Thirty.

It could have been a disaster.

Give or take a day or so, I started writing a daily note to my husband a month ago. One for each year we’ve been married, 30 in total. I roped my oldest into doing a watercolor to represent a memory from each year.

Mostly, I did this because after 30 years, I just don’t know what to buy the guy. We are at the point in our lives where if we need something, we get it, and well …. he’s just extremely particular about what he likes.

It was also a great way to get some more cool art out of my kid. A gift for the both of us! I didn’t think about any potential difficulty factor when it came to writing the notes — I mean, surely I could come up with 30 things to say.

Hmm.

What began as an opportunity to illustrate the cutesy, photogenic moments in our lives over the last three decades turned into an exercise in profound gratitude.

After all, let’s be honest — 30 years is a lot of time and not all of it — by a long shot — is cutesy. Or even remotely photogenic. It’s a lot of bed head and bad breath and fighting over the covers and the TV remote.

And that’s on a good day.

I don’t know that I know a singular relationship that is all good days. It’s probably why they make you sign a contract with witnesses before you get to pop open the champagne and shove delicious cake in each other’s faces and dollar dance and watch your friends get sloppy drunk on your dime.

Marriage is hard. And when contemplating that, it is really easy to fall into the “it’s not me, it’s you” perspective. All the things the other person is or is not doing. That mental list of grievances that runs longer than a Rankin-Bass Santa Claus list of all the good boys and good girls on Christmas Eve. Thirty years, and it’s impossible to remember a three-item grocery list stored on your damn phone, but you can still remember the time he bought yellow mustard instead of brown back in 1996.

I am guilty as the day as long of doing this. On the regular. And not in a mean way. I don’t think I harp on my man. (I hesitate to dare you to suggest to ask him, because he may feel differently.) But I know it’s been way too easy these last two years, when so many of the things we love to do together have been blocked by a killer virus, to slip into a “What have you done for me lately?” kind of mode.

So, yeah. Writing out 30 varieties of sweet nothings forced me to take a serious look at just how damn lucky, in spite of all that we’ve faced together (bad cooking, questionable fashion statements, even more questionable interior design choices, lost pregnancy, career setbacks, career advancements that require a long-distance move, dirty bathrooms, traffic jams, idiots rear ending your car, projectile vomiting, projectile diarrhea, ER visits, Christmas Eve hospitalizations, PICC lines, more bad cooking, special needs diagnoses, academic probation alerts, calls from school nurses, kids not making the team, kids making the team and the cost of a fast suit is insane, weight gain, weight loss, real-life tragedies like 9/11, and stupid ridiculous tragedies like your basketball team getting booted in the first round, mean bosses, really mean dogs, bitchy cats, and stupid dumb awful pandemics that mean you can’t travel like you love to) I am incredibly. damn. blessed.

I was reminded about what really mattered to me in this last month of note writing — something I was long overdue for. For every year, there was something for which to be grateful. His patience. His skills on the grill. His killer ability in planning everything from our family finances to weekend road trips. His thoughtfulness. The fact he looks the other way when I buy more books than I can possibly read. The fact he looks the other way when I go on a trash TV binge. His enthusiasm to take on home repairs and remodels. His loyalty and steadfastness. His love and support. These last 30 days also reminded me of all that we have done, all that we have accomplished. Marriage is a marathon. It’s a cheesy, overly simplistic metaphor, but it fits. There are years where you break through the noise to realize a goal. There are years where your legs cramp up and you really do wonder if you’ll make it to the finish line. Hills, curves, long-flat boring stretches where you wonder if anyone is paying attention … this is when I make Mac ‘n Cheese for dinner and just ride out the monotony until we get to the next good part. Because we always do.

We’ve got three amazing young adult kids. We’ve got a really nice roof over our heads. We have great jobs, continued shared interests, we make each other laugh (sometimes unintentionally, but I’ll take it), we’re planning for the future, and we’ve got a long list of places we want to go, to add to the list of places we’ve been. We have each other. I am so lucky and incredibly grateful for these 30 years, and only wish for 30 more.

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