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When Susie and I announced we were going to be married, the reviews were decidedly mixed.

She had broken up with her then-current boyfriend on Super Bowl Sunday, 1995, after a extended, painful time of turmoil.  We announced our engagement to her parents at graduation four months later; in truth, we’d decided to get married even earlier.

I was 22, she was 21.

Some of our friends, even our closest, were dubious.  And while most people expressed joy and support, a few felt it necessary to share their doubts with us.

“You won’t last five years, I’m sure of it,” said one fellow, whose own five-year-long marriage was then on the rocks.

“I’m happy for you, but I don’t get what you see in her,” said another.

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” was a particularly pointed question.

(Answer: Yes, we knew what we were doing, and why we were doing it.  We certainly didn’t know what would come out of what we were doing, but we had high hopes.)

* * *

I’ve always remembered these and other comments; goodness knows, it’s not the sort of thing that’s easy to forget.

So a year ago, when my friend in L.A. told me she’d gotten engaged to her boyfriend/roommate, I kept my doubts to myself, and wished her the best of good fortune, and meant it.

After all, who am I to know what lies in the shared heart of another couple?  No one (with the exception of millionaires and pop stars) enters into a marriage lightly.  And like snowflakes, each marriage is an unduplicatable pattern of intertwined dreams.

However.

I spent time with her recently, now that she’s a married woman, and she’s changed.

Sure, it was just for a certain period that I saw her, and it could have been many things that were affecting her.

But it seems to me that some of the sparkle in her soul has been sucked out into her wedding ring.

She laughs, but not as wildly.  She criticizes, but not as pointedly.  And she still flirts, but it’s desultory.

Again, there are charitable interpretations. Marriage has calmed her, perhaps.  Or has given her more of a quiet inner strength than a brash external one.

Or it could be that the frenetic energy of her earlier days has been turned into a more directed force, that she’s channeled it into her work or her spouse or any one of her many projects.

I’ve always been a big supporter of marriage.  I think it brings wonderful opportunities and growth to both people involved.  But I’ve also been witness to some unhappy marriages, watched as they have spun off kilter like a washing machine struggling to keep a heavy load spinning cleanly but instead wobbling and banging its way towards its own destruction.

What should a compassionate human do?  Share the truth he thinks he observes? Offer relationship-extending advice to try to re-balance the load each is carrying? Or tell the person to get out before more pain is caused, before the wedding machine rocks off its base and slams into a wall?

* * *

During a wedding, the assembled are asked to help respect and keep a marriage true and strong; sometimes that task is a significantly challenging one.  I think it ought to be taken more seriously, more literally than I think often wedding guests take it.  There ain’t no such thing as a “free” open bar.  And when you look at the length of a marriage compared to the length of anything else you do in your life, the comparison can be staggering, and the effort required can truly be appreciated.

Again, I think of the doubts of others (and, let’s be honest, of ourselves) Susie and I started under, and the comparitive certainty that other, already-failed marriages of my friends started with, and I wonder how anyone can think they know anything about this crazy thing called commitment.

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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