Over the last several months John leveled up from a Forged in Fire enthusiast (I confess I enjoy this show too, except for the part where they gleefully test blades on giant dangling pig carcasses) to a full-blown knifemaker. He now has the forge, anvil, various pieces of the kind of machinery that looks like it may potentially come to life at night like that one Stephen King story where the industrial laundry machine went evil-sentient and start killing the shit out of everyone, the man-apron, the whole nine yards.

The kinds of knives he’s been focused on are made from Damascus steel, which is a blend of different alloys of metal that form a distinctive wavy/mottled/liquidy appearance. You know how a puddle with a film of vehicle oil can be surprisingly pretty, because of how the oil refracts the light in those rainbow-colored swirls and patterns? That’s what these blades remind me of.

Damascus steel is known for its beauty and also its strength. John sandwiches layers of stainless and carbon steel together, which get sent into the forge over and over again as the layers are stretched and folded over upon themselves. The eventual hard-won result is so lovely because of its contrast, it’s sharper and more durable because of the combination of different metals.

Three of his blades hang in our kitchen, they’re the best knives I’ve ever owned by a long shot.

I like seeing them there; they serve as a reminder that it’s possible to not only survive the fire but come out stronger on the other end.

On the day that I’m writing this, May 5th, John and I will have been married 20 years. Twenty! We have spent just about half of our lives together, which is mind-boggling in and of itself before I even start really considering all the changes we’ve experienced over the last two decades. It’s like we got in a car back in 1999 with a vague destination in mind — probably a bar — and we just kept driving, through increasingly complicated landscapes.

In many ways, I can’t believe we’ve made it this far. We were contrasting elements to begin with. We have been in the fire over and over and over again, and I don’t mean a cozy campfire where you talk out your feelings but a skin-peeling inferno that threatens to scorch away what fragile ties remain.

This marriage should be rubble. This marriage should be ashes. This marriage should not have survived so many trips into the burn.

The last few years have been the hardest, and I hope to someday be capable of writing about that in a way that’s authentic and respectful. In a deeply polarized culture that advocates for severing ties over political differences, I’d sure like to see more examples of how people manage to stay connected.

The TL;DR of our love story is pretty simple, though: we’re still here. We’re still standing side by side, and on most days, hand in hand.

Our twenty years of marriage have intertwined our lives, our two wildly different selves, woven them together and pulled them far apart. We are mixed together, combined but wholly separate, blended but not dissolved. We’re held together by love and family and shared memories and respect and a mule-stubborn refusal to give up on each other.

The other day I caught sight of John and thought how dear his face is to me. How it’s nearly as familiar as my own. How I feel a mini-rush of love whenever I see him, not the pulse-quickening kind that comes primarily from hormones and uncertainty, but a deeper kind of vibration that feels like it involves my whole entire heart.

I can see this complex love going on and on as long as our bodies hold on, this never-ending story of us that is made stronger and more beautiful not despite of, but because of our differences. Because of the hard times.

Twenty years in, what I most hope for is that we are lucky enough to get at least twenty more.


I feel like I am always talking/writing about aging lately, which makes sense because I think about aging so frequently these days, at least inasmuch as I’m able to focus on any one topic for any length of time on account of how foggy and distracted my brain always feels which seems potentially like an aging thing?

(Or a pandemic thing. Or a menopause thing. Or a clickbait-culture thing. SO MANY THINGS.)

One glance at this long-running blog and it’s clear that self-absorption has been my jam from the getgo, but I don’t think I am obsessively focused on aging, exactly. I think the middle-age years are a natural time to kind of … really look at your life, you know?

If you’re a parent your kids may be transforming into sulky adult-sized humans whose dependence on you is now reduced to requests for Hi-Chew to be added to the grocery order, and the empty-nest view is no longer blurry and unimaginable but right there in front of you. If you work outside the home you may be re-evaluating your career and goals and maybe even your definition of success. If you’re a female person with a body you’re probably noticing all sorts of increasingly dramatic changes, none of which are endorsed or even accepted by the cultural beauty standards we’ve all marinated in for pretty much our entire lives.

There are things I don’t enjoy about aging, like for instance the observable physical decline (example: I very briefly broke out into a run on the beach during our spring break getaway and my right glute was like RUNNING? OH HO HO I THINK NOT, and over a month later it’s still mildly bothersome, which seems like a lot of punishment for approximately 4 seconds of jogging), and of course the no-longer-abstract knowledge that children are little for such a short amount of time and that time is now gone forever, excuse me while I get all red-nosed and watery-eyed as always happens lately whenever I think about that fact which is distressingly often.

Anyway. Plenty to bitch about, but so many more things that are actually legitimately wonderful about getting older. I feel like I really know myself now, and I mean who I am as a person and what kinds of challenges and situations and friendships and environments I find most rewarding, but also, like, what style of clothes work best for me? (A-line dress is most flattering, empire waist is a forever no.)

Overall there’s this sense of shift towards what is most meaningful, at least that’s how I perceive it. For instance, my thinking on fitness has changed so much in recent years, veering away from vanity-based motivation to a longer-view approach: I stay active and I work on flexibility because I want to be able to do all the things I love doing (which excludes running, obvs) for as long as possible. I mean, I wouldn’t mind if I could fit into 2019’s pants again while I’m at it, but that’s not the main thing anymore.

That aforementioned brain fog isn’t so great, but I’ll tell you what, even that has its upsides: entire books, movies, and TV series have largely disappeared into the ether of my memory which means they can be enjoyed all over again as if they were new. Plus, if something’s bumming me out, eventually *squirrel!* my attention is drawn elsewhere.


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