When I got married, I lost everything.
It sounds strange to say that, and I’ve hesitated using those words for a long time. I wanted to protect my husband, who has bent over backwards to love me and invite me into his life and give me the things I’ve always wanted. And there’s already so much fear of marriage for my generation — I didn’t have the heart to add to it.
I wanted to be one of those girls who, when you run into her at church weeks after her wedding, says, “Marriage is so awesome!” She’s practically floating, blissful, a little flushed from her love of it all. I wanted to melt in and around those words, like she did, the look on my face and the sound of my voice single-handedly keeping hope alive for singles.
So I tried. I really did. When people would ask me how marriage was, after the first few weeks and months, I would get a little flushed, too, and say —
And it was awesome, in many ways, and I did sink into my words, but I was also having a hard time swimming.
The whole truth, the part I didn’t say out loud, was that I wasn’t her, our story wasn’t their story. We were different.
We got married in four months. Yes, from the day we met each other in person to the day of our wedding was exactly four months and one day. It was a whirlwind romance that you read about in novels and was exactly as whimsical and terrifying as you would imagine. Multiple factors contributed to our decision to move so quickly. First, we were in our late twenties, and had both dated enough to know what we wanted and what we were about. Second, we met online, so our relationship was long distance, until, after a few weeks of Skype dates and four-hour-long phone calls my husband bought my plane ticket to come meet him.
We spent six weeks together — traveling to conferences, events, to meet his family and then mine, always parting ways at the end of the night to go to our separate rooms. At the end of the six weeks we felt like we had spent six years together, and when we added it up, we wondered if we had — fifteen hours each day, working together, writing together, talking together, eating together. We had seen the best and the worst, and we were all in.
We were already sharing toothpaste for heaven’s sake.
Why not make it official?
To make the timeline even more complicated, my husband was about to move from his home in Minneapolis to be a part of a church plant in south Florida. He made the commitment before he met me, and was supposed to be there in a matter of months, so if I wanted to go with him, we had to get married quickly.
So we made the leap, with equal caution and blessing from both of our families, and the people in our lives who loved us. We got married on New Years Eve 2011 and, nine days later, moved our whole lives across the country.
I’ve written about it a little bit before, about preparing for the wedding, knowing I was going to have to say goodbye to everything. I wrote about how I sold all of my furniture, and most everything else, and packed what I could fit into nine boxes. I also wrote about how, a week before the wedding, I found out I had to turn those nine boxes into six boxes, and how, of those six boxes, only five of them showed up to our new home in Florida. I wrote about how I cried over stuff like pillows and blenders and books that sat on shelves and clothes I hadn’t worn in months.
Many of you who who followed me through that story know I shut down my blog (allyspotts.com) a month before my wedding.
My family. My friends. My work. My city. My name.
Everything gone, in one fell swoop. There was so much grief in that for me.
But new brides aren’t supposed to be grieving. They’re supposed to be blissful. And it was so hard because I love my husband deeply and wanted more than anything to build a life with him, but pretending to be blissful when I was grieving was like a volcano rumbling and grumbling and threatening to erupt all over me and everyone around me.
It never occurred to me that, if I spoke up about what I was feeling, he would have understood.
So I grieved silently, for the most part, scared to admit that giving up my name — the name that had become descriptive of me over my 28 years, the one printed on jerseys and the backs of t-shirts, the one people would scream across lawns at youth retreats to catch my attention, the one that connected me to so many people I loved — would just disappear.
I was scared to say, when my new social security card arrived (Allison F. Vesterfelt) I didn’t even recognize that person.
I wanted to be a Vesterfelt, told him that from the very beginning, saw all the symbolism there was in starting a new family, a new legacy, together. But I was also fairly sure he couldn’t comprehend what it was like to give up his name. He would never have to do it, after all. I didn’t want to tell him it scared me, felt like losing something valuable.
I hated myself for feeling so sad.
I hated that he watched me cry over pillows and over our new apartment because it didn’t look anything like my last one, and could see him wondering why on earth I cared more about those pillows than I did about him. I didn’t, of course, but I knew that’s how he would see it, so I tried to hide my sadness, staying up at night, or waking up early to sit quietly with my grief. It’s really hard to hide tears from someone who lives in your house, who sleeps in your bed
But here’s the thing with grief. It has to run it’s course. For some it’s long, and for others it’s short. I don’t think we get to decide it’s length. All we can do is follow its trail, the breadcrumbs it leaves for us, the faint trail in the dark that helps us find our way from what we’ve lost to what we’ve gained.
Anytime we move from one season, to another, there is grief.
We can’t grab onto something new without letting go.
And when it comes to marriage, it is our grief that propels us forward, I think — from being me and you, to becoming us.
It’s scary, especially because there is no rule book, no play book. Every story is different. For some grief comes in their third year of dating, for others it comes in the seventh year of marriage, and for others still it comes in the weeks and months before and after the wedding. I’m new to marriage, but I actually imagine it comes more than once….
But either way, it comes, and we must choose to speak it out loud, to let erupts all over us, spilling down the mountain, burning and clearing the way for something new to grow.
(I shared some words at Allison’s place today as well. They’re about marriage counseling and yes, as per usual, I tell you the truth as it is.)