grow as we go.
At that time, I didn’t know that would be a precursor to what came next in this post or this post. But I do recognize, in retrospect, how this progression of loving myself led me to the kind of self-discovery that has changed everything about the dynamic of my marriage. And if I am honest, I vacillate between wishing I could go back in time and change my level of awareness about my own identity, and wishing I could jump into the future where I know how things work out (or don’t) for Nick and me.
I am in a space, here on the eve of my 22nd anniversary, where I have a need to be present in the individual moments where I am, and not stuck in the “what ifs” of the past or the “what ifs” of the future.
When we were in the “crying everyday” part of this transition, Gretchen shared Ben Platt’s song, Grow as We Go with us. It’s become something of an anthem for us. If you have not yet listened to it, I encourage you to stop reading immediately, go listen to it, and then come back. I can’t count the number of tears I shed listening to this song (some days on infinite repeat) over the past few months. It’s a song that provided me with hope and encouragement that while we knew things were going to change between us, we can still be devoted to each other. That we can grow as we go.
Here's what I am learning. We can grow together. We can love one another. We can support each other. We can be partners in parenting. We can share our hearts, and our feelings, and our home.
But we cannot go back to how we were. And we're finding that's more expansive than we had originally anticipated. And on many days, even though we are both happy with our decision for me to come out, the loss we’re both experiencing still pokes at our hearts.
Nick moved into his own bedroom in August. The morning that move happened, Nick said, “How does it feel to have spent the last night together in the same bed?” And I said, “I guarantee that’s not the last night we will sleep together in the same bed.” Although now I am not sure. Maybe it was. For the first few weeks I would go upstairs in the morning every day and check in. Sometimes we would snuggle. Other times we would just talk. But I am straining my memory now, unsuccessfully, to remember the last time we did that. There is something about it that just feels, I don’t know… different. I know that he and I both feel the absence of this connection we had. But I think we also both know that kind of physical closeness wouldn’t feel the same. And so it’s different now. Not bad. Just different.
It’s like we were two plants that were planted so closely to one another that they began to share the same root system. And because we did share everything and it didn’t matter that our roots were entangled.
But now I think we both realize that the next part of this transition is us establishing ourselves as full, whole, individual human beings with our own autonomy and self-determination. In so many ways we can continue to rely on one another. We can keep parts of our root system entangled. But there are other parts we must separate.
And so right now it feels like we are in the painstaking process of sorting out our roots and determining which roots need to belong to which person. And that’s not easy. And there is sometimes tearing. There is sometimes a loss of stability. Sometimes we feel the absence of the nutrients that the entangled roots used to provide us collectively. Other times, we shoot out a new root into unexplored soil and find out there are other beautiful ways to be nourished.
And so it’s like this now—
We continue to love one another. We continue to be devoted to one another. We continue to honor our marriage vows. (And we want to continue to do so). And ALSO, we recognize there have had to be changes. We don’t tell each other everything anymore. We don’t sleep in the same room. We have other people who are important to us in ways that we used to be important to each other. And more changes are undoubtedly coming.
And sometimes that’s hard. And it feels shaky and uncertain. But it’s also good.
And so, as we navigate into our 23rd year of marriage, we do so with eyes wide open, with hearts believing the best in one another, and with a renewed commitment to finding *OUR* way. Not the way our friends or family members think we should be doing things. But the way WE think we should. And if we do that, wherever that all ends up, I think it’s going to be like that line in the song Gretchen shared with us all those months ago—"we’re gonna see that it was better that we grew up together.”
I love you, Nick Mangine.