Like a lot of little girls, I grew up with romantic notions of my wedding day.
My sisters and I loved to hear my mother tell of her wedding to my father. Her search for the perfect cake and how she designed her own bridal bouquet were stories we loved to hear as we looked over her wedding album.
Long before I met my husband, I spent many hours planning and fantasizing about my flowers, the dress I would wear, and my bridesmaids.
When I did meet my husband and we got engaged, I bought every bridal magazine and read every book on weddings that I could get my hands on. To say I was obsessed would be an understatement.
Thankfully Joe was a great fiance and we had fun planning our wedding.
Our wedding was everything I had hoped it would be, complete with my perfect dress and a gorgeous day. The sun was shining, the birds sang, and I married a man I was, and still am, very much in love with.
It was a great way to start our life together.
But a wedding is not a marriage. Once the reception is over and the dress is packed away there is a life to live.
Together. As a couple. For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.
That’s pretty daunting.
Another thing that is daunting is that this week will mark our nineteenth wedding anniversary.
Is their a secret to staying married this long?
It seems whenever I read an article or a book about a perfect couple and their secrets to a long marriage, a few months later I read about how the same couple is now going through the perfect divorce.
Marriage is tough. If it wasn’t, 50 percent wouldn’t end in divorce.
I will say the one thing that has helped us out over the years is our ability to laugh at ourselves and whatever life throws our way.
The time that sticks out the most for me is ten years ago when Joe and I were driving to our new home.
We were getting ready to move in and packing up the house we had been renting in Queens. All of a sudden I had a thought and just started to laugh hysterically.
“Why are you laughing?” Joe said, starting to laugh himself.
“Well, I was just thinking. You know how when something bad happens in your life, and you say to yourself, ‘Well, it could be worse. I could be so-and-so.’
“You do realize that everyone who got laid off in your office is saying to themselves today, ‘It could be worse. I could be Joe and his wife!'”
Then we both just started hysterically laughing.
We had just bought our first house; we had a two-and-half-year-old son; and I was five months pregnant with our daughter.
Five days after we closed on a $300,000 mortgage, my husband was painting the bedrooms so we could move in. Then his boss called at 9:00 p.m.
The bursting of the dot.com bubble was taking a toll on the publishing business, and my husband’s company decided it was time to cut back.
The cutbacks consisted of the head of the online business and 30 employees, including my husband’s boss and, of course, my husband.
Most people would not be laughing at this point in life, and trust me, I had many, many sleepless nights and panicked days.
But, as serious as it was, it was almost comical that this was happening to us.
We had saved for eight years to buy our house because we wanted to be completely prepared for the purchase. Joe and I were famous for saying: You never know, you could buy a house one day and lose your job the next!
The dark humor in the situation was just too much. Even in my most panicked state, I had to admit it was funny. I kept thinking of the phrase, “We plan, God laughs.”
I don’t believe that God sits up in heaven and says, “Gee. Kathy and Joe have planned out everything so nicely. They are expecting their second child. They just bought the house. Good for them. You know, I’m a little bored, why don’t I just yank the rug from underneath them and see what they do.”
But, life sure does have a way of twisting and turning. For me, it helps to believe that when I have a strong fear or feeling about something, it’s my way of saying to God or the universe, this is something I need to work on.
Now my husband thinks my feelings are crazy when it comes to this issue. As he sees it, life is random, and faith is there to help you ride it out.
Even though we view things differently, we were able to weather the storm together. We had some savings left, and my husband’s skills as a writer meant he could freelance while looking for a new job. Plus, we’re fortunate to have great parents and strong family support.
At times, we panicked and said, “Why us?” But most times, we saw what we needed to do and did it, and we laughed… a lot more than we cried.
I wouldn’t want to go through it again, but the experience of living through one of your worst fears is a powerful gift. And I think it’s one of the best ones we can pass on to our kids.
How to survive when the world seems to be caving in on you is a gift my husband and I received from our own parents.
My mother may have given me her love of weddings, but it was seeing my parents go through life as a couple that let me know marriage was more than picking a china pattern or planning the perfect centerpieces.
Our parents’ lessons and strength helped us when we suffered miscarriage after miscarriage, when Joe lost his job, and even today as we deal with a child with very serious, life-altering disabilities.
I am grateful for the ability to laugh and for marrying a man with the same offbeat sense of humor.
I sincerely hope that it’s the one real gift we leave to our own precious children.
Unlike money and possessions, the gift of survival and humor in the face of adversity is a gift no one can take from us. It may not be that romantic, but it is recession proof.
Authors note: This is a revised and expanded version of a piece I did last year titled “What’s So Funny.” That version was posted on this site March 20, 2011.