Starting with a disclaimer is boring so I’m not going to. We can slog through that in a little while. Instead, how about we begin with a short biography of me, the author of all the sentences you’re looking at?
I’m going to imagine that whoever’s reading this has just said something like:
“Hey man, this is YOUR article. As long as you have a point, do whatever the hell you want!”
Yeah, I agree, and I do, so let’s start with the short bio:
My name is Andy Baxter. I am married to Sarah Baxter who is a loving, independent, beautiful, tiny, fiercely loyal, hard-working, creative, funny, unique, and many-other-things woman. I am also a singer in a music band called Penny & Sparrow.
See? That was quick, moderately painless, and you learned the two things about me that you’ll need so as to continue reading along. In case you missed them though, here they are again in an, even more, brevity friendly format:
I’m married. I’m a musician.
There. That’s that. Now onto part 2, which I’m calling:
THE VILLAGE METHOD (a.k.a. – Why I’m actually writing this thing)
We were really lucky in the early days of full-time music. That luck came at us in a bunch of ways, too.
One of them is the fact that when we started going on big tours, our wives came with us.
We all 4 decided to live off our savings and what we could make on the road.
We relied on the hospitality of strangers and went on a massive, grueling, beautiful, painful, exciting, depressing, Nationwide adventure.
Sometimes it was romantic, like when we got to take our wives on a date to Central Park and we fell asleep in the sun.
Sometimes it was shitty, like breaking down crying in Arkansas and feeling like privacy is impossible to find.
Sometimes it was easy, like when you show up to a city you’ve never been to and a couple hundred folks show up knowing your words.
Sometimes it was damn near impossible, like when your van dies for good in Jersey the morning of the show you’re supposed to play in Charlottesville. (We made it by the way, just barely)
Going through so many different things in different places was exhausting. There was just so much change, all the time, and you and your spouse are in this little eye of the storm as the constant. Some days it felt like we were the only unmoving things in this huge flipbook of newness where page after page was a different city and a different venue.
That process sharpened us a ton and we are deeply thankful for wisdom gained through friction.
That said, I reckon it’s time for my disclaimer:
Giving advice can be murky business. It sometimes feels like guesswork mixed with feigning expertise. It’s hard because everyone is different and just because something worked for one person doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing for somebody else. That said, I do think there’s value in telling stories and walking people through your successes and failures. That’s a kind of advice, I think.
It might take a village to raise a child but I also think it takes a village to get through adulthood. Thus: I believe people are necessary. I believe we need folks to tell us where they bled and what cut them so that, maybe, we can avoid that very same knife.
So yeah, I’m married and I’m a musician and I have lived my own life and seen some things. Allow me, in my own meandering way, to show you something about my marriage that you might find helpful.
Now it’s time for the main course. I shall call it….
ITERATIONS (a poem & a practice)
My partner of 8 years is beside me in bed
I’m almost positive it’s her
I remember when she slept on her breasts
With her face pointed out a window in Texas
But this woman sleeps on her side
And we own a home together in Alabama
She was aggressively blonde once
That was around the time she swore off scary movies
But the wife stirring next to me
Loves October films and buzzes her head
There was an apartment and a girl who never drank
Still here, older, an enjoyer of scotch and water
A past life nurse with the sturdiest of spines
Here she yawns, more designer than doctor
I loved it, way back, when she said I’m sorry with a kiss
I love it now when she says it with sentences
We started and she was 23, planted deeper than me
She’s 31 now and our roots have fused
Years ago, home from a hard day, she would want space
Today was hard though, and she wanted words and me
She promises she’s the same Sarah
I say it doesn’t matter, I’ve fallen for every version
I think the poem does a decent job describing something about relationships we forget. Hell, it’s something about humans we forget. The non-fancy way to describe it goes like this: People change.
But that’s only two words and the idea is too heavy to be held up by such simplistic columns. A better description would be: People are ever-changing. That’s closer, but it still doesn’t really carry the weight of what I mean.
Maybe this will help…
The woman I fell asleep next to on our first night of marriage is not the same woman sitting across the table from me as I write this. She looks different, she enjoys different food, she hates different things, she loves the stuff she used to hate, she laughs in a different way, she has sex in a different way, and her smile isn’t the same.
DNA testing will prove that, yes, it is still her, but I think you get what I’m saying. I married a living, breathing, evolving beauty. Her beauty requires something of me, too. It requires me to be a student, sitting at its feet, and studying the nuances.
Loving her is like taking a language class that keeps updating regularly with new slang and different nouns. And with each new addition, the grammar rules change. In short, loving her is hard sometimes.
What I’ve learned to do is be curious. Check in and ask questions. Learning your lover and relearning them again and again and again.
Allow them to do the same for you because, in case you haven’t noticed, you’re evolving as well. What I think you’ll find is that partners who embrace each other’s fluctuating personalities love, forgive, and weather difficulty better than folks who don’t.
The people you love are going to keep changing regardless of whether you’re a gas station attendant, owner of a flower shop, doctor, lawyer, or lowly traveling musician.
So if you’ll allow me one sentence’s worth of unsolicited advice, keep reading…