…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.
…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.
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.