My husband and I sat huddled around the computer with our houseguest, watching the video of his interview with a South American beauty queen. She asked him about his recent book release, and after she asked in Spanish and he answered in English, my husband said, “I didn’t know you speak Spanish.” “I don’t!” he replied. “We talked about it in advance and faked it for the cameras.”
“Watch this part,” he said, when the beauty queen switched to impeccable English. “She gets personal, and there’s a bit of a frisson between us.” We smiled as we watched this otherworldly beauty, with a talent for languages and for hiking up her bosom with an industrial strength push-up bra, ask our friend, who was slightly hungover and wearing a toothpaste stained t-shirt, how he enjoyed his time in her country. They bantered a bit, and he used his British accent to great effect, and she laughed, and we, on the other side of the screen, laughed with her.
This month, my husband and I celebrated twenty years of marriage. I’ve been married for nearly half of my life, waking up to the same man on the other side of the bed for as long as I can remember. The early days of nervous laughter and sweaty palms and sensations of excitement, frissons if you will, have matured into something deeper, something solid, something daily.
This is the strength of a long marriage–discovering passion is built upon the cornerstones of like-minded purpose, and encouraging your spouse to become who they’re meant to be. Over the years you find a “frisson” looks less like a camera-worthy flirtation, and more like your spouse unexpectedly washing the dirty dishes. Strength isn’t built on a rush of sudden emotion, but on choosing each other day after day after day.
Those of us who’ve made Ebenezers of these milestones in marriage, know this is what it takes. It’s not what the world considers sexy–there are no reality shows called “Housewives of Suburbia: Committed to Making It Work.” Reality roots itself not in the show, but in the quotidian rhythms of life.
I know this about marriage, and I know this about mothering, but I am still learning this about the pursuit of art and higher education. I want it to feel a little sexy. I want the frisson of the blank page, of sitting down to write and discovering I have strung words together like stars across a midnight blue sky. I want it to feel like magic exists in the craft and in the pursuit. I want the fizz of fireworks when I create, and that flash-pop rarely exists. Pursuing our dreams often roots itself in the quotidian rhythms of life, just as it does in marriage.
I wish I had known it meant choosing my art daily, even when I don’t want to look it full in the face because we’re barely speaking. Or repeating the same tasks over and over to build up the muscle memory of love for my work. I wish I had learned sooner that the strength of creating a large body of quality work is built on the foundation of small, daily decisions not built on my feelings.
I know I am not alone in this pursuit. You have a family, a career, a goal, a dream. And you wake up to the reality of how much hard work it requires everyday. You wake up to look it full in the face, and you wonder if the choices you make today create a difference in tomorrow’s story.
Growth comes when we place one foot in front of the other, string one star across the sky, and live by the daily rhythms rather than fight them. A glance back at how far you’ve traveled from your starting point becomes the source of true pleasure. Forget the flirtations. Perseverance is the new sexy.