When You’ve Been With Someone For Twenty Years…

…you’ll look back and wonder how you made it.

…you’ll realize you’ve weathered some storms which others may not have survived, and you’ll wonder how and why it happened for you and not for them.

Happy 20th Anniversary, Honey. Don't get the camera too close, okay?

…you might tell yourself you feel exactly the same as you did when you got married… until a 20-something aesthetician at Benefit cosmetics waxes your eyebrow (your choice) before your 20th wedding anniversary trip and, without asking, removes the hair on your upper lip (her choice). You’ll be confused, then horrified, then hopeful that it’s just a freebie, then irked when you’re charged for it, then embarrassed when the red bumps appear the next morning, then grateful that she did it because now, your formerly fuzzy upper lip is now as soft as a baby’s bottom for your anniversary trip with your husband…until the skin on your your upper lip breaks out into even bigger, angrier bumps (how romantic) and turns bright red under the slick of sunscreen in the unforgiving sunshine of the Caribbean and still…your husband helps you laugh about it.

… you might come up with a “brilliant” idea to hire a painter to “touch up” some cracked walls in your home (which haven’t been painted in 15 years) while you’re away with your husband and the kids are staying with friends. As you pack for your trip, digging through piles of cold-weather clothes (for your children) and stretched-out bathing suits (for yourself), you’ll weave in and out of the painter’s way and you’ll really look at those walls and realize you’ve neglected the house and the upkeep more than you would have liked. You’ll remember when you and your husband used to paint those walls yourselves, and now you’ll say to yourself, “How have I walked past these cracks and this peeling paint every day and not even SEEN them?” You’ll put down the kids’ cold-weather clothes and your stretched-out bathing suit and you’ll stop dead in your tracks.

You’ll take a deep breath and whisper to yourself that your kids are healthy and relatively pleasant at least 15% of the time, that you’ve had plenty of other things on your plate to attend to, like taxes and homework and finding your three-year-old after ten frantic minutes of believing he’d fallen off the end of Navy Pier and seeing friends you don’t see nearly as often as you’d like (but you’re trying) and car payments/repairs and printers out of ink the morning the damn report is due and learning your relative is in hospice and (hopefully not too many) funerals and ants in the kitchen and stitches in the knees and boxes of photos you’ve never put into albums but occasionally stumble across after you’ve had too much wine and car rides with friends to get them to their radiation/chemo appointments and new jobs and old-fights-that-creep-into-new-arguments and honor roll certificates and hugs from your eight year old and dog poop that needs to be scraped out of your neighbor’s child’s shoe and pumpkin faces eaten off by squirrels on your porch and saying I’m sorry (and wishing you’d said it sooner) and sunburns and enjoying the greatest meal you’ve ever shared and sleeping on the couch and realizing you’ll never be perfect and wishing people would just appreciate you more and being there when your child wakes up from anaesthesia, reaching for you, crying your name over and over and you just stop.

And the painter will look at you like you’re only slightly less dangerous than his mother-in-law back in the old country — but at least you’re paying him.

"Hole in the wall" by Rune T

Then the painter will go back to the cracks in the walls, and he will do his best, but you both know there’s only so much he can do with such an old house like yours. You’ll come to see that repairing those cracks, just like all the imperfections in life, can be messy business…that the journey is never finished… and that perfection is never reached.  You’ll see there will always be huge messes that leave you wondering at times if this was all worth it. And if you have a good, honest painter, he’ll remind you that your place isn’t the worst he’s ever seen, nor is it the best. But it’s yours.

Sometimes those cracks can and should be tackled on your own; other times, professionals must help. They’ll have the tools and the perspective you need. They’ll step in and remind you what’s wonderful about those walls around you, and they’ll point to reasons why you’re lucky to live within them. They add character. They’re proof of the history, the humanity, and the lives nurtured here. The professionals can strip away the layers of “quick fixes” and “amateur patches” so that the true beauty of what lies beneath can once again be seen.

