Wednesday, October 4, 2017

He Put A Ring On It, But When Can I Take It Off? 

"Don't you take that ring off!" My elderly aunt scolded me as I was about to twist off and preserve my precisely-cut diamonds while preparing to devour a messy meal. It barely pinched past my knuckle before settling back into a secure position... 

What about when I'm cleaning raw meat? 
Washing dishes? 
Shampooing my hair? 
Working out?

Her matter-of-fact rebuttal: "Wear gloves!"

Out of all the marriage tips I've received — "Keep God first", "Talk it out", "Stay in love" — none of them resonated as much. Too cliché and apparent. But on a random day, just shy of 6 weeks as a newlywed, I was given an order that I immediately obeyed.

I'd come to my own conclusion about when it would be appropriate to take off my ring—anytime I didn't want it to get dirty or damaged. The consensus was that my band would stay put under any circumstance. The rock, though, had to be protected against all odds. Guarded from dried up soap and lotion residue. Right-hand only eating for finger foods. Inspected in natural lighting on the hour, every hour. You get the point... 

Borderline obsessed with keeping this expensive symbol of love intact, I quickly realized that, like my marriage, my ring must endure some hardships in order to prove its value. 

Someone not as wise as my aunt told me that getting married doesn't change anything. Obviously, it changed my name. But marriage is also changing the way I desire my husband. Our four-year relationship has sustained the conditions of long distance through monthly and annual deployments. However, our first separation while married has activated some unfamiliar feelings. Unlike most couples, we aren't guaranteed the comfort of daily physical affection. Or the excitement of a lunch break check-in. He's often in a different country, functioning on a different time zone. And I'm at home, striving to stay productive while eagerly counting the days until his overseas responsibilities are fulfilled (also utilizing his return dates as deadlines). For an ambitious dreamer and a habitual world traveler, this works.

As an Author/Editor/Publisher/Educator, one would wonder how I'd even prioritize being a Wife. It's simple: the occupational titles define what I do; the latter defines who I now am. 

I've been known to smother myself in my passion(s). It was much easier and understandable as a single woman. As a spouse, the dedication to my craft is presently a little unbalanced. My husband has always supported me and encouraged me to live my dream, literally since the first day we met. Last month, he jokingly reprimanded me for not remaining disciplined with a 30-day social media fast. Instead of writing, I was scrolling up and down timelines, supposedly seeking inspiration for ideas. Two hours later, my phone was still cradled in my hand and I fell asleep next to a fully-charged laptop. Because we're both learning how to profit from our respective habits/addictions/weaknesses, this type of failure nurtures our competitive spirits and amplifies the satisfaction of overcoming difficult challenges, together. 

Fortunately, our unusual union allows us to become originators of what a healthy marriage should entail; every reconnection offers fresh emotions for us both to unpack and enjoy. Likewise, we have the privilege of getting creative with our expression (no choice when marrying a writer, duh), as well as the option to travel and experience other far-away areas when home just seems a bit mundane. Time spent apart is a mechanism for strengthening our communication and it also gives our minds the freedom to process what we appreciate most about each other. I am extremely appreciative of my husband's ability to listen and retain information, whether important or useless, paying attention to me and absorbing everything that I care to acknowledge. I am admittedly forgetful and aiming to be less selfish. A battle with career-related perfectionism constantly stunts my personal growth. Still, he put a ring on it.

Beyond the legal paperwork and the professional pictures, my ring is a welcomed reminder that I belong to a man who claimed me as his prize, recharged my purpose by altering my identity, and granted me a vow of never-ending companionship. Removing such a gift from my finger every time I'm trying to avoid harm to its appearance feels very vain. Thinking out loud: Would scheduling bi-weekly cleanings with the jeweler be vain too? Perhaps that's another rhetorical question undeserving of an answer...

Nonetheless, this post serves to formally introduce myself as Mrs. Lewis (smiles and waves). Furthermore, to also inform readers that I will continue to publish under my maiden name (Liltera R. Williams). I've been full of words since my life completely changed on 7.15.17. And this rush of creativity is suddenly beginning to spill over onto my WIPs (Works in Progress). I promise they will be worth the wait.