There's a joke in our family - well, at least between Chas and I...
"It only took you eleven years to know that you loved me"
I know... pretty harsh joke, right?
Even worse, it's true.
Now with almost 21 years under our belt I can say that I'm almost to the halfway mark where I can attest that I have loved her longer than half our relationship. :)
The truth is that I was emotionally clouded by years of external oppression, compounded by what I wasn't feeling due to the infamous "L" word.
Growing up as a kid I suffered from not knowing whether or not someone liked me. I couldn't read a flirt to save my ass. Not until I was much older could I look back on my childhood and connect the dots of attraction. Sadly, our oldest, Avin, suffers this same fate.. it's a blessing and a challenge.
I always imagined myself among my siblings that I would be the last to get married and have kids. I had a vision that I would be off to college living in my own place with just me and my dog; a Jack Russell Terrier.
Small confession.... Somewhere in my early high school life, I was fond of the TV show, "Wishbone".
Additional embarrassment... it's not until I see the year it was produced do I truly know that I was in high school when this came out - which means I watched this PBS children's tv show production - when I was in high school... pretty clear to me now why I couldn't tell if girls liked me or not. hahah!
Additional, additional embarrassment.... I even checked just now that I "watched" it.
I never gave marriage much thought as a kid. I always knew that I would get married and have at least two kids. When I met Chas I was already dating someone else at the time, and to her recollection, I was a bit of a jerk, but I did have a nice ass - so I'm told. My argument to her was that I was dating, so why be so flirty with others.. hahah! still a jerk!
We hit it off well and became best buds. So much so that she spent the night at my house and never went home. She would lay next to me for months every night and I never even held her hand or did anything beyond that really. We were just good friends and as time evolved.
It happened organically for us with no pressure or drama, and no effort of the traditional relationship courting. It just happened... Months after laying next to each other, we were at her mom's house and I ended up telling her that behind the scenes at work or with others I was telling people that I had a girlfriend and such. Chas opened up and said she was doing the same thing. From that moment we just rolled with it and became an item simply by proxy. :) for me, that's special. :) I hope for our boys that "it just happens" for them.
I would end up proposing to Chas in that same bed almost a year later. It was hella cool, not cliché at all, and it just came to me really. It was March 31st... I had found a way to take the promise ring I gave her that Christmas, and I held on to it. We found ourselves fooling around in bed and I was able to put the engagement ring on her ring finger (where she kept the promise ring)... it wasn't until I put the promise ring on her right hand did shit get real. As anticipated, the fooling around stopped and the seriousness of that moment kicked up about 200%... She knew she had two rings on and was like what the hell kinda?! So that's how I popped the question.
The only reason why I know it was March 31st was that when Chas went to work the next day she told her friends. Some of them asked if it was before midnight?... being so roped up into the engagement she didn't know what they were getting at.. They said cause if it was after midnight, this would be a terrible April fools joke. hahahh!!
Before our wedding day I would end up getting cold feet. We had already moved out into an apartment that we shared with a sibling of mine. I can't recall exactly why at the moment, but I was second guessing the suddenness of that marriage, still I wanted to get married, but.. shit, I can't remember. All I know is you don't propose then say anything about second thoughts... shit got derailed a bit - obviously.
As the early years of our marriage would kick off they were rocky. Not due to the normal stuff that I thought about, spending money, infidelity, treating each other like shit - the blah-blahs of what we normally hear about... the only thing we ever fought about was my family.
Unbeknownst to me on our wedding day, shit was said to Chas about shit my family had said.. Came out months later that it was out of context.. regardless, shit was a hard go out of the gate. It further didn't help that we also bought our first house as a married couple along with my sibling.
Family, family, family...
It's been a Friday ritual now for 5 years of creative heartfelt effort poured out onto these digital pages; today's thoughts mark for 249 publishing's. Amongst those 249 publishing's there's no shortage of the strain my family has had on me as an adult.
Knowing all of this, I would have benefited greatly from having pre-marriage counseling. Not so that I could know more about Chas and the working of us as a couple, no. It would have taught me what it means to be married and what that requires of an adult child moving away from their parents.
My immediate family has plagued my adult life since the start of mine and Chas's life together. The blame and stressors don't fall entirely on their shoulders; I am responsible for a lot of things... especially in the earlier years...
the earlier 11 years.
Thankfully I have a bride who held out and allowed me to learn how to grow as an individual trying to find his own way while sadly risking a successful marriage as collateral due to the shortcomings.
I did not do a good job in how I conducted myself at the beginning of my adult life. In addition to external eyes focusing on my life, I was also an open book to the stressors of what was going on at home. My parents were being supportive in the best way they knew how at the time. All of this stuff was new to them too.. but somewhere along the way when I had second thoughts prior to the marriage, there was a small scab that was an easy target that could be picked at in my vulnerable state. Like the under layer of skin on your fingertips... nothing's bleeding, but shit, when it touches anything, it burns like hell.
