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Stay-at-Home Panda

Stay-at-Home Panda

An adventure of triumphs and troubles as a mother, wife, and woman

How Marriage Made Me More Myself

I arrived in St. Maarten to meet you, make-up-less and shy. You were supposed to be in class, and I should’ve had time to freshen up. But there you were, waiting for me. I was happy, but nervous. I felt that lump in my throat, sort of avoided eye contact, and seized the first opportunity to get into the bathroom with some eye liner.

I dropped my bag in our studio apartment, and we walked hand-in-hand around our new tropical home.  You showed me your school, introduced me to new faces, then we climbed that hill to Mullet Bay. While I was processing our new life together, and walking around with the butterflies of a new relationship, I thought about how little we really knew each other.

There was a baby budding inside me. We were already engaged by the time we found out, but not because we were actually ready to plan a wedding. It was merely a stipulation I had before I quit my job and moved to the Caribbean while you attended medical school. Although we promised our futures to each another, we weren’t in a rush for the big day. But still, every step of our journey came sooner than expected.

I practiced making dinner while you studied, and used every pot and dish in the process. I’d walk the meals to your campus, poke my shy head into your study hall, and wait for you to come. We’d eat outside under the stars, with the ocean breeze, and you’d tell me how good the chicken parm is. I knew I shouldn’t take the credit that belongs to sauce and cheese, but I’m still not above it.

Even though we were happy, and playing house was mostly fun, we had so much to figure out about being a couple.  Before I met you on the island, while I was finishing my school year teaching, I’d get upset if you didn’t call me often enough or sound excited to hear me. I even cancelled my phone plan weeks early just to take the option of calling me away from you. When I felt neglected, my inclination was to catch a ferry to Anguilla for the day. I spoke in silence and distance. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to say what I felt, but I didn’t know the value of it. I thought love was something I’d get if I played the game right, if I seemed a certain way. I didn’t yet realize it’s the product of transparency, trust, and understanding.

When we got married, we weren’t sure of anything. We didn’t truly know what love is or have the skills that marriage requires, but we stood on that beach in our bare feet, holding hands, and vowing our lives to one another because our hearts knew something we didn’t. We belonged together, and we’d grow together as individuals and a couple, not before marriage, but because of marriage.

The idea of us sharing a home, some kids, regular walks, and nightly meals was enough to me. I expected to talk smack, and roll my eyes. I assumed misunderstanding and frustration were par for the marriage course. The deep connection I discovered caught me by surprise. And although I do sometimes roll my eyes, I never imagined you’d become as much a part of me as our children that grew in my belly.

I remember one day we were taking a walk around our Long Island neighborhood with Javin in the baby carrier, and you said, “What are your dreams? We need to make them ours.” I remember having to really ask myself this question, which is a gift you’ve given me. You don’t only take on my dreams as your own, but you inspire me to get in touch with that voice of truth within myself.

Of course you’ve pulled this voice out of me with your interest in who I really am, but it also happened as a result of a marriage itself, because successful relationships require a candor that’s only possible when two people are deeply in touch with themselves and each other. In this way, my commitment to you is synonymous with my commitment to myself. In order to be honest with you, I need to be honest with myself. In order to connect with you, I need to reveal myself. And every time I do, even when it makes me feel shy, uncomfortable, or difficult, you show up to love me. I don’t need to worry about letting you down, or living up to some facade, because all you ever wanted is the truth of my soul.

Vulnerability and radical honesty have shown me the certainty of your love, because I know you don’t just love the parts of me that are easy and endearing, but all of who I am, and that has helped me love myself better, too. You’ve shown me I don’t need to be a certain way or dance a certain jig to be loved. I just need to be me, and I have never felt freer.

In working for our marriage, I’ve worked on myself- not to change, but to become who I really am, and that’s how I know you’re my soul mate. I had an inkling six years ago, on the beach, but today I know for sure.

Nothing in my life has been more fulfilling than our relationship. It has surpassed every expectation I’ve ever had of marriage, and is more than I thought was possible, even on the day I wore my wedding dress. Our marriage makes me feel at home, not only in myself, but in you. It makes no difference if my heart is in my chest or in your hands, and I like for it to be in both.

About Amanda Elder

Amanda has a background in education, but now spends most of her time snuggling her kids, wiping their butts, and doing house chores in her underwear.

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