And in typical LB fashion, we are already planning a celebration for when we reach 10 years in one year, five months and two days time (but who’s counting!). We LBs do love to celebrate (well I do, and David’s caught the bug through osmosis); but our desire to have a big party, blessing or some sort of celebration with friends & family goes deeper than just wanting to dress up, eat, drink, dance and generally have fun.
In our wedding service, as with all weddings to which I’ve been, our Vicar asked the congregation ‘do you, the family and friends of David and Natalia promise to support and uphold them in their marriage?’ And, as with every other wedding, everyone exclaimed ‘WE WILL!’.
Now, it has been said (on more than one occasion) that I take words too literally and seriously so maybe this is just me. But, to me, when I make this claim, when I shout out to my friends or family at the alter, making the biggest promise they’ll ever make, that I’ll support them in that, I mean it. But the number of people who announce their divorce to friends, family & acquaintances who are totally shocked shows that those friends or family likely haven’t been upholding or proactively supporting their marriage, or there wouldn’t be such shocked faces…and maybe there’d be fewer divorces.
But this isn’t just to tap away & judge the people who came, celebrated, ate, danced, meant well, gave a gift, and then buggered off. As adults, if we want support then we need to show that we are open to it. Yes, other people need to prioritise asking more than just superficial questions to which they expect and accept ‘yeh, we’re great thanks’ responses; we can ask ‘what’s been a highlight and challenge of marriage so far?’ or ‘what’s made you want to get divorced (this week!) and what’s made you glad you chose each other?’ etc. But we also need to be open to such input and, importantly, to provide opportunities for people to be part of our marriage (in a non-breaking of vows kinda way 😉 )…for me, that’s part of the reason I have a WhatsApp group with a couple of close, married mates wherein we can vent, seek advice, challenge & support each other.
And this part of the reason why we intend on marking our marriage milestones not just the two of us (though we do that as well), but as celebration within our community of family & friends. I love that because we so often have people live with us, they see the cuddles, the thoughtfulness, the not leaving the house without kissing each other goodbye of our LB marriage. They also see the griping, moaning, occasional shouting & swearing too (all me). Because of how open, honest & authentic we are (well, we try to be) our friends & family know that they can speak up, nudge, enquire etc about us. And what better opportunity to celebrate with, support and uphold us than at a big anniversary? Because our marriage is not just between the two of us-it’s a commitment and relationship which embraces and hopefully blesses and supports and help grow others we love too-and they, in turn, help us grow and be happier and better.
One night last week I just couldn’t sleep, because words to a poem were swirling in my head and I was forced out of bed to capture them and write them down… and so for my birthday party a few days later, instead of making an impromptu speech (to avoid last year’s unplanned but hilarious reference to blow jobs!) I recited this poem for my dear ones:
WITH YOU, I stand warmly blanketed by the rich, thick tapestry of you all,
coloured brightly with different characters and ideas,
different views and learnings…
With You, I laugh at different pitches;
the full musical range of NLB dirty laugh to Natalia giggles,
In your company finding both home and release,
each of your unique lights illuminating a different side of my multi-faceted natalianess.
With You I am both punished and forgiven,
I am made weak and thereby made strong. Because with you I am exposed,
not possibly just by one, but by an all,
I am seen, I am heard,
I am endured, I am adored.
With You, my smile is stretched,
My intellect is fed; my soul is nourished,
my ideas are chiselled, and my being is flourished.
Your friendship tapestry is rich, & reflective,
you hold a mirror to my face and point out my character lines, so they can be refined,
and my beauty, so I can be admired.
With You, I am both humbled, and edified.
With you, I am given the gift of…S.P.A.C.E.
For, though small, I am big.
With You I am given space- to flounder, and flap,
and spread my big Natalia wings…
and with you pushing me … I (fucking) fly.
I just had an interesting couple of conversations with my Aunt & Uncle in Ghana whose mum just died today. I called to see how they both are, expecting sad or heavy emotions but, instead, they both answered the phone with their usual cheery banter. Then we laughed and did our usual mickey-taking ‘hello old woman/man’ repartee in Twi, our Ghanaian language. And they weren’t faking or putting on a brave face.
When I asked how they are each, separately, said there fine. But the interesting part was that my Aunt responded saying ‘How can I not be? I have your Grandma here, my family, so I am not alone, we are together and so we are fine’ (paraphrased).
And my ever piss-taking, professional wind-up Uncle echoed that when I later spoke to him, saying ‘Ah but at this age, it is only a blessing, what else will happen? So it’s nothing to be sad or surprised about. It is fine.’
Now to western ears, this may sound cold or ‘in denial’ but it’s not. I think it just reflects the general attitude of ‘joy balanced with pragmatism’ that permeates Ghanaian culture.
They’ll bury their mother tomorrow, within 24hours in line with her religion (not theirs – that’s love & respect). And at her funeral, there’ll be weeping (loudly!) in the Ghanaian style, and there’ll also be dancing…
Balancing the sorrow with celebration. And it will be BIG. And no one will be alone.