Those early, early days were stressful. Often times an open discussion of my life would take place in the absence me. Paternal foundation blocks rooted themselves deeply into anything and everything. I found myself in a spot where my individuality of decision/life choices was being questioned between my bride and family.
I remember being at my first real job out of college. Shit was so bad that I needed to go home.. I pulled my boss aside and said I needed to go home and end my marriage. He didn't know any of the details, but in his seasoned life he could tell that this 23 year old kid was stressing about early life shit. I don't remember exactly what he said to me, but he said he had been married for more than 20 years and there will be bumps in the road like this. Something to that extent.... regardless, he let me take off early, and from there I went to my parents house to get my thoughts together.
Shit it was rough.
I left my parents house and headed home to break things off with Chas.
When I found her, she was cleaning out cat litter in our tub using my shop vac the best way she could. I don't know why I remember that, but I do. She knew I was on my way and we needed to talk about - us.
In the midst of all the conversation we were having (can't remember much of anything, other than it sucked and was stressful).. Chas took her wedding rings off and gave them back to me. Yeah, that happened. In combination with what she said, how I was feeling, the calmness in the emotion, somewhere, I became clear headed on having never really tried beyond the basics of things. I gave her the rings back, she took them, we cried and realigned ourselves and that was that.
From then, I never shared relationship stressors with my parents again. That made a difference in how we lived. I still had all the parentally suggestive, passive aggressive, blah-blahs in front of me and in the back of my head.
Life would continue on.
We had Avin a year later and that changed our life. It would come out during the pregnancy that there was a ploy to get pregnant - to keep me, like a trap.. stupid shit. and the stupid shit would continue.
Again, the only things that ever got in the way of us was truly the involvement of my immediate family. Having grown up in such an amazing home, this kind of crap was very hard to look past and focus on the reality of things...
After we had Avin it took us many years to conceive with Tristan... miss carriage after miss carriage, ruptured tubal pregnancy, emergency surgery loss, almost death, ugh...I could go on, shit, damn. shit was not fun.. throw in a sibling marriage, at the exact same special place Chas and I had - ugh! After we accidentally got pregnant with Tristan, it turned high risk, more family drama compounded with sibling pregnancy competition shit.. things got sideways enough that the only family that came to Tristan's baby shower were my sweet grandparents. Everyone else was a friend or in-law.
Gosh dang! Stressful as shit!
It got so bad that I sought out personal counseling with a pastor who was suggested to me by a dear friend. He knew where I stood spiritually and how I grew up, but he did not mind, he gave me time to talk about what and where I was going as it circled around my marriage and parents. It was incredibly helpful for me, but dammit it sucked.
Things got a smidge better with my family because bringing a new baby into the family has a history of finding ways to look past things and allow family involvement.
Tristan would be born at the end of May in 2010, I had just started my hospital design job and we would lose our first house in August of 2010.. Only months later my parents would give up our family home to the bank. My siblings followed suit and did the same to their home. Everyone packed up and moved to Utah. The relationship had repaired itself enough to be brought into the fallout of their moving decisions but they had already committed.
There was family pressure to also leave our home and move away with everyone. I decided against it and stayed in Phoenix while we worked on our financial mess and my career. I had been emotionally strong prior to them taking off, but when we said our goodbyes there were four moving trucks packed to the brim, leaving my family home. When I got to the car I broke down. It was sad. Everyone could afford their homes, but just wanted to leave the state and start over. Bad financial decisions and Chas's high risk pregnancy with Tristan put us in a spot where we could NOT afford our home. We short sold instead.
Chas and I were given some old furniture my parents didn't have room for, however, I needed to visit the abandoned family home to collect it.. while bumping into the new owner who bought it at auction and had already changed the locks and started demoing some things.
Gosh dang that was hard. lord did it hurt.
Suddenly for the first time ever, I was without family pressure for anything. It was a strange feeling. I was still all kinds of messed up in my head and heart, but liberated at the same time.
I would settle in well at my new job. It was something that allowed me to run as hard, as far, and do whatever I wanted to for the job. It was a culmination of all my efforts. Shit I loved it!
I would befriend a colleague there named Bryce. Bryce was about 10-12 years older than I and had stresses of his own in his marriage and personal life. At the time, we became good buddies. There would be evenings where I would go to his house and play a golfing video game and drink beer. We called it 36/30. 36 rounds of golf and a 30 pack of Coors light beer. They were good fun times.
While getting to know him better in addition to not feeling the oppression from my family I was able to confide in him with something that had been bothering me for years.
I knew that if I opened up this box, there would be no take backs once opened.... somewhere I had the courage to say something.
