New Year’s Day is a big day around our house—our wedding anniversary! On January 1, 2007, Eric Hutchins and I married on St. John at 9 am in the morning. If the officiant would have let us get married at 12:01 a.m., we would have. We were that excited to start our married life together, and we wanted to do it with the clean, fresh slate of a new year.
We didn’t make any fancy resolutions above and beyond to love and cherish each other until death do us part, and to do our relationship differently than we’d done relationships before, because each of us had failed in our first marriage.
That’s what resolutions are about, isn’t it? Admitting past failures, and deciding what is important enough to you that you’ll commit to change.
Quick aside: Don’t forget to check out my latest author-to-author podcast, with Laurie Loewenstein and her DEATH OF A RAINMAKER, here: Laurie Loewenstein & DEATH OF A RAINMAKER
For our 12th wedding anniversary—which we are spending “in” at our beloved Snowheresville in Wyoming—I wanted to take stock of how we are doing on our most important resolutions, and compare that with how I do day-to-day on other things I’d like to change.
Does Eric love and cherish me and do love and commitment differently than in his past life? I can’t speak for his ex-wife, but I can tell you I never dreamed this kind of relationship was possible. And this kind of relationship requires all-in from both parties. Eric has that down pat. It can’t be a “make it and break it” type of NY resolution. It’s got to be at the core of your existence that you’d do anything to put the relationship before self and nurture it to its full potential. (Why would you do that? Only if you’re in a relationship for keeps, because that’s what you want and value. And because you believe in the end a successful relationship will create the best possible environment for you to choose happiness, achieve goals, treat others as they want to be treated (and be treated that way yourself), and raise a great family) You can read about that here.
I’d give Eric an A+. I’d give me at least a B+ (I guess I’d have to ask him to grade me!). Which doesn’t mean we don’t fight. Usually, and I’m not kidding, about whether something is wrong with how the other person feels; in other words, “who took whose my feel good away”—not exactly big stuff, LOL. Or debate, or occasionally snap at each other, usually when one or the other of us doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t mean we think just alike (Eric is far more conservative than me; I am a hermity introvert compared to him). It doesn’t mean we haven’t had big issues to resolve. Although it seems like the bigger the issue is, the better we do.
Little stuff can get us jammed up in that flurry that is daily life. You know, the kind of days where you think everything is going wrong, but it’s only a bunch of little stuff that won’t matter in a week or a month or a year. And if all that is going wrong is the little stuff, then you’re doing pretty damn good and should count your blessings, right? Life IS the little stuff. Life is not perfection. No one is promised anything but a bloody struggle from birth until death, and anything above and beyond that should be a reason for jubilation. We’re not even promised tomorrow. I am very conscious that every breath my loved ones take could be their last (or mine). Am I appreciating them enough in every moment?
Well, sometimes we got caught up in the “why me, why is it so hard” spin cycle. Or we look at other people’s lives on Instagram and buy into their myth and think ours should be like that, when it isn’t even reality.
But when we consciously thank God for the blessing of LIFE, LOVE, and the STRUGGLE, we regain perspective.
A few years ago, Eric and I started doing daily gratitude journals. We write one thing we like about each other, then we list as many little things we are grateful for as we care to for that day. Man. Some days you want to write, “I like that you weren’t an asshole for 5 minutes,” ha ha, or “I’m grateful when you pull that giant stick out of your butt.” Yep.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, though, it’s so easy to find beautiful things even in the hardest or worst of times. It’s made a big difference for us. We also did a version of this a few years ago that was a challenge to 30 consecutive days of intimacy, with our friend Nan Loyd. Yeah, that kind of intimacy, which is only possible with amazing emotional intimacy. It was pretty awesome, and you can read about it here (the PG version!).
Yes, we do big stuff. We take trips, we renew our vows, we pursue adventure. We gift. We love very publicly ;-). But mostly life is in the little moments. The ritual of saying, “Good morning, love” and “good morning, beautiful.” Knowing how each other takes their coffee, and racing to be the one to make it. Laughing at our dogs. Marveling at our kids. Grooming our horses. Handing off the binoculars so the other person can see the moose! Holding each other when one of our kids has a problem. Being quiet when the other needs it.
Last summer, I started a practice of secretly praying for Eric’s health and happiness every day. I also use it as a time of gratitude, and to check in on our family with God. I started it when he was having a tough time physically and emotionally because of work. The change in his circumstances was immediate and so clearly a God and prayer thing, that it blew me away. I confessed I was praying for him with specificity and intention, and he started praying for me. I can’t believe it took us twelve years to realize that the intention and practice of daily prayer for each other was so important. You can read about that journey below.
People sometimes classify my mysteries as romantic suspense (most are truly not), because they are so romantic. I can’t help but write romantic stories, because at the age of 39, my life changed from one of determined existence to one of exaltation because of romance. Since then, I see the world differently, and I can’t imagine a life or a story that isn’t made better by love. When I finish my What Doesn’t Kill You romantic mystery series of trilogies (maybe by the end of 2020), I may do some straight up women’s fiction that is heavy on romance, based on the stories of my two grandmothers and one of Eric’s. We shall see. I also have a story drawn from Eric’s life and how we ultimately found each other that I may share. You can read a flash piece about it here.
As I sit here and contemplate all the things I could do better day-by-day, mostly around exercise and diet, I am hesitant to resolve. I don’t want the fanciest version of resolutions, the iPhone 112, the newest gadget. I don’t want to dilute the importance of the resolution that I have made that has made all the difference in my life. Not just for my happiness. Because of my relationship with Eric, I’ve been a better mother, daughter, sister, friend, writer, athlete, and cook. And better at many other things, too.
So I think I’ll stick with the one that works this year. I resolve to put my relationship before myself, to protect it and cherish it above all things, and to do the actions which keep it healthy and strong. And to enjoy the fruits of that labor in every facet of my life for this year and the rest of my life.
Wishing you a new year filled with blessings and love, y’all.