Ten months of marriage already illustrate hard-won, satisfying emotional construction. Travis and I have picked up and built: a smooth honeymoon week, political arguments, shared entertainment interests, family health concerns, rich conversations, stressful work seasons, road trips, job changes, hilarious parties, gained pounds, resolve to run more, numerous facebook rants, tasty meals, and pretty coastline. The maxim that newlywed time moves extraordinarily fast resonates. These bright red bricks will erect a gorgeous home one day, but before they do some explosions are required to lay foundation. God started blowing up stingy character flaws years ago, and I’m continually awed at the results. This relationship project bears resemblance to teaching high school and college students how to write. The careful plucking and sometimes painful digging of nominalization and passive voice can yield a charming essay or two, as well as clarity. Likewise, forcing myself to share and enjoy meal-planning and learning when to forget or continue an argument yields trust and compassion. Michael Harvey’s “The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing” and marriage both show grace in mounting writing skill and our relationship.
Harvey opens up his work with the chapter “Concision: The Pompous Style at School.” I dreaded these words, which reminded me of past and present hubris in writing. Stringing linking verbs and passive voice through every sentence can really annoy readers. How is this corrected? Harvey suggests cutting all of the unnecessary garbage at the first revision. He encourages writers to shave their language until blood is pricked and legs are completely smooth. If writers are honest, they will know what to cut. We should stop thinking about glamour, and focus on substance. Unless you’re Marcel Proust or James Joyce, and then you can do whatever you want with language and continue selling books. Similar to writing, weddings, while extraordinarily beautiful and filled with metaphor, should serve to prepare us for future conflict. The important little details can spawn from pretty words. But they still need to make sense in context, once the last glass of champagne is finished and life begins.
It was an adventure to remain in the apartment with someone I was so angry at, rather than ignoring him or driving away to a bookstore. He is here, and can’t be ignored. I’m quite positive the situation reversed itself. Yet, if these awkward and terrible moments didn’t happen there would be no commitment to stay and work things out. The release and freedom of honestly assessing and fixing emotional issues would stay untapped. If we didn’t work, play, sleep, and watch cartoons and documentaries with each other, the strangeness would never really go away. So while at this stage we feel comfortable and intimate, there is lots of bill-paying, dish-washing, and no-excuse trips to church we need to make. There are bizarre social situations that we need to keep having, involving growth and change. I would prefer to flesh this out with no one other than my T.
Perhaps one of the best things about writing is the constant revision, the chance to be better someday than now. The rest of Harvey’s book walks through steps to polish and finish well. While our relationship feels fresh and settled, it joyfully awaits whatever muck is coming up. Then one day with gray hair, drier skin, and sleeping great-grandchildren on our laps, we can smile at each other with our eyes and see the mud turn to jewels.