My race began…
with an argument about the zombie apocalypse. At some point in those early days when I first started dating my husband, Christopher, we began an ongoing debate about which one of us would survive the longest under a sudden onslaught of the undead. When we were still at the “getting to know you” stage, this was a fun way of confirming that he is indeed just as weird as I am. Over time, it became an entertaining car game as we each tried to think of silly reasons why we would outlast the other.
Christopher, a former college soccer player, usually begins by pointing out that objectively, he is faster and stronger than I am. Meanwhile, the foundation of my argument has always been that while small, I am sneakier and feel confident that I would be the scrappier fighter in any post-apocalyptic scenario.
Fast forward from dating Christopher to being engaged when we found ourselves out of joking hypotheticals and into some scary, real-life scenarios. In the final few months before our wedding, Christopher’s side of the family was struck by a series of major crises. Suddenly it became apparent that it wasn’t just “my race” anymore but rather, “our race” and it had quickly turned into an obstacle course that didn’t come with any guidelines on how to navigate it.
As I often argue, I can be scrappy when I want. Up until that moment, I’d found ways to overcome or get around most trouble that came my way. I’d also just been lucky. I’d faced all the usual coming-of-age struggles: trying to fit in, learning to take care of myself the first time I got really sick away from home, moving to the big city alone and competing for a job, etc. Still, I’d never met something that I felt powerless to fight back against.
Everyone jokes that the first year of marriage is always the hardest, but nobody tells you that one of the hardest parts is watching the person you love the most have to face great sadness, knowing that there’s nothing you can do to prevent it.
When my husband suddenly lost two close family members within four months of each other – one a couple of months before our wedding and the other just as we returned from our honeymoon – there was nothing I could do to change it.
We’d both dealt with deaths in our family before but never so close together. In both instances, it seemed as if the person was robbed of years they should have had. Unfortunately, those losses weren’t the last obstacles in our first year of marriage. We’ve found ourselves rushing to a series of family emergencies since then and the usual methods for mourning, comforting and condolences don’t work when you feel as if the hits won’t stop coming.
In the early stages of our family’s troubles, I tried platitudes like “well, bad things always come in threes so we’re due for some good.” I repeated that over and over - changing how I was counting and what magnitude constituted a “bad thing” so that it still worked - until it was ridiculous to pretend that we’d only faced three obstacles.
I wish I could say we’d found some fail-safe way of dealing with all those challenges over time, but the truth is that it’s all been ad hoc. And that’s ok. No crisis has been exactly like the other, so we just have to make it up as we go along.
We’re learning to navigate this course together and I’m learning that even if I can’t fix everything, we can work as a team to smooth things out a little. Mainly, that means when one of us starts sinking under the weight of everything that’s happening around us, the other offers a hand up and calls for a break.
Some days that means ignoring chores and escaping on an impromptu hike; other times it might mean accepting brief defeat and shouting four-letter words at the ceiling in frustration; and on one occasion, it involved me talking Christopher into adopting a lovable, intrepid little mutt to add some more fun into the everyday.
As this publishes, Christopher and I will be headed off to celebrate our first anniversary. I won’t pretend to have any profound wisdom to share on marriage after only a year of it – and I’m pretty sure that life isn’t done throwing curve balls our way – but I will say that even after all the ups and downs of the last 12 months, I’m so excited to see what’s in store for us next.
And if we ever do wake up and find that the long-discussed zombie apocalypse has dawned, I know now that it’s as a team that we really have our best shot against the tottering hoards of the undead.