TGIF: A Love Letter to My Husband of One Year

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Hi love,

It’s that time of the year again. It’s time to take stock of the year that’s gone by and give myself a report card.

My grades are based on how I fared in the following categories:

a. Things I did.
b. Things I did not do.
c. Things I really wanted to do, but didn’t.
d. Things I really didn’t want to do, but did.

I gained 7 lbs this year. That falls under Category D, Things I Didn’t Want To Do, But Did. I know it’s pretty common to gain weight in your first year of marriage, but I hoped I would somehow escape that cruel statistic.

Can I let you in on something funny, though?

Turns out… I. don’t. care. Not in the least.

Usually this is when I start to make unrealistic goals that fall into Category C, Things I Want To Do, But Won’t.

I start negotiating with God. “If you help me get skinny this year–not TV skinny just Old Navy Size S skinny–I promise to be loving, joyful and patient.”

Fair, no?

But this year was different. It was my first year with you. We promised each other we would “Rise to a better story.” We even made a giant foam sign and got married under it.

I guess I took it too literally. I “rose” to a better (heavier) story.

For the first time in my life, the number on the scale isn’t an accurate measurement of the progress I feel I’ve made this year. I’ve realized that doing the deep heart work of fighting in the arena means you might emerge a little banged up and bruised. Or in my case, sporting a rounder caboose.

I’m more concerned with how far I have come in terms of my relationships, wellness and attitude.

For a girl who has struggled with her weight her whole life, this is HUGE.

Here are some observations I’ve made in our first year of marriage:

1. Rising to a better story is not always sexy.

I gained the first pound on our honeymoon. I was having a grand ol’ time until New Year’s Eve. You had a romantic night planned: hot toddy and a bubble bath. I was too embarrassed to take off my clothes, so I wore my swimsuit.

As hard as I tried to be present and sexy in the moment, I just wanted my mommy! This was my first New Year’s Eve without her.

After ten minutes you said, “I can tell this isn’t really your thing, so we can dry up. But thank you for giving it a shot.”

I came out in my bathrobe feeling like a total killjoy. But then you smiled, stooped over your iPhone, twirled around and said, “I know you’re missing home, so I thought I could bring home to you.”

[cue Whitney Houston singing “I Will Always Love You”]

You made a playlist of all my favourite 90s power ballads: Whitney, Mariah, even Celine.

We spent the night dancing in our bathrobes, crying sporadically and yes, there may have been some food involved. It all started to blur after we popped that can of Pringles.

As we swayed in our bathrobes and hotel slippers, looking over the streetlights of Victoria, we rose out of bitterness into something sweet.

Sexy is overrated.

Hot toddy toddy

2. Rising to a better story is about making big decisions. (Usually scary ones.)

I gained my second pound right after I lost my job. After a week of prescribed moping and unprescribed Cheetos, we had a heart-to-heart about my career options.

We rejected the instinct to rush out and find another job. We started asking the questions beyond work and finances: the ones about life, and wonder, and calling.

You asked me, “Do you want to do photography and writing full-time?”

Your question made me think of the story in the Bible where Jesus asks the paralyzed man, “Do you want to get well?”

I remember thinking, “What kind of crackpot question is that? Of course I do.”

I couldn’t get myself to actually say the words. But the tears, oh the tears, they were talking. I knew I had to decide between the security of a corporate job and my desire to do the things I loved and felt called to do. We talked about ripping up our budget and financial plan, and chasing our dreams instead.

You persisted. “Do you want to do photography and writing full-time?”

“YES. Yes I do!” I finally sputtered.

You beamed and gave me a big hug.

And then, on our first Valentine’s a couple weeks later, you marked the moment with roses, steak and chocolate.

“We are doing this,” you said.

I love that you always say “we.”

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3. Rising to a better story is saying “No” to the lie of scarcity. (This one is a biggie.)

Let’s face it: we’re both perfectionists. We both work too hard. We both sleep too little. We both say “Yes” to too many things. We rarely take the time to celebrate our progress or savour our successes. We are always sprinting to the next thing: the next deadline, the next project, the next task.

We learned this lesson the hard way this year, staring down the barrell of extreme exhaustion, clouded judgment, and deep-rooted fear and anxiety.

Months after the relief of our big, scary decision, we lost our vitality and sense of purpose. We fell into the lie of scarcity and stopped living a life of abundance.

Writing was particularly terrifying. I couldn’t write because I had nothing to say. Our little living room turned into an assembly line where I worked like a drone for 18 hours at a time.

I was numb and disconnected from my feelings. I was so jealous of all the people filling my Facebook feed with posts and poignant reflections. I wanted to feel again. I wanted to write again.

But scarcity silenced me. It silenced both of us.

Fast-forward to a non-descript Saturday afternoon this fall. We’d just finished a shoot, and were about to rush home to do the next thing. But then, we turned off the car, sat in that empty parking lot and decided to escape instead.

We drove down to White Rock and walked on the pier. We ambled up and down the strip reading the menus of each restaurant until we found one we both wanted to try. That kind of investment in a soup and sandwich makes a girl come alive!

We headed up to Grecco’s. My eyes nearly popped out of my head. Rows of cheese, meats, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and greek yogurt. The man at the counter motioned us over and gave us so many samples, my knees almost gave way.

We came home with a stash of goodies. When you were getting changed, I pulled out our still-unused serving platter, rolled up the meat, plated the cheese and arranged the crackers in a semi-circle.

I felt my heart thaw that afternoon. It was our first Sabbath in months.

Greccos version 2 Greccos-3

This is what I learned this year. Rising to a better story is not sexy. It’s making scary decisions, and saying “No” to the lie of scarcity.

Rising to a better story is about leaning into wholeness.
__________________________

As we enter our second year, I want us to keep leaning in.

I love what Ralph Waldo Emerson says:

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

I think we struggle when we focus too strongly on one of these things at the expense of the others: on being righteous, at the expense of compassion; or useful, at the expense of living well.

For many years, I allowed myself to think that I had failed because I wasn’t  skinny, rich or organized.

But now I don’t want to view the world through the lens of failure. I just want to live well. I want us both to live well.

I want us to see people. I mean really see them; really hear them; really love on them. I want us to tell stories and listen to stories: on the bus, in the bank, in the parking lot. I want us to smell the roses, the tomatoes and the pesto. To send handwritten letters, bake pies and give each other backrubs. I want to savour words, sunsets and frozen grapes with you.

And if we gain another 7 lbs doing it… So be it!

xoxo,
Teen

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Tina Francis
My name is Tina. Loved ones call me: Teen. Words are my chocolate. Music, my caramel. Photography, my bread. Girlfriends, my butter. Confession: Some girls dream about Manolo Blahniks or their next Hermes bag. Not me. I dream of freshly baked bread, perfectly barbecued meat & steaming bowls of Pho. My dream lover *cue Mariah Carey song* is someone who would read out a menu to me in Barry White’s baritone voice. I celebrate food, ask for help, interrupt conversations, laugh and cry hard, acknowledge the elephant in most rooms, fight for the underdog and believe in the power of storytelling. I was born and raised in Dubai and currently live in the beautiful city of Vancouver, known for some of the best sushi in the world.
Tina Francis
Tina Francis