Sixteen years ago I married the man I fell in love with.
Sixteen years ago, I had no idea about life, about love, about how hard it would be to choose to wake up every morning and stay married. How hard it would be to choose to hold tight, when all I wanted was to run. How hard it is, even today, on my anniversary, to choose to stay grounded when my weary bones ache with the weight of making it through another day.
See, nobody ever told me what it would be like to be married to a farmer. I didn't marry a farmer. I married a man who just happened to be a farmer. Little did I know that the two could never be separated. It turns out I did marry a farmer. And a farm. And everything that goes with that. And you can't test run these things. You can't try it out for a while and know if you've got what it takes, and make your decision from that. You jump in the deep end, blindfolded, and hope to God you know how to swim.
Most days I still feel as though I'm treading water, flailing, faking; hoping at some point I'll look back and wonder what was ever so hard about this. But not today. Because, damn straight, I could never have known how hard being married to a farmer was going to be.
I didn't know what it felt like after a long, dry summer when it still hadn't rained in March. When there is not a blade of grass in the paddock, and the pasture that you spent thousands of dollars planting in the winter has withered to nothing in the summer. When your bank account is at its lowest and your overdraft at its highest. I didn't know what it would be like to try and remain positive, when your soul is as parched as the land that surrounds your every view. When you see the look on your husband's face every time he comes back from checking on the sheep. You try not to worry about the next time you'll see some income. "It will rain. It always does," you say.
Except when it doesn't.
Pic: Kathy Parker
I knew nothing of the depth of loneliness and isolation that exists living in such a remote part of the country. The way the wide, open spaces that you once so loved can turn and mesh into wide, open spaces of your heart that you can never seem to fill. Spaces that you long to be filled by the family and the friends you love so dearly. Except they are so, so far away. And 350km feels like an eternity away, as lack of finances and lack of time and lack of opportunity begin to consume. And you wake some days with an ache, as though you are an orphan. You long for home. Except you don't really know where home is. Or if it even exists.
I had no idea of the fear of bushfires, storms, tornadoes and earthquakes. How precious water was and how devastating it would be to not be able to have a bath when your muscles ache but your rainwater tank is all but empty. How many times I would have to drive the dreaded 100km round trip each week to be there for my kids at school, or after school, no matter what I needed to get done in my day. How wearing it would be to drive 300km for a music lesson, and 700km for an orthodontist appointment. How never having a reliable internet service would make me feel like Tom Hanks in Castaway.
I didn't know that I would have to learn how to be an expert on GST and PAYG and BAS lodgments. That I would have to find the courage to shoot a snake and kill a Huntsman. I didn't know that I would have to be a roustabout, a tractor driver, and chop a load of wood. All while being seven months pregnant with three other children under my feet. I didn't know how little need there was for nice clothes, for makeup, to shave my legs, and for cute shoes. Especially cute shoes. I didn't know how empty it would feel to have nowhere to go, weekend after weekend. How many holidays and dates and special occasions we declined because the belt had to be pulled tighter again.
I didn't know how many sacrifices I would have to make.
I didn't know how many dreams I would have to give up.
I married the man I loved. But goddamn, it's been a tough road.
Tonight I was moping that we hadn't done anything to celebrate our anniversary. Paul was frustrated with not understanding what was wrong with me, and I couldn't put it into words.
When really, it is so simple. Life is tough. Our life is tough. Our marriage has been tough. God knows how we made it this far. We are both weary. We are both spent. We are both giving our all to be everything for everyone else. Our marriage gets put so far down the priority list and most of the time we live as ships who pass in the night. And just for this one day of the year, I needed to put us first, and to honour how far we've come and what we've worked so hard for. In spite of every damn obstacle that has come our way.
But we didn't. Life once again got in the way.
So I went for a run. And I glanced over into one of the paddocks we'd fenced off and planted trees in a couple of years ago. We'd spent days planting these trees -- one side was deep soil, and the other side was shallow rock. It was the side planted in shallow rock that actually grew, which always seemed strange to me. How does that happen? How does the tree that has to overcome the biggest challenges survive and grow?
It occurred to me that the tree knows something that we don't. It knows that it has a harder battle to fight than the tree planted in deep soil. It must work harder for survival. But because of this, strength is gained. Resilience is gained. Determination. Durability. Perseverance. Persistence. Its roots grow deep and it becomes unshakeable.
Nothing worth doing is ever easy.
But it's always worth it.
Pic: Kathy Parker
Top image: Michael Coyne/Getty Images
You can find Kathy Parker on her website This Girl Unraveled