We got home, dropped our bags, and collapsed onto the couch in a bit of a heap. We invited the cat up for snuggles and ached with the bizarre feeling that comes from sitting in a car for 14 hours—stopping only to use the restroom, eat frozen yogurt, and find a Motel 6. Why is it so exhausting to sit still for such a long time in the car?
We were starving and dreaming up all the things we wanted to eat for dinner now that we were finally home. The last homemade meal we’d had was prepared by our niece, Genesis. She made us tacos and they were extra delicious and made with love and pride.
Right now, everything sounded delicious and everything sounded too hard. But we went to the store and kept reminding one another that we’re still on vacation. We’re still on vacation so we are allowed to go overboard on cheese. We’re still on vacation so we’re allowed smushy, lovey-dovey PDA. We’re still on vacation so grab a bag of gummy bears and a six-pack of IPAs. We’re still on vacation, so let’s sit here at the dining room table and keep listening to this audiobook that we’ve become obsessed with.
This past Monday morning I woke up in a twin-sized bed in New Orleans, Louisiana. My husband woke up in a similar bed across the room. He mumbled to me, “Happy Anniversary, Buddy.” I mumbled back. I got up and went to go sit in bed with him. This was the only thing that I didn’t love about our Air B&B. The beds were comfortable but they were twin-sized and far apart and that isn’t exactly how I wanted to spend the night on our first wedding anniversary. But it was too beautiful to pass up. A great price point in a great part of town—walking distance to everywhere. A backyard that made Ryan think about Jurassic Park. It was worth it. We did not expect palm trees.
We woke up and wrote one another letters—as is our custom. We sat on the back porch with cups of coffee and tears in our eyes and we read them and we thought about where we’ll be and what we’ll be doing on this day next year and the year after that and the year after that.
We tried to plan how we’d spend our day but it became too difficult. We finally decided to, simply, drive our car somewhere, pay for five hours of parking, and walk until our legs turned into jelly. And we did.
It took me a while to get used to the smell. New Orleans at 10:00 am… it is not the most enchanting odor. I’d walk past a hot trashcan or a puddle of grey, stagnant water and waves of nausea would crash over me. In time I learned the rhythm and when to exhale and hold my breath and when it was safe to take a big gulp of air. We walked and wandered and looked at buildings and occasionally pulled up a map. I let Ryan lead the way. I’d just follow him and try to enjoy the scenery and the sounds (between the smells and my own hunger, I was getting snippy but I was actively working on it and definitely got better).
He led us to a convent that was commissioned by King Louis the 14th to be built for the Ursuline Nuns—they’re still going strong but a mere 100 years ago they moved across town. Now people like me wander around the grounds and look at the garden and feel their feet moving across the floor where these nuns walked—where they prayed and where they lived their personal and public lives. It felt like a real honor to get to peek around someone’s home. To learn about and marvel at them even if they’d long-since passed away.
When we left, we turned a corner, walked for a few blocks, and passed a homeless man carrying a sign that said “F–k Trump”. He shouted, “Make America brown again!” And I tried to give him a look that said, “You and me, brother, we’re fighting the same, exhausting war.” I don’t know if he picked up on my vibe, though.
The thing I noticed most obviously about New Orleans was the intersectionality. The overlapping societal differences that lived, seemingly, in harmony. Or at least in a kind of harmony that I haven’t been able to see anywhere else I’ve ever been. There are so many different kinds of people all living together—all having survived together. All in love with the same city. It felt like, in New Orleans, everyone was on the same team. And you pick up on that so quickly.
We kept walking and realized we were hungry so we stopped somewhere and got Jambalaya and Po’ Boys. While we were there, we realized there were a lot of people in this part of town. Like, a lot of people. And music… what area were we in? Ryan looked it up and realized we’d wandered into the infamous French Quarter without even realizing it. That was fun for a time though I much preferred walking along the streets with my husband alone. On our first wedding anniversary.
“Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect,
and touch, and greet each other.”
–Ranier Maria Rilke
In the past year, we often would ask one another, “do you feel married yet?” And each time, the other person would consider it for a moment and say, “Umm… no? I just feel like me.” And the other person would say, “Yeah, me too.”
No one tells you, when you get married, that you’re still just you. You’re still you but with socks that aren’t yours popping up in the corners of the living room.
When you get married, people tell you things like, “Are you sure you’re ready for this?” and “Your life is about to change!” and “Oh man! It’s a big step!” But no one ever says, “Get ready to still have the same issues, problems, obsessions, and insecurities that you’ve always had—hell, they might even be more amplified since you’re living your whole life in front of someone else!” No one ever says, “This is good but it won’t solve anything.”I guess because it doesn’t sound as beautiful as it really is.
Truth be told, I’m happy to learn that I’m still myself after the knot has been tied. I’m welcome to be myself in my marriage. I’m accepted as myself. I’m celebrated as myself. And I’ll keep being myself. I like myself. A lot. I love who I am and who I’ve worked to hard to become. I was scared, when I got engaged, that I may change—or be expected to change, and become Wife Libby. And I didn’t know Wife Libby. But I don’t think that I have and I like that. I think my husband likes it, too, because he seemed to really like Regular Libby enough to marry her. And we did the thing. We got married. And I’d do it again forever and always, forever and always. He celebrates me and honors me and respects me and admires me and he adores me. And I celebrate, honor, respect, and admire and adore him. These things beget one another.
I have no doubt that marriage shapes you. I hope that I’m continuously moved and motivated and changed by my marriage. But I think that it happens over a long period of time. I think it’s happening slowly, in a way that we don’t notice it as much. Or that when we do notice it, we’ll be able to mirror one another and grow towards one another. I have no doubt that my choice to join heirs with Ryan David has and will continue to draw us together in unimaginable, cosmic, eternally binding ways. But I don’t think you get to really wholly grasp the reality of that right away—which is how it should be, I think. I think that kind of perspective should be earned and seen after some time has passed. Roots take time to grow into the ground and I don’t think it’s fair to tell a newly engaged or newly married person that everything’s going to change after the wedding. Because it doesn’t, right away. Everything changes, yeah. But in the way that everything is always changing.