Thirty-two years ago today, I entered the sanctuary of the small church that I grew up in from a side door and stood at the front, surrounded by as many people as the building could hold while Lydia and her father walked down the aisle toward me. Thus we began our life together.
I think we believed then, but I know that we are convinced now that when people build a life together, whether they call it marriage or something else, it is clearly a journey. Our journey has brought to us some things that were gifts: companionship, intimacy and children. Our journey has brought other things to us that were demands: negotiating jobs and vocational directions, buying, selling and maintaining homes, moving, experiencing the loss of close friends and relatives. Even as I write this, we negotiate the trials of caring for an elderly parent who lives 1000 miles away who can no longer care for herself. Oh, and raising children: it fits in both categories–the absolute gift that changed our lives forever, and the demands of caring for those lives while largely having no experience to draw on. I don’t think anything has simultaneously made me so happy and so frightened at the same time as having and raising children.
Journeys are never done and never certain. They include surprises, crises, and other twists and turns that one tries to anticipate but which never turn out exactly as hoped for or expected. Sometimes they are breathtakingly bad. Sometimes unbelievably good. Either way, the things that happen to people who choose to build a life together change them and become part of the journey.
The journey of building a life together is always a choice. Some people find that continuing to choose to build a life together is their journey. Some people find that they must choose to stop building a life together and go in different directions. Both are the journey. I guess the thing that most surprises me, after thirty-two years, is that while we have been building this life together for so long–longer now than we were single for sure–I still have my journey, and Lydia has hers. They are not identical, but we have become travelling companions.
That feels really important to say because, finally, there is a solitude to every human life that nothing overcomes. In fact, it is an essential part of the spiritual life to come to see and embrace our solitude in the world. One of the ways we come to terms with being alone in the world is by sharing some or all of our journey with another, or with others.
Is there or have there been travelling companions in your life? How do you celebrate and honor them today?