I listened recently to our pastor speak about his own marriage and of how, once he put the time aside to spend some extended time with his wife, he was reminded anew of why it was that he married her.

It got me to thinking about my own marriage - with all its attendant ups and downs.  It occured to me as I reflected that if I were to isolate the 'secret' to our marriage's relative success, I'd have to say it is the focussing on of one anothers' best qualities.  This is not to say, most emphatically, that the JoyBoy and I aren't absolutely pock-marked with unpleasantness, for we are.  Most notably.  However, I always find I'm most happy within my marriage when I look (and then continue to look) at JoyBoy's beautiful qualities.  And there are countless, I might add.  Conversely, I'm never more unhappy living life alongside him than when I'm looking at his failings and dwelling there, in that looking.  I'm a wiser woman when I laugh at his ceaseless loving teasings than when I wonder why it is he doesn't tidy our yard more regularly.  It's more fun to think of his constant (and by that, I do mean constant) good nature than to feel ticked that he's left his clothes all about (again).  There's so much about him to respect and love and admire.  Why would I rain on our shared parade by looking at his relatively few failings?

Ah, you thought I meant Justin Bieber, didn't you?  Actually, I'm referring to someone even cooler than that.  It's the JoyBoy.  And he's away on a business trip.

I am struck again by the colorlessness of our lives when he's gone from them.  No one plays the guitar (though really, someone *else* is supposed to be practising, though I don't have the heart to enforce it, energy-sapped single parent I now am). 

No one else surfs the internet for motorcycles, yelling out every now and then for the rest of us to come look at the most recent cool one he's just found, enthusiasm spilling out all over the place.  He NEEDS for us all to see each one, loving it as he does.

He is one of those people from whom more than the average allotment of life spews forth.  We all love to be around him.  So much that is yellow and funny and warm emanates from this boy.  We can't wait for him to come home.
I now reside in that  place in marriage where the heady thrill of supercharged romance has slipped inconspicuously into the past.  I find - contrary to what I may have expected as a novice 21-year-old first entering the institution - that I like it here best of all. 

It is now only the rare giddy thrill that  flashes through my days spent with this man.  Instead, I feel his love imbedded deep in my core, saturating and hydrating me.  There is such freedom to find in sharing life with someone who knows everything about you, including the very most horrible bits, and who still - despite this deep knowledge - chooses to love you anyway.  There is a profound and humbling comfort here. 

While the JoyBoy and I were dating, I remember thinking on many occasions, what if he knew  X about me?  or if he ever found Y out about me, he'd change his tune.  But over the years as each of these myriad X's and Y's came to light, I found that the knowledge of them only seemed to deepen our intimacy.  After a time, they were easy to share as he had laid such a foundation of acceptance.  I don't think anyone has ever loved me so patiently.

It's not all prune juice and roses, though.  Not by a country mile.  I'm married - I think I've mentioned - to an extremely dominant person.  Perhaps by now you've noticed that I too share this quality.  Alas, we are two people who almost always think that we are right.  This combination can sometimes ignite some explosively flamboyant fights.  So many times I find myself thinking, why can't this man just obey me?  I know that he's wondered the same thing himself about me on many occasions because he's told me so more than once.  And yet I know for certain that I'd truly hate it if he did.  I love that my life's partner is so stunningly proficient at standing up to me, though it ticks me off so ferociously at times.

As we grow older (and we do so at an alarming rate it seems), we grow just a bit wiser with each passing year and we choose our battles a little more judiciously.  We are inclined to be more generous with one another and it's slowly dawning on us both that sometimes the best thing to do is to just zip it.  I realize now that it's not a requirement of a healthy marriage that I agree with every word emitted from his beautiful mouth  - and vice versa.  We can disagree at times and not make a big stink about it.  This, while maybe seeming like a small thing to those less dominant among you, is a really big deal for us.  We are two people who like it best when everyone we know and love agrees with us on every. single. point.  And so this softening around our edges is welcome and good. 

It's good to have been married almost seventeen years.  I like this place; it's cosy here hanging with my best friend.

