wedding beach photo

My Long Exhale – A Love Story

wedding beach photo
Beach Photo by: Erika Papi

I am a quitter. I quit things all the time. Whether its Burpees or breaking bad habits, when the going gets rough, I get going. It seems I would rather leap into fire then feel the heat of it against my skin. If things become uncomfortable and I can quit, I will. If I begin to doubt myself or my work, I’ll back down before I’ll buff up. I resist change like its the plague, though I am constantly working on growth. I look forward to positive development but wither away from seemingly difficult situations. I have learned that life’s challenges have given me the best excuse to work my program, to understand the depths of my soul and to ultimately become better person. However, it doesn’t make it any easier to endure discomfort. My hurt feelings, suffocation, worry, doubt and shame still sting with a feeling of endlessness. I find if I can stick with them, eventually they pass or blow up, but either outcome is far less painful than the gripping strangle of the unknown.

I just returned from my Honeymoon. It was the most spectacular week of my adult life. I finally exhaled the breath I had been holding for half a year. And it was a long respire. Six months ago, I didn’t know if I would make it to my Honeymoon. After dating, my husband, Wade for only 6 months, and just beginning to feel the warmth of love’s sweet light. My heart and soul was torn in half when he was diagnosed with an incredibly serious case of Melanoma. The week following was a whirlwind. Within 5 days I married the man I love, added him to my insurance plan and scheduled a major surgery to remove the 4 inch tumor from his neck which began as a freckle just a year prior.

During that time, somehow, we remained pretty calm. It took about a month to process paperwork and schedule his surgery. Everyday I wondered if it was spreading, if it was going to his brain or his heart. I prayed I wouldn’t loose the love it took me 20 years to find. I was uncomfortable, and despite all of my best efforts to save him, I could’t. I was just as powerless as I was in everything else in my life. I wanted to know the outcome. I wanted to know that he would be okay. I wanted to determine how bad it was, I wanted to prepare for what I might have to go through. I wanted to see the future. I wanted to be in control.

I am thankful to God, and to all the people who supported me through this time. I realized this was life or death and I couldn’t compete. I prayed. I breathed. I was still and I let it be. I sat hand and hand with the cancer and I waited. All of my quitting tactics came to mind. I wanted to run away. I wanted to pretend like it wasn’t happening, but I was powerless and all I could do was surrender. I stopped resisting, and below the pelting of the storm, I found a quite peace. My husband of just 30 days came out of the surgery with borders and lymph nodes cancer free. Not a day goes by that I am not grateful for this wonderful man, his love, his devotion and dedication. Our marriage is built on a foundation of understanding, sobriety and honesty but most of all hope and its nothing I can take credit for, because I didn’t do it alone.

wedding photo
Wedding Photo by: David Painter

Its ironic that we chose the tropical island of Puerto Rico for our trip. It sang it’s sweet song of recovery to me each morning through the hot breezes of the Rainforest. Though the canopy was tattered and much less dense than it used to be, there it still stood. A mighty proud horizon beaming with resilience. Everywhere we went the Island whispered a story of rebirth and quiet tenacity. Just a year ago, they were torn and devastated.

I imagined those mighty Palms bowing to the winds of the hurricane, surrendering and being flexible enough to bear the storm. Though they lost their leaves, the foundation remained. The rigid ones would have broken.

One day on the island, we went snorkeling. I didn’t know how to breath in and out through my mouth. I kept trying to suck the air in through my nose. My body wanted to be in control. I wanted to do it my way. Once again, I resisted. I fought with my mask. I panicked and sputtered for air. My husband patiently stood beside me, while I learned I’d have to give up my control. I breathed deep and prayed that if I yielded to the snorkel it would keep me breathing. I dipped my head under the water feeling the cold pressure against my face. I intentionally breathed in through my mouth and then out through my mouth. I was alive! I had made it! The rest of the swim I focused on my breathing, a meditation underwater. I had resigned my resistance. I realized that going against my grain would have to be intentional. Surrender, trust, hope, release and exhale. Hadn’t I been doing this all along? Why was it easier to do when it came to cancer than a deep sea dive?

snorkeling

I know now, my desire to cut and run will always be there. If I can sit and wait, be flexible and stop resisting, I can survive and maybe even be reborn like the tiny island which opened it’s healing arms to us. Just six months ago we were floating out to seas of uncertainty. I am blessed in knowing that I have found a love that will always endure the storms of life by my side. If the best thing I could do in my life was be there to marry him, to help him, than that’s well worth the meaning of mine. This is something I will never quit. I may have rescued him in some ways, but in a lot of ways he has rescued me too. What I’ve learned of marriage so far is that it is always evolving. I will remember to breath in deep every moment of this life I have with him, and exhale the joy and happiness in knowing we were made to save each other.