Last night I got to see Regina Spektor perform in Asheville. I just got introduced to her music over the summer, when I heard her interviewed on NPR and subsequently bought her latest CD. The concert was fabulous - my friend Destiny scored some free tickets for us, and I passed one of them on to my friend Mandy. We all had a great time and now I'm an even bigger fan, so much so that I bought another one of her CDs today, primarily because of one of the last songs she played last night that I just had to have. Spektor has an interesting, beautifully strong voice, quirky, intellectual lyrics, and she plays the piano (among other things). Since marrying a piano player 5 years ago, I tend to be drawn to musicians who include piano in their work.
The song that really reached out and grabbed me, that I just had to listen to again today, was played near the end of the show - the first in her encore set. The lights were low, and only an array of tiny white star-like lights illuminated the stage. She played a sweet love song, Samson, and I found myself moved in that why that only music can do, thinking about my own love and all that our relationship has grown into. I think its really a song about a relationship that has ended, but It was a beautiful moment nonetheless, the highlight of the evening for me.
When a friend of mine got married a few years ago, I wrote in her wedding card, "congratulations! Now the real work - and the real fun - begins." In hindsight, it was a pretty pretentious thing to say. I was only a "veteran" of about a year or so of marriage, and I really didn't know how much work marriage was going to be. But, aside from the fact that I was probably not experienced enough to write that, it turns out to be true. Other than parenting, marriage is definitely the hardest, most worthwhile thing I've ever done.
When I wrote that note to my friend, I believed that, once you got through that first really hard year, marriage was all uphill. Brian and I had had an incredibly difficult first year of marriage, complete with both of us wondering why we'd gotten married in the first place. But, right around our first anniversary, things leveled out, and we found a rhythm in our relationship that clicked.
Since then I've learned that marriage is more cyclical than linear, with ups and downs that will challenge even the strongest of foundations. I can think back over the past five years and point to moments of incredible love and joy. I remember Brian saying to me when I was pregnant, "what could be more beautiful than the woman I love pregnant with my baby". It was probably one of the sweetest moments of our relationship. Months later, gazing together at a newborn Isadora, all of us bathed in the glow of our new family, it felt like our love had reached a new height - a new pinnacle neither of us had known existed.
The funny thing is, as wonderful as it has been having Dora, it has also been one of the biggest challenges we've faced. Before we had a baby, I really thought we would be different from all those other couples, that our relationship wouldn't be negatively impacted in any way by bringing a third person into it. After almost two and a half years, I can see now that, even though in some ways becoming parents brought our marriage to its knees, it has also brought us closer together. We've been forced to focus our relationship on a greater purpose, so the highlight of our week is no longer a great meal out, but an evening at home together, laughing at our inquisitive and brilliant little girl, both of us still shocked to discover that together we could create something so perfect.
By no means do I think we're out of the woods. I know things will continue to be up and down. There will still be bills to pay and messes to clean up, and we'll have another baby someday and throw everything out of whack again. But how lovely it was last night to have a beautiful evening out with my girlfriends, happily revisiting my carefree, pre-baby, pre-marriage days. Lovelier still was the experience of sitting in a dark auditorium between two great friends, moved by a piece of music that reminded me not only of my carefree, single days, but of the sweet love waiting for me at home beneath the stars, imperfect and messy but mine.