I can’t recall having such a fondness for a particular year that I felt sorrier to see it go than I was eager to greet the enticingly blank slate of the new one, but 2015 achieved it. It’s not that the year was easy; it wasn’t. But it was full of the kind of satisfying rewards that often come with pushing through hard stuff.
After six years of trying fruitlessly to squeeze out the impossibility of perfect security from our relationship, Trav and I laid down our arms, and agreed that always going back to Square One was a solid ground on which to rest our partnership. We got married on a warm spring day at McCormick’s Creek State Park, amid the iridescent green of new leaves dotted with redbud blossoms.
My brother, as well as our friend and assistant, Sarah, photographed it. Life holds few absolutely perfect days, but that was one of them.
We had asked our friend Fred to officiate our wedding, and he agreed. Fred has been Travis’s best buddy since the fifth grade, but he has become very special to me as well. It’s a gift to love your husband’s best friend as much as he does, and I’m grateful for it. We all love the wilderness, have traveled there together before, and I hope we will again in the future. Having Fred officiate our wedding meant that someone who knows us better than we do in some ways helped us define our marriage from the beginning. This was one of the things Fred said in the ceremony that accomplished that:
Being together means Jen and Travis help one another become more of who they want to become. Like many of their trips, this relationship is an ambiguous adventure. They do not seek predictability; it is the promise of the unknown that is exciting.
I will always think of 2015 as the year of the Ambiguous Adventure. It’s a phrase we repeat to ourselves whenever we set out into nature, whenever we run into problems in our relationship, and even when things just seem frightening or uncertain. And we will always have Fred to thank for that. Details slip into the ether, but the gift of Fred’s friendship will always mean two things to me: seeing his smiling face as Travis and I cemented our partnership in marriage, and the reference point he gave us in the Ambiguous Adventure.
We got our first opportunity to use that reference point shortly after the wedding, when Trav got ill and then had surgery. But once again, I learned and grew in unexpected and happy ways. We both became more who we wanted to be.
Then, about a month after my own wedding, Sarah asked me to officiate hers. This was the kind of request that sent me scurrying to think and to deal with my own fears. Suddenly and forcefully, I realized the gravity of what we had asked Fred to do, when I was faced with the request myself. Ideally, a person has very few weddings, so if you are officiating one, you had better do it right. I tend to have high expectations of myself. And betting my performance against one of the high points of a good friend’s life was a responsibility so crushing I would have run screaming from it only a few years ago.
But the gift of the last decade or so of my life has been learning how to sack the hell up, and so I did. Lawyers can be appointed temporary judges for occasions such as this, and we had a judge friend of ours bestow that honor upon me for the appointed time. And so on the Fourth of July — another improbably perfect day — I stood in front of a gathering of people at Sarah’s parents’ lake house in southern Indiana, and gave an address I had spent weeks writing, and was still revising five minutes before the ceremony. And I’m so glad I did. It was such a rich experience to bring two friends together, and to stand near them as they committed to one another in that way. Their vows were funny and lighthearted, as you can see in the photo below.
As a bonus, my brother photographed her wedding too, so again it all felt like a joyful team effort.
When I think of 2015, our two weddings and the changes they worked in me and those I love figure prominently. The magic worked in the first half of the year by those events would help me process and resolve even bigger issues in the fall.
I’ll always remember 2015 as the year that many knots came untied. It’s difficult to imagine a better year, and that all-too-human part of me wants to linger there a little longer.
But that’s not how life works. Onward, to the next scene change. Or we might miss it.