There were a lot of smiles, a lot of tears (who cries at weddings? Me.) and a lot of hugs.
I didn't want to let go of my Dad. I was clutching him and crying. It was as if a voice inside of me was saying, "I don't want to grow up, Daddy. Take me to Neverland!"
He looked at my mom and asked what he always asks when I show unbridled sentiment.
"Why is Alicia crying?"
My Mom always pats him and tells him not to worry about it.
So he shrugs his "I don't understand women" shrug and walks off.
Soon after my Dad walked away, a tiny woman approached my husband. She seemed almost like a dwarf angel -her back was hunched, her hair white. She gripped my husband's arm and looked expectantly up at him. He stooped down until his head was next to hers.
"Always treat her like a queen," she whispered loud enough so I could hear, "Even when she doesn't deserve it."
He smiled, nodded, and the woman loosened her grip only to transfer it to my arm.
"Always treat him like a king, even when he doesn't deserve it," she said, her eyes twinkling with a lifetime of hard-earned wisdom.
Her words sent a sort of tingle through me. I smiled, and she slowly made her way out of the sealing room. I turned to my brand new husband.
"Who was that?" I asked.
"I thought you knew," he said. We shared a "what the heck?" moment only as long as we could before the next relative was in front of us.
She was The Dwarf Angel Sealing Crasher.
I thought a lot about her advice during our first few years. I took it as gospel rather than advice.
And really -it sort of is gospel.
For someone else.
I realize that unconditional love isn't about getting. It's about giving.
Right now, I can't give. I can't treat him like a king. I can't plan creative date nights or get excited about love or gush or giggle or even shave my legs on schedule.
My love for my husband is not unconditional.
That said: I'm not withholding creative date nights out of punishment. I'm also not applying the old, "Fake it 'til you feel it" line.
The truth is: It's hard for me to invest fully in something when I know it isn't solid. I can't blindfold myself to uncertainty and carelessly throw my cash in the pile.
I'm going to get hurt again. My heart is going to get broken again. I'm going to grapple with the harness of betrayal again.
I'm only doing today what I feel is right to do today.
I miss the days where I listened to Norah Jones and giddily planned surprise date nights. I miss the relationship where I could read books about marriage and love and dating and have them apply to us. I used to devour relationship advice columns and blogs. Now when I come across a book, an article, a column... I shrug it off.
It was written for someone else.
It doesn't apply to us anymore.
What DOES apply to us? Well, nothing right now. We're in two different places.
I say marriage counseling applies to us.
He says it doesn't -not right now. We can figure it out on our own.
I try to reach out into thin air and choke the words "on our own" as they come out because I hate them so very much. They're so unwelcome, yet they keep stopping by and barging into my home in all their egotistical pomp. I want them to die.
Today I'm bitter, and that's okay. I used to hate myself for feeling bitterness -as if I were a bad person for feeling natural feelings.
But I've traveled this road long enough to know that when the bitterness comes, I don't need to pay it any mind. It will come, sit down beside me for a while and then leave.
Bitterness has ears of perfection -it can hear my THOUGHTS. It can hear that today I'm yearning for parts of relationship that I just can't have right now. Even before I can finish my thoughts, Bitterness has haphazardly thrown a piece of toast in it's mouth as it's throwing on it's galoshes and yanking on a sweater... it's racing out the door and making a beeline for my brain.
I don't have to entertain it or host it or even be nice about it.
I just have to let it be.
And then it will be gone because even Bitterness is smart enough to know when it's not receiving due attention.
I wonder what the Dwarf Angel Sealing Crasher would say to me today?
Maybe she'd tell me to pray. or maybe she'd tell me to work. or maybe she'd offer to watch my son while I took a long, over-indulgent nap.
Or maybe she'd stick to her old saying because she -unlike me -understands about unconditional love.