I had confessed that I wasn't sure if I was "in love" with Chas.
No take backs....
For years I had been told from my family that I'd be a great catch for anyone, the trap with Avin's pregnancy, conversations of past relationships, the family stressors around my marriage, and on and on and on.... I knew I loved her, I just loved her differently than all my other girlfriends. But shit, the pressures of my family and that lifetime of a shit show always made me scratch my head.
I knew I was in deep personal shit with myself once I opened my mouth and confided in my feelings. I knew that I loved Chas, my boys, and myself, that if I left with the conclusion that I was not in love with her, I would need to be honest and move on with my life.
I truly feared all that and harbored it for years while going through the motions. I did not want to leave anyone or derail my life... but man, what was I feeling sucked!! lord did it fester!
I told Bryce and we talked it out. I was calm and emotionally sound. I kept drawing on the confused feelings and the differences I had with Chas compared to other relationships while discussing the endless turmoil that surrounded her and I with my family.
After talking me through all my feelings about my parents with how I really felt at home with Chas, he brought me tremendous comfort in diffusing vulnerable life bomb I had just delivered him.
He closed the conversation that night with,
And dude, you are in love with Chas, you were simply "Lusting" over the other girls.
I felt so much better!!! I cannot tell you HOW much better I felt. It was a secret of emotional confusion I had freed myself with. It closed off the night well and I ended up crashing at his house that night due to the over consumption of Coors light, and loving liberation.
When I left that Sunday morning I was compelled to pull over right here to maintain my curiosity.
It's a park off of 133rd Ave and Greenway Road, in Surprise. It's on the East side of 133rd Ave and there's a basketball court there that gives it away. That Sunday morning I needed to look up the word "lust"... I did not know what that meant in its definition.
Further validation! Wow! I was so unbelievably excited! I could feel the love! I was SOOOO happy!
the life changing "L" word... haha!
I called Chas as I was headed out to coordinate me picking up breakfast burritos that morning. I had crashed at Bryce's house in the past, so it wasn't an odd situation.
Today I drive by this park countless times in my Real Estate life and Handyman life... I find myself stopping and soaking up the life changing moment when the opportunity allows itself to.
When I got home I knew I needed to tell Chas the news!... but how do you do something like that - especially after so long... and with the life that had been built!
You just do it...
and in Josh fashion, fuck up the morning!
I remember sorting out the food at the table for everyone to eat. At home it was a normal morning. Tristan was still almost 2 and still eating in a kids chair, Avin had just turned 7... shit! today Avin's 17! and T is 12! ugh!
Anyway, after the morning happenings get underway, we start discussing how my hangout was with Bryce. I didn't lead the conversation very well at all as I was fumbling around with words compounded by the stresses of the topic, but filled with tempered elation, I was trying to tell Chas that I was in love with her..
Was delivering myself with the body language that I was going to break up with her! hahah! I was not doing this on purpose, not at all, it just happened. She cut me off in conversation telling me that "you seem like you're breaking up with me"....
No! not at all I said!
What I'm trying to say is that I love you! and am In love with you!
As excited as I was about it, it didn't get received like that hahahah! ...
It was received as frustration.. there we sit as a family of four, having Sunday morning takeout, and I deliver the words, "I love you" and "I'm in love with you" while trying to convey that this is a good thing!
Well duh bitch! it's only been eleven years and NOW!!....
Thankfully she did not say exactly those words, but the feeling was there. hahah!
It became an emotional discussion, food was not eaten other than by the boys, which soon left and did weekend boy things. Chas and I sat there and I did a lot of talking. She already knew the history of how we got to where we are now, but did not know the stresses I had been holding on to.
The conversation moved from panicked confusion, to frustration, then sadness, and then understanding. The day ended very well and it was a fun spirited day that I will always remember.
We now laugh about it and is something that has made us that much more special. The day that I came to my awareness that I was in love with my wife was January 28th, 2012.
Every year on January 28th is a quiet day of love for me. It's my day, for me, about Chas. There are times we talk about it like a wedding anniversary, and there are others that we don't. It's a day that I'm very proud of while also being equally sad about.
It's outcome has become incredibly empowering to me and our marriage. I have become so much tighter to Chas since that day. It should have been our wedding day, but the universe had other plans. She had always been there, the part that was missing, missing at the deeply rooted situation, was me.
There's a joke in our house:
"It only took you eleven years to know that you loved me"
Had I not been cloudy headed sick with the covid, I would have told such a story on it's celebratory date of January 28th., last Friday. But today will have to do :)
And now, while the boys are in school we are going to drive to Wickenburg for lunch at our now favorite restaurant, Anita's Cocina, homemade Mexican food! hot damn it's good. :)
have a grateful weekend!