I hope you guys don't mind me filling in for Stephanie this week. She’s been working tirelessly for so long that she is well overdue for a break. Plus, this gives me an opportunity to tell a slightly different story. Don’t get me wrong, this one has the same characters, plot, setting, conflict, and resolution, but the point of view and theme are a little different. Be prepared to experience the sappiest and least sarcastic version of me ever recorded.
Since we are going to be spending the about 3-5 minutes together, I thought it would be appropriate to tell you all a little secret about me...I am a true romantic. Before you roll your eyes, let me explain. You know in the movies when a group of women are standing together in the office when all of a sudden some random guy walks in and holding a bouquet of flowers and says “Delivery for Miss Smith”, and then the woman reads the cheesiest card ever as all of her friends standing around say, in unison, “aww...he is so romantic”? That is not me and it’s not how I view romance. That’s not even the bullshit version of romance.
Now might also be a good time for me to mention that I view love differently than most. Instead of spending way too long giving a really boring explanation of how everyone else views love, followed by an equally thrilling description of my take on it, it might be better to express the difference in story form.
The current cultural expectation of love is quite easy, predictable, and boring. It goes something like this: Boy meets girl (I told you it was predictable, right?). The second they see each other they fall madly in love (boring), and live happily ever after (easy). There is no effort, no hard times, no moments where you pretend to have an important work meeting just so you can get out of the house for a few extra hours.
The second story is a bit different. Girl meets girl, and like any other casual meeting there are no sparks or little red shaped hearts filling the voids of their minds. In fact, almost 6 months go by before they even see each other again. Another two years will pass before they join forces as roommates in order to stay in this total shithole of a house that is way overpriced but is close to where they work and has a fenced in backyard for their dogs.
It didn’t take long for the attraction to kick in, but once it kicked in they were goners. Head over heels for each other. So they did what every normal couple does-they had a shotgun wedding in Michigan during the 12 hours it was legal before the supreme court told the country that denying same sex couples the right to marry was ridiculous because anyone who has ever been married knows it is always the same sex.
After they get married, they settle down, buy a house, and start a family of the four legged variety of course, because well, bees. To be perfectly honest, I am not sure which animal correlates to which gender in that whole sex talk scenario but it’s not really important. What matters is that they met, fell in love, got married, bought a house, and had a cute but very hairy family. Then one day, one of them comes home from work and finds the other curled into the fetal position on the bed and silently crying. When asked what was wrong she heard, “I don’t know, I just needed to cry”.
Like everyone else who has never experienced the spontaneous need to cry, she slowly walked backwards out of the room. This is where love really comes into the picture. You see before this Me, Myself, and Irene moment, this was pretty close to the fairy-tale ending of happily ever after (with the exception of the one time that one of them said the wrong thing at a dinner party). Most people who believe in the fairy tale version of love would have bolted out of that room faster than you can say divorce. But how meaningful is love if it is always easy? Think about it like this, would you rather have someone bring you store bought cookies or homemade cookies?
Sure, sometimes my wife is like a real life reenactment of every character in Winnie The Pooh. But the moral of this story is that love is hard sometimes, and when it is the hardest is when it is the most important and the most meaningful.
It was on Facebook that I came out to the world. I was "In a Relationship" with a woman. Bam. There it was. My family kind of knew something was up, but not really. They knew I was going on road trips with my roommate and spending a lot of time with her. I even brought her home for the holidays. It's like they knew, but they didn't know. Same with my friends. It's not official until it's official.
Why did I use Facebook instead of calling my family and telling them? I can think of a few reasons, but honestly, it was easier that way. Everyone I knew would see it and I wouldn't have to tell the story over and over again. Done deal. I also knew it could've been an uncomfortable situation. I didn't want to experience that. I didn't want others to fall silent on the phone, or to ask me a bunch of questions. Not that it would've gone that way, but still. And I didn't want to do it in person. Same reasons. After I made my declaration however, it was nothing to worry about. Everyone accepted me and loved me still.
Through all of my battles at Notre Dame, I still came out (no pun intended) with a victory! Love conquers all, it's true. Sarah is the greatest gift I’ve ever received. There is so much I want to tell you about Sarah. She’s my wife in case you didn’t know. We'll start there.
A while back I told you about the deer. That incredible moment I had running down some country roads. It is true that the way I felt in that moment has never repeated itself. It was a one of a kind feeling meant for a one of a kind moment.
Meeting Sarah was different. I found the best of me when Sarah came along. She is the one I will share the rest of my life with. She is a one of a kind gal for a one of kind me.
I’ve learned that choosing love is always right. Being loved by Sarah and loving Sarah has taught me that loving others and yourself is important. It’s something we can all do and that we sometimes don’t do enough of. I repeat, it is something we don’t do enough of.
God, we have been through so much together; the worst of times and the best. We’ve grown as a couple and are still learning to grow as individuals. Growth is constant for us. We make it a priority. We try to be mindful of how we treat each other and the things we say to one another. We make life worth living. We dance in the rain. We beat the storms. You could say the sun is always shining.
The University of Notre Dame was a big part of my life. For her too. We sometimes joke about our experiences leading up to getting our jobs. Two gay women working at a private Catholic institution. C'mon that's kind of funny.
K, so we met in 2011, engaged in 2013. When same-sex marriage was a hot topic we were interviewed on Notre Dame's campus by WSBT news. While we were engaged, same-sex marriage became legal in Michigan in 2014. Our wedding was planned for July 4 of that year in Indiana, where same-sex marriage was NOT legal. So, on March 22, 2014, we drove two hours to Muskegon, Michigan to get married.
Interesting Fact: We were one of 323 gay couples who managed to wed shortly before a Detroit judge issued a stay on gay marriage. Several couples standing right behind us in line were turned away. I wish I could put a stay on mental illness! Can a judge do anything about that?
On July 4th, 2014 we had our planned wedding with our friends and family. We were officially WIFE & WIFE, Mrs. and Mrs. Ryckman. Aaahhhhhhhhh!
When you love someone you would do anything for them. And I'm not talking about help around the house or a foot massage. I'm talking about the things they don't ask you. I’m talking about just knowing when someone you love is struggling. You can see it, you can feel it. And even if you feel hopeless, or frustrated, or you don't understand, you figure it out. Sarah figured it out. You haven't heard the most difficult part of my story yet, but she knew what to do to help me.
Ask her now, she’ll tell you she loves me even more today than ever before. (Tomorrow could be different, KIDDING! :-)
It took a long time before she would understand my mental illness. That’s okay. It happened at the right time. She is now my biggest supporter and for that I am thankful. I love her with all that I am. She is the best of me.
Stay tuned next week as my wife shares her thoughts with you.
I just want all people to learn and grow together.