Monday, August 6, 2012

Most of what I know about Marriage, I learned in Indonesia


My hands clenched in my extra pair of socks, I sank down against the rock. I pulled my thin rain jacket—the only jacket I’d brought to Indonesia—over my legs. The cold mountain wind sliced through the seams. Brad put his arms around me and I leaned into his warmth.

We made it.

A few weeks after moving to Indonesia, we were celebrating our five-year wedding anniversary by climbing a 10,000 foot mountain in Bali. We’d followed the Indonesian tradition of mountain climbing by starting at midnight so we’d summit in time to watch the sun rise over the ocean below.

Such a romantic and adventurous way to celebrate a marriage of romance and adventure, I’d thought. And with Brad there, always encouraging me, his strength overcoming my weakness, I knew there was no other place I wanted to be.

But I had no idea how cold and hard and dark this journey would be when we’d started the hike. I hadn’t brought warm enough clothes. My flashlight seemed too dim against the darkness. And I’d never before hiked such a steep mountain on so little sleep. Harsh reality pounded with each step.

When we start our marriages, surrounded by friends and flowers and promises, we hope for the romance and adventure. But then life can bring hard and cold and dark things. Miscarriages. Layoffs. Sicknesses. Crying newborns. Moves to scary foreign lands. Insert your hard thing here.

I’ve spent more than half my marriage in Indonesia. And much of what I’ve learned about marriage, I learned here in Indonesia's peaks and jungles and volcanoes and trash-strewn city streets. But not everything.

The night before our wedding, my grandpa, who has lived a lifetime of hard work and joys, struggle and laughter—alongside his wife—said one thing that continues to stick with me.

“Take care of each other.”

The simplicity in this advice has been easy to remember when everything else crowds into my life. Even as Alzheimer’s cruelly steals those years of joy from my grandma’s memories, his words have been accompanied by an example that has power.

Back on that mountain, Brad unwrapped the banana sandwiches we’d brought for our breakfast. We dined together as the sun’s fingers stretched into the sky and out over the ocean below. The sun had never looked so captivating as it had on the backdrop of our night of struggle.

Soon we started our descent back down the peak and into more years of the adventures of caring for each other in the peaks and valleys.

To read more lessons learned in Indonesia, read my post on learning about motherhood, friendship, the impossible and money.

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