Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Ten years married

Ten years ago today, Nigel and I were legally married, something we both said was the happiest day of our lives. That was less than five years after we were legally joined in a civil union (our second-happiest day), the only legal recognition open to us in 2009—and also something we put off because it wasn’t marriage. Before we had ours, I called civil unions “marriage lite” in a blog post, which made Nigel mad, he let me know what he thought, and I deleted the post—one of the very few I’ve done that to.

Being legally married was among the most important things that ever happened to us. To this day, I still wear my civil union and marriage rings, and I can’t imagine a time I won’t: Our marriage was, and still is, that important to me.

For as long as I can remember, there have always been some anniversaries, birthdays, and the like that I remember every year, and when they reach a multiple of ten or five, some others get my attention, too. It was obvious, then, that noting recurring anniversaries would become a significant topic on this blog, and usually regardless if the number it is. In that sense, this anniversary is no different.

And yet, this year is actually dramatically different: This year, it’s not just about remembering the tenth anniversary of the happiest day of my life—that’s something I do every year. This year, because it’s the tenth, I’ve been thinking about all that’s missing. When I shared the Memory on my personal Facebook, I said:
Ten years ago today was what we both called the happiest day of our lives. I’ve been particularly reflective the past few days, and there have been a few tears. I’ve been thinking about the future we’d planned that will never be, symbolised by the fact that Nigel didn’t get to see this anniversary, nor what would have been our 28th anniversary together two days from now, and that makes me sad. Despite that, October 31, 2013 was the happiest day of our lives, and for me, it still is. There’s comfort in that. ❤️💔❤️‍🩹
There was so much more that I wanted to say, but as is usually the case, I kept deleting every attempt at honest discussion until I was left with something positive—or, at least, as positive as I could manage.

I wasn’t talking about missing Nigel—I miss him every single day, and I wasn't really talking about him missing from this day, from the opportunity to celebrate our tenth. That was only part of it.

As today approached, I started thinking more than usual about the missing future: Everything we’d planned together and expected to happen together and that now never will be. For 24 years, we always discussed big decisions and arrived at a conclusion together, but since Nigel died, I’ve ultimately had to do that alone.

I still have absolutely no idea what I want to do with whatever’s left of my own life, nor where I want to do it. There are times the conundrum sends me into deep despair, and fills me with the tense fear that I’ll never work it out, that I’ll continue to let the days evaporate, one after another, until my last one arrives—with the conundrum still unresolved.

Yesterday, in the midst of yet another reflective moment, I said to Leo, “where would YOU like to live?” I was just being silly, and he just kept looking at me with the same earnest look he has whenever I talk to him about anything that doesn’t involve food or him being a good boy. In that moment, though, I realised that I was asking him about the sort of big decision that Nigel and I would’ve talked with each other about, and discussions about that topic could well have begun with that exact question.

And in the moment following me being silly and asking my dog a question, I was reminded yet again of all that’s missing. And, for another moment among several that day, I cried. My sadness was over the future that will never be.

In the next moment, however, I also thought about what Leo might’ve said if he could answer, and it was that all he cared about was that we were together (because he really is a good boy…), and I then thought about how much he clearly loves living here, where we are: He has a large grassy, fully fenced and safe yard to wander around in, and he has friends next door with whom he “gossips” through the fence. Inside, he has a home with many comfortable places to sleep, a place that’s warm in winter, cool in summer, and dry when it rains. He gets his food (and treats…) given to him, has plenty of toys, and a great position at the front window to watch and bark at the world. He has a pretty sweet life—as well he should. And he seems rather fond of me in return.

I realised that since I can’t have Nigel to talk this over with, maybe I should just try to be a bit more like Leo—concentrate on what’s right in front of me, since so much of it is good, even if there’s no one here to give me my food (and treats…), or to call me a good boy. I can live with that.

The reason I struggle to figure out what to do with the rest of my life, and where to do it, is that my soulmate, best friend, and trusted adviser is no longer at my side, and I find it beyond extremely difficult to work out future plans without him. Together, we could take on anything, but now the earth below my feet feels like it’s made of gelatine, and everything feels too complicated and also too amorphous to sort out.

I strongly doubt that my Weltschmerz actually has anything at all to do with this being the tenth anniversary of our marriage, and instead it’s just coincidental—it provided a convenient focus for what was already going on in my head—or not going on, as the case may be.

Still, this IS the tenth anniversary of our marriage, and two days from now is the 28th anniversary of when I arrived in New Zealand to stay, the day we always saw as our anniversary. As I navigate these strange, murky waters I’m now sailing through, I know how much Nigel meant to me, and how important our life together was to me—in fact, those two facts haven’t changed.

I’ll eventually figure things out, despite how difficult that is, and the reason I know that is embodied in the photo at the top of this post: I carry him close in my heart now just as I did then. I know that’s what will get me through into whatever my future will be. And when I do, I’ll have him and our life together to thank for it. Our marriage, it turns out, was real and strong long before that day ten years ago when the law finally acknowledged that fact.

Happy Anniversary, sweetheart. I love you. Always.

Nine years married (2022)
Eight years married (2021)
It’s still seven years married (2020)
Mixed feelings day (2019)
Fifth Anniversary (2018)
Fourth Anniversary (2017)
Third Anniversary (2016)
Second Anniversary (2015)
Still married (2014)

To be married
Husband and husband
Just one more


Roger Owen Green said...

Happy anniversary. I'm sorry.
I see Nigel hated "marriage lite," and I get that. Still, I probably said something similar to folks (usually religious folks, almost none from my congregation) who would tell me, "Well, it's OK if gays want to be in a legally committed relationship, but why do they have to call it MARRIAGE?"

Arthur Schenck said...

I can't remember whether I deleted the blog post before or after we had our own civil union, but I'm pretty sure it was about the time it was enacted by Parliament. By the time we got ours in 2009, when marriage equality still seemed as far away as ever, we both saw it as the only way to cement our relationship in law, that it was the best protection for our family the law allowed. It was also all that was available. But I also know that it was a big deal for Nigel when were able to actually marry, as all our siblings had done.