Spread the word if you know of a whole and positive entrepreneur leading a middle-sized business looking to take it up to the next level.  My boy is fantastic at what he does.  As arrogant as it sounds coming out of my mouth, three of his clients once told me at a party that they jokingly refer to him as 'The Trev.'  He's found his niche in life and is brilliant.  Maybe he can help you or someone you know.
JoyBoy and I spent the weekend - all the gray, rainy dampness of it - in Seattle.  It was a drink of water to the non-maternal bits of my soul.  Sometimes I forget those bits exist, and it was so nice to languish in bed watching the Food Network (I LOVE the Food Network!  It - single-handedly - is almost enough to make me reintroduce TV into our lives after an almost 18  year hiatus!) as I waited for JoyBoy to return with my morning Americano with cream.  I spent a small fortune on clothes, which being myself, I felt quite sick about.  I comfort myself in the knowledge that I only do this go-hard-or-go-home shopping thing about once a year.  We walked the action-filled city streets endlessly and just thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  We read and we ate and then we read again.  It was a balm to our chapped old souls.
He doesn't travel all that much for work anymore which, compared to the days of old, I like very much.  But every now and then, he finds he needs to zip off somewhere or other.  This time it's Orlando, Florida for six days.  Amazingly, he's staying ON the Sea World property, but only without the traditionally accompanying children.  He says the breakfast buffet each morning is peopled almost exclusively with vacationing families.  We make do with the daily phone calls and texts and emails and just pretend we, too, are schmoozing with Shamu (does Shamu still hang there at Sea World?).

I find that my life without him is extremely orderly.  Everything is clean and no one leaves their belongings in a happy trail, indicating tangibly where the Leave-ee currently is.  He and his aftermath are like a giant connect-the-dots puzzle.  If you ever need to find the JoyBoy, just follow the myriad gear he's left behind.  Start with the shoes and move along to the keys, the wallet and the IPod.  Then cast your eye about for his pants and his balled-up work socks.  They punctuate where he's been most recently. 

But you know, my recent life is also kind of colorless.  He is the Spice and the Flavor.  He is the italics function on our keyboard.  He is the neon light flashing in the window, beaconing us all to come in here right now!  It's fun and loud and action-filled here!  There has been very little dancing around these parts.  We're not all groaning in exaggerated (but secretly delighted) disgust as he thunders out his Frank Sinatra albums with accompanying JoyBoy song and dance.  Only he can pull it off.  It'll be officially good to have him home again.
He's rocked my world for 18 years.  Not once have I laid eyes upon someone I'd rather be married to.  Though the sight of him gearing up for it makes me slightly heartsick, he devotedly plays me Goodnight Ladies!  most nights right before bed.  The perversion - the perversion! - of this man sometimes feels like more than I can bear.  But o how I love him. 

He is hilarious in a way that I find hard to describe.  It's one of his top five defining characteristics.  I laugh myself sick every day.  I read about - with gratefulness - how people who laugh are healthier for it and I'm thankful for the Boy.  He delights in shocking me and though you'd think that I'd get over the shock thing already, I'm truly stunned each day by the controversial things eagerly, nay delightedly,  spewing forth from his mouth. 

He's a leader in the true sense.  What I mean by this is that he could care less who follows.  He doesn't require the followers in order to feel adequate.  He's his own man in a way that I've never yet encountered.  His belief in himself could stoke the furnaces of an entire country for a year or two.  This man could fly rockets if he wanted to.  This man could rule the Earth (and effectively, I might add).  But, alas!  He cannot fix the broken handle for our front door.  He cannot remember to take the garbage out without loving (never irritated) wifely reminders.  Pah!  These jobs are too boring, too plebian.  This man wants action!  This man wants color!  He wants loud music!  He wants expensive guitars and classic motorcycles.  And he wants good food.  And, if you don't mind, he'd like it all immediately.

No one has ever been nicer to me than he.  I regularly feel humbled by his doting love.  His love inspires me to make my own love better, less expectant, less exacting.  He wants to be with me all the time.  He derives pleasure from making me feel blessed.  He teases me gently when I'm controlling.  He reads to me in the evenings and massages me the whole while.  As I sit and reflect, I don't understand why God would give this man to me as my life's best friend.  To say that I don't deserve him, while undoubtedly  nauseating, is no mere display of false modesty.  He brings home unexpected gifts on a regular basis.  Sometimes it's books from my favorite thrift store, sometimes it's a fabulous new Nikon camera that he's secretly consulted my photographer friend about, unbeknownst to me.  Sometimes it's a frozen lasagna from the store, intended to lighten my load.  Always, it's an offering of love. 

He's so quick to wholely offer himself to me.   There's not a whiff of threatened with him.  He doesn't need to know it'll be reciprocated in order to give me everything.  For him, that isn't the point.  As I watch him, I feel inside myself that I want to be a better person.