Saturday, May 10, 2014

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Marital Blisters- guest author Vanessa Arden Nuckolls


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Marriage is a long, long walk filled with blisters. Let me be clear: my perspective is limited. I can only tell you about the first seven years of my walk. To the seasoned walker, my short marriage will seem a stroll, a jaunt, a novice beginning. To the unmarried or newly-married, it may seem as if I have trekked a great distance and am now miles ahead of them up the mountain. I am where I am—somewhere in the middle, with gross, wide-width, man-sized hobbit feet (or foots). You're welcome for that image. Let me tell you about my walk:

In the beginning, I had delicate pansy feet--feet that blistered at every inconvenience. Every nasty sock on the floor, every bad birthday or Christmas or Valentine's Day present, every scraggly, unshaven face gave me a blister. The husb must have thought I was dying with the way I whined about the exaggerated pain and pointed out every detail of every blister I'd ever gotten. He clumsily, apologetically, lovingly wrapped his inadequate bandages around my feet time after time after time while I cried out in frustration at each well-meant jostle.

The husb brought bandages and water to our walk. I brought a map and a compass. "Let's just lay here under the trees for awhile, my love," he'd say, when I hurt. "We should be going north," I'd say, "but I don't see a way." I wanted to go north--I'd always seen us in the north--but there were too many obstacles. We went west.

Eventually, after a few years of walking westward on bloody, torn-up feet, he ran out of bandages and my feet went numb. The landscape changed from happy shade trees and lightly swelling hills to desert
plateaus and flash floods. We walked apart, no longer helping each other over the difficult parts, but merely trying just to get to some vague horizon in the distance. Why on earth had we ever set out for a
walk that day so long ago and why on earth were we still choosing to walk?

Then one day, both of us trudging slowly along the desert path, he looked over at me with his unshaven face caked in the dirt I had thrown angrily at him during the last storm and said, "I still want to walk with you." And we stopped. We had never stopped before. For two years, we had walked. We had walked no matter what and now, just for a moment, we waited with our feet planted firmly on our layered blisters
for me to find my reply through the tears: "I still want to walk with you, too." And, as I began ashamedly brushing the dirt from his face, he pulled from his pocket, one last soiled, shrunken bandage and reached down tenderly for my foot. "No," I said, putting my hand over his to stop him. "Let's save it. My feet don't hurt right now." He looked at me, surprised. "At least have some water then," he said, tenderly. "We've come a long ways." I smiled. He always had water—I never knew where he found it. We began to walk again, holding hands. "Wait," I said. "Let me check my map." I pulled it out and studied it for awhile. "We're not on here," I said, confused. He looked too. After awhile, I asked, "Where should we go?" and he said, "You choose. You have the compass." Looking around, I saw nothing but desert in all directions. "I want to go north. I've always wanted to go north." We turned north and began  again.

Our surroundings did not immediately change, but we held hands and it got easier. Soon, we were joined on our walk by our son, and although there were hills, we were having so much fun dodging obstacles, swinging him along between us over puddles and laughing that we barely noticed them.

Until the mountain appeared. Until our second son was born screaming about blisters he hadn't even gotten yet. All four of us looked up the mountain at the steep, slippery slopes with barely a landing or
handhold and then back at each other. Our first son shrugged and said, "Whatever you need me to do, Mom and Dad." Our second son started screaming immediately. The husb secured his ever-full water bottle to his waist and grabbed my hand. I led the way.

For two years we climbed up that mountain with one child screaming and one child chatting happily the whole way. The husb, terrified of heights, kept his gaze focused upward. I did my best to keep everyone
from falling off the edge. And then, we reached the top. Both sons were smiling. The husb passed water to us all as I located our position on the map. The views were phenomenal. I could see the way we came up the mountain, and that there had been easier ways that we missed. I could see a precipice where we almost all slid off. It was beautiful here.

For the most part my blisters have healed. I can barely see, way out on the horizon, that desert where we got lost. From where we stand now, it seems like that was the real beginning. Not that night in the
snow when I said yes to the ring his shaky fingers slid onto my finger. Not the morning of the ceremony when, dressed in white with our perfect feet, we were sealed together as eternal partners. But later, after we'd gone west when the map said to go north, after we'd caused each other so many blisters that our feet were as unrecognizable as our surroundings, after we'd told ourselves we could no longer walk and we paused, together, to choose our path forward--that's where this walk began. And, turning to the other side of the mountain, I can see other mountains in the distance that will have to be climbed, more blisters that will have to heal, but for now, I have this view--and oh, what a view it is.

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Vanessa Arden Nuckolls has a an official degree in English and an unofficial degree in the imprecise science of motherhood. Things that light her up inside are the smiles of her children, hugs from her husb, and the intoxicating smells of campfire and fresh rain. She has loved road trips ever since her parents started giving vacations in lieu of Christmas presents and now resides in the most beautiful place she's ever been to--the Pacific Northwest.