May 7th, 2005 I flew to Cleveland to marry my best friend. Throughout the planning process I used a couple different journals to write notes in. Once the wedding day arrived, I no longer needed the journals for planning purposes. I still had one blank one left; it was the same color as my bridesmaid’s dresses. I decided that journal was special and I would use it to begin a new tradition: I would write about the times my husband made me smile. But not just any smile. One of those heart felt smiles that come from the deep routed feeling of being loved.
I didn’t write about the times he bought me gifts or did something "flashy." I wrote about the real and raw times when he was effortlessly genuine without even trying. These were the times he was his truest self. For years I wrote in that journal. I didn't have something to write everyday (and that's ok). That wasn’t the point of this journal. I wanted these times to really set themselves apart from our everyday routine.
A few years later, he was injured overseas during a deployment. During this chapter of our marriage, he was routinely gone 6-10 months out of the year. So many things go through a spouse’s head when they don't hear from their loved one and then one day you find yourself getting that phone call and living your worst nightmare. I remember thinking "he doesn't know how much I truly appreciate him.” I’d never let him read my journal and I didn’t feel as if I’d ever truly verbalized my gratitude. Sure I showed him I loved him, but not in this real, raw, emotional way.
Once he was home safe and beginning to heal, I gave him my journal to read. I explained that I didn't let him read it before because I never wanted him to change. I never wanted him to "try" or be someone other that his most authentic self to make a page in my journal.
I needed him to know how much I cherished the way he comforted me during some of the darkest times. I needed him to know how much it had meant to me that time I came home from work, when his sister announced she was pregnant with baby #2, and we were one our 4th miscarriage, to dinner, wine and a bath. No words were spoken, there was no pressure, blame or guilt. Just the unspoken acknowledgement of the deep pain I was going through (and I'm sure he was too) comforted by the love and energy in our marriage.
Unfortunately, life got hard. Really hard and everything changed. 11 miscarriages, multiple attempts at IVF mixed with his 14 deployments, a neck and back replacement, and PTSD were more than we could handle. My journaling changed. Instead of writing down how he made me smile, I started keeping track of how many days he made me cry. But I was blind to the truth. He never made me cry. I made myself cry. I was unhappy and I was suffering. I allowed anything and everything to destroy me and place the blame elsewhere.
I'll never forget the day we got the phone call that our surrogate miscarried…
I locked myself in the bathroom and as the door slammed I screamed "I'm too good of a person for this!" As my body slid down the wall and I met the floor, I could hear him walking away saying "I'm a good person too.” We. I should have said “we are too good of people for this.”
After 15 years, and the guilt that I built up in my world, we divorced.
Months after the divorce we talked about our regrets. We talked about how he wished he would've just busted through the bathroom door that day because that’s the moment he knew he lost me.
What we focus on becomes all we see.
Can you imagine how differently things could've been if I kept focus on all the good things in our relationship and not on my failure at trying to start a family? What if I wrote in that journal how grateful I was for him cooking from scratch a strict meal plan for me to have the cleanest and healthiest body to carry a baby? Or wrote how grateful I was for him giving me shot after shot for over 5 years? Or how he would spend hours rubbing me because of the pain and sickness I was crippled with for years? If only I wrote about how he took care of me after each surgery and after each miscarriage. If only I had allowed myself to look for the good during our darkest of days. Our lives would be so different…
If I could offer one piece of advice to anyone, it’s live a life where you purposely look for the good. Keep the journal. Write down the extraordinary moments throughout your life that make you genuinely smile. Write down the moments your partner takes your breath away with a simple smile or says everything without saying anything at all. Take the time to read and reflect on the happy times when life gets hard, because it will get hard. Create a habit now, while things are good, that you can fall back on during the tough seasons.
Written by J.M.