Boat watching

You might call this the many-years-after version of this “before.” Long after the excitement of posing for wedding pictures fades, the realities of marriage endure. I wonder how many times this couple has taken Sunday strolls along the harbor, watching cruise boats come and go. How many miles, nautical or otherwise, has this particular couple logged, and through what weathers?

Boat watching

There’s nothing more wholesome than a long-married couple taking a harbor-side walk, unless it’s a grandmother taking her young grandson boat-watching. The shiny novelty of a young couple posing in their wedding finery is one thing, but show me the weathered face of a grandmother or middle-aged couple, and I’ll show you a picture worth more than a thousand words. There’s nothing finer than young love…unless, of course, it’s older love. Marriage is no pleasure cruise; it’s a journey marked by trial and more than a bit of tedium. When I consider the marital math lesson I’ve offered the Almost-Married, it occurs to me that couples who have lasted longer than the almost-thirteen years I was married have that much more wisdom. If the couple in the picture above could give a word of advice to the newlyweds who posed not far from them, what lessons would they share?

These days, I’m more interested in old married couples who have been together forever than I am in new couples just starting out. The excitement of a wedding is fine and good, but what happens when monogamy becomes monotony? The true test of any life, coupled or not, comes on Monday morning with its mundane drudgery. Who is going to do last night’s dishes, and who will take out this week’s trash? It strikes me as downright counter-cultural that one of my favorite things to do with J is grocery shopping on Saturday afternoons: why don’t I “get” the nearly universal message drummed into single folks that dating is about excitement, not mundane chores? And yet, it strikes me that a truly long-term relationship is more about grocery-shopping, laundry-doing, and other household chores than it is about wine, candlelight, and roses. Romance is fine, but unless someone buys the groceries, cooks the meals, and cleans the dishes afterward, how can man or woman live on romance alone?

Cyclists with skyline

Years ago when I saw the blockbuster film Titanic on the big-screen, I remember being struck by one scene near the end of the movie. While everyone else was ooh- and aah-ing over the sexy on-screen chemistry of the movie’s attractive young protagonists, the scene I found the most memorable showed an elderly couple huddled in bed as their cabin filled with water. Too old to race for the lifeboats, the couple had presumably made a pact to go down with the ship together. It’s fine and good for Celine Dion to croon that the female protagonist’s “Heart Will Go On” after her heart-throb suitor ends up dead in the water: it’s easy to love a man you don’t ever have to live with, the novelty of infatuation never having the chance to wear off. But isn’t the truer, truest love the kind that has looked “’til death do us part” in the face and remained faithful?

There’s an oft-quoted Zen saying that says “After the ecstasy, the laundry.” Presumably after the thrill of enlightenment has faded, all that remains are dirty T-shirts and undies. And yet, I’d beg to differ with this oft-quoted saying, or at least the preposition therein. It isn’t that laundry comes after ecstasy; it’s that laundry is ecstasy. If you fully embrace your life with all its tedium and drudgery–if you fully embrace the monotonous routine of the same old spouse as you head off to meditate, again, on the same old cushion–you discover your laundry and your ecstasy are one in the same. What is marital bliss, after all, but the repetition, ’til death do us part, of the same old chores, the same old laundry, and the same old ecstasies?

This is my belated submission for last week’s Photo Friday theme, Wholesome.