Today is my 18th wedding anniversary. To celebrate, I am going to write a post directed at 25-year-old me.
Dear Michelle of 18 years ago,
Your wedding went off without a hitch. You got the important part down and even though your reception/party afterward wasn’t what many other people thought it should be, it was a celebration of you and Craig and your marriage. Over the next few years as you attend many weddings, you’ll think a lot about your own and whether you short-changed yourself. I’m here to tell you — 18 years later, it does not matter, and you had a wonderful party that was very much YOU.
You thought you would never be in a place where you would desire children, but your heart softened in just over a year and you opened up to the idea. It was the best thing you ever did. Being a mom is most likely the greatest joy in your life (at least 18 years later) and having a successful marriage is the foundation for that joy.
You are ambitious and you want to move so fast through the corporate ranks. Let 43-year-old you fill you in: you never quite go as far as you always dreamed and hoped you would, and you’re (usually) okay with that. You struggle through your child-bearing years to understand that sometimes you just have to understand your niche and do a bang up job on that. But once you figure it out, you set about doing the best damn job of process automation and improvement and people management you can in whatever department you are in.
Speaking of career aspirations, you struggle also with the idea that you are not able to be 100% mom to your children. 43-year-old Michelle is here to tell you: you are the best mom you can be because you work full-time, maintain a stable and organized home, partner with your husband and raise your children to understand boundaries, goal-setting, limits and all that comes with growing up. No, you didn’t nurse your babies (I know, you’re just getting used to the idea that you even have babies) and you struggled with that, too. But in the end you understand that you did what was the best thing for your family at all times.
I think you’d be surprised at where 43-year-old Michelle is with regard to Catholic faith. A seed was planted in your couple counseling sessions with Fr. Tank before you got married. And while you didn’t respond and cultivate that planted seed until about 6 weeks after your first child was born…when you got around to it, you worked very hard at it. You should be proud to know that you and your husband not only embraced the Catholic church’s teachings on marriage and family, you even helped others along the way to try and understand them, even if others didn’t agree or sign on full-force like you.
If there were one thing 43-year-old Michelle would like to tell 30-year-old Michelle as far as faith goes, it is this: Remember that every walk in faith is a journey and you don’t know where on the path others are. And don’t be surprised to find yourself in different spots along the way. Sometimes when you think you have it all figured out — almost as quickly as that feeling comes, it is gone and you can feel lost.
You already know that marriage and life is not all roses; you grew up in a divorced family, abandoned by your father (something you won’t admit for several more years) and emotionally tormented by your relationship with your mother (something you still deal with at age 43). But you will have at least one experience where you will feel the depth of despair. You will cling to your husband like you never thought you would have to and you will claw and grasp to feel close to God as you make your way through. It will change you in ways you cannot imagine and even 43-year-old Michelle cannot really put into words.
You will feel great pride in your children and you will wonder how the heck God deemed you worthy to bless you with them. Sure, there will be the typical moments when they will break your heart, or something in their lives will break your heart. But overall, you will pray more prayers of thanksgiving (at least by 18 years of marriage) than prayers of sorrow regarding your children.
A small bit of advice and then I’m done: Cherish every day. Be grateful every minute. Time is fleeting and before you know it, you’ll look in the mirror and realize you have more gray hair than blonde and you wonder just when you stopped looking like you did in your wedding photos. You’ll be preparing to send your oldest off to college (or preparing for a college student continuing to live at home while attending school to save money), worrying about ACT scores, college admissions, in-state or out-of-state tuition and scholarships. You’ll watch your children navigate the crazy waters of puberty and adolescence thanking God some gadgets and technology were never around when you were their age.
But you’ll also hear your 6-year-old sing the words “She’s an Angel…” to have your husband ask him, “Who is an Angel?” and hear him say, “Mommy” and ask to be picked up and he will give you the sweetest hug and kiss.
And in that very moment, time doesn’t fly and you can’t believe the sweetness of your marriage, your family, your life.