…and finally, you’ll come to realize that, just like your twenty years of togetherness, there will always be some cracks because you are both human. And imperfect.  You’ll learn to tend to the cracks that threaten to take down everything you’ve worked hard to build, and you’ll see the small, superficial cracks not as imperfections, but as character, as reality, and as life with the person you love.

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33 responses to “When You’ve Been With Someone For Twenty Years…

  1. What a beautiful post, Christine. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. OK, you made me cry. In a good way. And it’s not even my anniversary. (But we did use the same painter one time, remember?!?) Love you!

  3. This made me laugh and cry at the same time. Well done, Christine. And congrats to you and Mike!

  4. Christine, I’m trying to come up with some pithy response, because I just adore the way you write and are able to come up the littlest examples that just are so right ON…. this really touched me today. Thank you for writing it.

  5. Beautiful, perfect and honest, just like you :) made me weepy and joyful all at once…thank you for sharing as always my wonderful friend

  6. Hear….Here (?!?!…which “hear/here” is it exactly?!)!!!! May we ALL have such beautiful/imperfect life unions/partners! No better person to write and express exactly how I feel about my own life long union (I’m a REALLY crappy writer). When it’s my 20th anniversary, will you write something I can say to my husband?!? Happy Anniversary, Queen Christine and Captain Mike! xoMeliD

    • I’d be honored to write something for you — and you are NOT a crappy writer! Hopefully you’ll rent a dance floor for your anniversary. I don’t know anyone on earth who’s got smoother moves than you, Meli D.

  7. loved it. beautiful and true. I’m not big on new houses anyway:)

  8. I needed to read this…. Sigh. Thank you. Very inspiring!

  9. A full life is a messy one. A good reminder.

    • Ah, and yet why do I try so hard to make it nice and neat? It’s such a roller coaster, isn’t it? I watch shows like HOARDERS and think, “I can’t ever let myself spiral into that situation…” but then other times I think, “All those freaks with their Swiffers and their frantic antibacteriality are just wasting opportunities to sit and be with loved ones.” Life’s a hokey-pokey, I tell ya. Most of the time, when I’m not crying, I’m laughing my head off. :)

  10. I loved reading this and I love your style of writing. Thanks for sharing your talent with us.

  11. Wow. That was damn good. How are you, friend? Melissa

    • I’m great now that I’ve heard from you! Heading to NYC for the SCBWI Conference at the end of this month. Always happy to have a roommate if you decide to come last minute. How’s your novel? I think this will be our year, my friend.

  12. This is my first time on your blog, Christine. I found my way over courtesy of Jill. Wonderful! Thanks for keeping it real. I look forward to “riding the waves” with you. Yolanda

  13. Well, I happen to be a paint contractor, self employed since 1987, and friends with a woman who’s survived 20 years with a spouse and on a secondmarriage with a woman who was my friend for 10 years prior to that, and we’re coming up on our 14th wedding and 18th dating anniversary and I aspire to have a successful blog like this so HELLO! Nice post. To take the ‘patina of life’ pov a little farther, I’m reminded of a story I came across a long time ago about a battered dining room table that couldn’t be parted with because the owners had a story about each ding, scratch, and Sharpie scrawl on the claw foot legs. Well done.

  14. Wow, Christine! This sounds like I’m coming up right behind you! What a beautiful story. And at least it was just your lip. And it wasn’t like you went for the HOT WAX right before your little getaway. ;-)

    Happy anniversary! And many happy returns of the day.

    Here’s to NOT having to paint for another 20 years! ;-)

  15. I posted this on my “Wall” on Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/pages/RASJacobsons-Lessons-From-Teachers-Twits/131268633653318 — I hope you don’t mind! I think it is stunning!

  16. I came here via Renee. She’s right: it’s stunning. Happy Anniversary, Happy Writing.

  17. this was lovely. thank you Christine.

  18. ohhh Chrissie……. I was just thinking the other day that Bob and I are creeping up on our 40th this May!!! Where did the years go? Everyone has been so eloquent… may I add that this also made me cry and laugh all at once…. Congratulations to the both of you. Happy 20th!

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