It’s not easy to talk about a marriage. Even if there weren’t so many slippery boundaries where yours becomes his and the territory of ours wasn’t so dependant on whose lens is doing the viewing, marriage is a living thing: changing day by day, adapting and straining and growing.

So all of this is tricky, but I want to tell you: if marriage is something like a plant, meant to creep steadily towards sunlight and withering in times of drought, mine is blooming. Against all odds, really. Exploding with quiet vitality and strength and surprise beauty. A semi-forgotten Christmas cactus awoken from dormancy, unfurling dusty leaves to reveal fire-tinged petals: You thought I was just a houseplant? Surprise, motherfucker.

This May John and I will have been married eighteen years, which is long enough to have gone through some shit. I mean, we have been chin-deep and sinking on more than one occasion, I’m trying to stay wary of what’s okay and what’s not okay to reveal but I will just say this, we have both been in the position of talking to a lawyer. That’s how close we were to sinking below the surface.

We were in a particularly tough season a relatively short time ago, when our political differences became a frigid Everest-sized space between us. That’s when you know you’re really in trouble, when the anger dies away and all that’s left is exhaustion.

I don’t know how we kept going, really, except that a family can be like life support: the machinations of a daily routine keeps a thin breath of air going in and out until the heart can maybe, just maybe, beat on its own again.

This marriage is made of so many things, memories and shared experiences and bone-deep hurts and full-bodied laughter, my greatest challenge and my greatest joy. What a gift to turn the corner and be delighted by how rich and deep and comforting and exciting a partnership can be after so many years, what an insanely lucky person I am to have found someone so confounding and bullheaded and true-hearted and deserving.

I have been feeling very sorry for myself because I have a cold, which is much much MUCH worse than the viral ailments John has loudly endured. I can tell you this with certainty because I have a vagina. Penis = man cold = giant titty baby whiner-pants. Vagina = death flu = heroic silent suffering while Getting Shit Done. Don’t complain to me, I didn’t invent the anatomical traits.

It’s true that I may have formed a couch-nest out of a heating pad and piles of tissues and a magazine that was so trashy I shame-slid it facedown across the grocery checkout belt like it was a copy of Underage Anal Porcupine-Squirting Tentacle Queens which I just made up but is probably a real Internet publication because rule 34. It’s also true I have been loudly exclaiming “DAMMIT!” after every knee-buckling sneeze, a behavior I would find deeply annoying if exhibited by any other person in this household, but let’s be honest: my cold is worse than theirs. It is a Mom Cold, a brutal whole-bodied takeover that leaves a person hacking weakly into the laundry while still folding the laundry.

The Mom Cold is miserable but garners no sympathy, the Mom Cold is just another unlovely attritribute like my weirdly square-shaped ass. My giant disease vector children go flying by, germs and bacteria trailing behind them in murky green clouds. “Wash your hands,” I say to NO ONE AT ALL because THAT’S WHO IS LISTENING, and go back to reading about George Clooney, who I bet is a moaning little dapper bitch when he has a cold.