Saturday, July 8, 2017


My second daughter is getting married this year. She’s 25, and positively giddy. She and her fiancé have known each other for several years, and have been living together for almost two years, so they’re probably about as ready as two people can be.

However, as I watched her face yesterday, as she and her intended picked out wedding invitations, I was struck with a sense of foreboding, and I wanted to protect her from the downfall. Because, let’s face it, one’s coming.

She’s seen a lot of life in her 25 years, from cancer to an abusive boyfriend, so she is well aware that life is unpredictable, and sometimes shitty. She has learned to navigate some pretty big stuff, more than most at her tender age. But I fear she believes the worst is behind her. I fear she thinks she has found her prince, and together they will ride off into the sunset, and life will be grand from here on out.

And the simple fact is that it won’t.

Because life is shitty sometimes.

To quote The Man in Black, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

Life is shitty sometimes.

I’ve been married for 28 years, half my life. And as marriages go, mine is pretty good. ‘Course, I married a pretty great guy, one who thinks he was lucky to marry me. Not sure how that happened, but I’m one of the lucky ones. Seems to be an exception to the rule.

Long marriages seem to be rare these days, at least among those of my generation. As I consider the institution of marriage the way modern America practices it, I’m beginning to wonder if we are suited to monogamy. I’ve watched many of my friends’ marriages implode, for multiple reasons from financial distress to sexual improprieties to irreconcilable differences, and I find myself wondering how my own spouse and I have managed to get this far. Not sure it is any more complicated than dumb luck. And a guy who is content with what life has handed him: me.

I’ve watched one friend cope after losing her husband to cancer. She had recently given birth to their third child when he was diagnosed, and within a year, he was dead. So, through no fault of her own, her marriage ended, and she was single. I’m not implying that divorcees are at fault when their own marriages end; I’m just pointing out that any relationship, no matter how good, can, and will, end.

Another friend lost her husband last week to a car accident, an unpredictable and devastating event, leaving her with two young children to raise alone.

Whether through death or divorce, eventually everyone leaves. If my daughter lives long enough, she will end up alone. And either way, whether by death or divorce, her heart will be broken.

And what if her marriage doesn’t end by disaster? Does that mean she’ll always feel what she feels today? I predict, based on experience, that the day will come when she will look at him with annoyance rather than tenderness, wondering if he has to breathe so loud, and if he could possibly do it in another room. Yes, I know that beneath the annoyance will be gratitude that he is still breathing at all, but come on, what spouse hasn’t felt just a titch of irritation from time to time at the sound of his/her beloved’s bodily functions?

And then there is the reality that people change. The man she is marrying this year may not be the same man 10, 15, 20 years down the road. Ask my husband. He is married to a completely different woman than the one he vowed to love 28 years ago. If he had known then what he knows now, would he have gone through with it? He says yes, but I wonder. I didn't intend to change. I was asked, back in 1987, by a man I thought I loved, if I thought I would always be a Mormon, and I replied that yes, of course, I would always be a Mormon. That was a deal-breaker for him. He wasn't looking for a Mormon, so we went our separate ways. My husband, on the other hand, was looking for a Mormon, and he believed he found one. Neither of us saw the change coming. Neither of us anticipated that someday I would no longer be a Mormon. For some people, as for my former crush, a difference in religion is a deal-breaker. I got lucky, and I happened to marry a man who was able to roll with the change, but it could so easily have ended differently, as it has for many of my friends whose spouses could not accept a change in religious beliefs.

People change. And not always for the better.

How do I prepare her for that? How do I inoculate her against the agony of heartbreak, or the tedium of boredom, or plain old discontent? Or change? What if her atheist fiance finds the allure of religion irresistible? Would that be a deal-breaker? 

As I looked at her glowing face yesterday, and contemplated how I could protect her from the pain of living, I realized the futility of my desire. Because the fact is, life is shitty sometimes.

I wanted to urge her to savor this moment, this brief flash of insane happiness, and to relish the feeling of being with the one you love, and loving the one you’re with. I wanted to warn her of the capriciousness of life, and the way it can change in an instant, leaving her with empty hands and a broken heart and a dreary future without the one she thinks she can’t live without.

Of course, I didn’t tell her any of that. I allowed her to have her moment of joy. I looked on as she stared into her person’s eyes, and they shared a tender kiss, and I rejoiced that she gets to have this moment, no matter how brief.

And I wished that, more than anything, I could give her resilience. And strength. Because her life will change, again, and it will bring pain, and heartache, and leave her breathless with grief. And the only way to cope with all of that is to be resilient. To roll with the punches. To be flexible enough that the big hurts that break her heart will not kill her spirit and leave her irreparably broken. To know that, as Celine so eloquently trilled, her heart will go on. And so must she, in the face of unbearable pain and sorrow. Or unbelievable boredom and annoyance.

I hope my daughter will never know grief and pain, that she and the love of her life will have a long and happy marriage, that life’s shit won’t touch her. But I know, in spite of my hope, that it will.

Because life is shitty sometimes. And it will be alternately shitty and awesome until she dies. That’s life.

Roll with it, little one. Be resilient.

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