Friday, June 24, 2016

Fifth Anniversary: Finding Happiness in Time of Sadness


As our fifth wedding anniversary arrived, I take a quiet moment to take it all in, and absorb all the lessons I've learned from this past year. We have made it through several storms, not unscathed, but stronger as a couple, and as individuals. The years have added a few gray hair strands, a few additional pounds, and more wrinkle creases around our eyes. It is not something I would trade away for the experience we have gained from the storms we walked through. We find it easier these days to smile, instead of worrying, when something goes awry, because we know we have each other as we hold our hands through whatever may comes. 

This past year, we have weathered major heartaches, worries, and fears that translated into strength, determination, and perseverance. It helped to know that I had Stu to keep me tethered to the ground when the gallant winds threatened to blow me over.  

While I am not going to list every small details that have rocked us in the past year, because they are ordinary issues that may affect every couple differently; perhaps to one couple, it is something they barely blinked their eyes at, and to the other, it is something that can change their lives forever. To be honest, some of issues we faced, I forgot what they were specifically, and even I may have forgotten, I still remember the lingering feelings left behind from the chaos. However, there is a storm that has left us still fragile, yet even stronger, and that is our loss of our third baby. It is still very hard, because we always had this mindset that it will never happen to us, and it did. I struggle with some guilt of not knowing what caused the miscarriage, and a lot of sadness in knowing we are not meant to be our angel's parents on the earthside. 

Still to this day, we struggle with the loss. As one reddit user have so eloquently described, "In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall, and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart, and don't even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on, and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you will find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you, and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what's going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of cup coffee. It can be just about anything...and the waves come crashing. But in between, there is life. Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you will find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or maybe fifty feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O'Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side, Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of wreckage, but you will come out." 

We are no longer stuck in a shipwreck, trying to keep our heads above the raging sea, and doing everything not to drown. Our grief comes into waves. More often than not, I find that I am triggered by simple things that I don't think would have affected me so strongly, but it does. While Stu doesn't talk about our loss very often, or as openly as I do, I know he's carrying the load of sadness, and wishes he could somehow fix what happened to us. That does break my heart that we have to pick up the pieces, instead of waiting for a new life to arrive, and be a part of our lives. In the meanwhile, we have each other, and knowing that we are rocks for each other in the midst of chaos, which makes a difference in our grief. Our rainbow, as when god sees it fit, will enter our lives before we know it. 

Prior our loss, we made one of the biggest purchases in our lives: Buying a home! We renovated our home. For those who have gone through a renovation process, I am sure they are laughing and nodding their heads as I write this: It is one of the most stressful things that a couple can deal with!! So many decisions to be made in a snap minute, what colors to go with, disagreements over what should be added and what should not be added, finding that there is a problem that will prevent from us adding something we like to our home, whether we can afford that or not, and having to deal with delays that caused us to keep pushing away our move in date. Not only we had to deal with this happening in our new home, we had to pack up everything in our old home, sell what was not going to be a right fit for our new house, and dealing with our boys' transition from living in one home to another! 

Thankfully, we survived those hectic months! 

We also buckled down on our finances. While we are not dirty poor, we are also not rich, and while we don't ever expect to be a millionaires; we want to make sure that the future for our boys are secure. We want to pay off the remaining debt that we have. Becoming homeowners only reinforced this desire even more. We have used a bit of Dave Ramsey plan in the past, however not heavily or seriously. This is only an introduction back then! However, this time, we are serious, willing, and determined to buckle it down completely. It is quite amazing how our communication about money has shaped our marriage in the past, and in the present as well. 

We have never had any serious arguments about money, and had it affect our marriage in a negative way. Sure, to be honest, we have had some disagreements here and there, some avoidance about discussing money, stress about certain bills (especially medical bills), and not always being on the same page. There has been some days when adulting is not so fun. However, we are fortunate that we don't very often find ourselves in despair, overwhelmed, and worrying about whether we will survive the next day. We are not very spend thrifty people, But...It is just crazy how little things add up here and there. Sorry, Starbucks, we have to break up. I will still see you from time to time though! But not all of the time. Nonetheless, we did need to wake up, and revamp how we approach money. 

In the past few months, I have learned a lot, and we find that we become a stronger team when we are able to sit down to discuss what we should do with the money we have. We work hard to pay off the debt we have. Student loans, anybody? Medical bills? You can pay them for me?? Kidding. Really, as we learn how to manage money better, we are also teaching our kids how to better themselves for when that time comes for them to start handling money. We are determined to live as frugal as possible in the next two years to pay off our college loans, car payment, and the medical bills. We know we are perfectly capable of doing so, based on how well we have been doing these few past months! 

It is a big part of being responsible, and being an adult: to understand, to organize, and to utilize money for better. We realize that budget is not a dirty word that restricts us from enjoying thing, but rather, it is freeing, because we are able to enjoy things guilt free! Thanks Dave Ramsey. 

To have one less things that act as a barrier in our communication, I do feel our marriage has become stronger--not that our marriage is weaker, struggling, or on verge of disaster before, but rather with this opening up other pathway how we communicate with each other, I do feel we have become of a team. It is why I find it so important for anybody in a serious relationship to be able to discuss openly, and freely about money; to become a team, and to support each other when it comes to money to pay off any debts you may have.

As our fifth anniversary letter states: 

"Happy Fifth Anniversary:
Ashley--you've been in our family for 5 years now. You're a blessing to our goofy group.
Stuart--my dear godson, you did well in your choice for a wife.
Prayers that you will always be as happy as you were on your wedding day--you two are very special.
Love you."
(Thanks Aunt Chris, we love you too) 

The message is simple, yet powerful. Rely on your family, consider each other as number one, and always cherish your good days, because those days will help you survive the hard days. Come through storms happier instead of sadder. Trust me, it may sound weird, because storms do leave us scattered, battered, and broken. It is okay to be sad while you are happy. It is okay to be sad and not be happy during that particular time in your life. But do find happiness in little things. They act as our buoys. For me, it is our boys, Bea (our goofy hound), our cats, family, and especially so, Stuart.