and try new recipes and meet up with my friends.
Except now I have a to-do list as long as my arm, at least as long as the list I had before the weddings: give notice of marriage at the Malaysian High Commission, consider impact of marriage on visa status, amend workplace benefits so Cephas can benefit from them, figure out what to do about finances…
And what I hadn’t quite clocked was that marriage is a start, not just in the sense that it is the “beginning of the rest of your life” (a phrase that has always puzzled me: surely every day is the beginning of the rest of your life), but in that it’s a jolt to the system. Things are different now—outside me, but also inside me.
The first week I was back at work after the wedding, an email went round my office seeking to gauge interest in an opportunity to work abroad for an undefined period of time.
Me! I wanted to go! It was the kind of work I was interested in, in a geographical region I passionately want to return to, and I was at about the level of seniority (well, juniority) they were looking for. Pre-wedding me would’ve drafted the email and only held off on hitting “send” to check that Cephas didn’t mind too much. (Probably by text: “Hey, gonna sign up for international secondment, k? See you on Sat!”)
Post-wedding, I told myself I had to talk to my husband before making any decisions. People do marriage in different ways, of course, but I was pretty sure we both understood ours to include an understanding that we each had veto power over where the other chose to live.
We didn’t get the chance to discuss the email until a few days later (see: life being more busy after the wedding), and I found a funny thing happening in the course of those few days. I started changing my mind.
Did I really want to go after all? I asked myself. There would be opportunities in the future, but I’d never have the first six months of my married life back. Cephas and I had plans. We’d so looked forward to having quiet time together after the hurly-burly of the wedding. Did I really want to be picking up a few months after the wedding to move off to a different continent?
These were all sensible questions to be asking myself, but they felt very new. I spent a lot of my childhood moving around—by the time I was twenty I’d lived in three different countries, and I never spent more than three years at one school. I like picking up and going somewhere new. It’s nothing really to do with how I feel about where I am at the moment. I’m just always convinced that the grass is greener elsewhere—and even if it isn’t, it will be interesting to find out what shade it is over there!
It’s only recently that I’ve begun to recognise the value of commitment, of routine, of stability. You have to have a stable place to jump from if you want to leap far. The thing that matters to me most is writing, and while new experiences may provide material, I find it’s boredom that really fuels my creative endeavours. It’s in the small mundane moments in the shower or walking to the office that I work out plot points and find out something new about my characters.
And it’s in the quiet routines performed in each other’s company—making breakfast, getting ready for bed, preparing for the next day’s work—that Cephas and I are beginning to figure out what our marriage means to us, and what we want it to be.
I did reply to that email, primarily because I thought it was the sensible thing to do considering my eventual professional goals. But when I was called in for a chat about the opportunity I explained that I’d be keen to go—just not now. It was a wrench to do it, and in a way it made it worse that it was the sensible choice given our situation. Just refusing this chance went against my image of myself as a constant traveller, someone who’s always ready to throw the known to the winds and hare off into the unknown.
But the known is pretty darn good right now. Working on my novel, learning vegetarian recipes, seeing Cephas every day, exploring parts of London new to me—it’s a life composed of the ordinary, but all the lovelier for it. I’ll get to check out the grass on the other side someday—hopefully when Cephas can come along. Right now, the grass here is awesome.
Photo from Zen’s personal collection