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When you first get married, it’s wonderful and it’s strange. Part of you has this sense that becoming a new family only makes sense, like it’s the way things were always supposed to be, like, thank God, this person you love so much is now joined to you the way you’ve longed for him to be. Yet right alongside that joy, simultaneously, even as you know those things, another part of you has to constantly catch herself, realizing, oh, there’s another person who needs to be consulted before I make any big decisions or changes or future plans; all of your struggles become our struggles and his pain, our pain; one or both of you faces illness or discouragement or deep hurt and brings it into us; you, together, hit points where you don’t know what to do; sometimes, even, you fight.

dinner | FoodLovesWriting.com

Because, being straight-up honest with you, there are days when marriage is so over-the-moon easy that you find yourself saying things like you think your heart could burst, even when beforehand you would’ve said those expressions were cheesy and ridiculous. But, there are also days of painful conversations or long fights or moments when you look at each other, in tears, arguing about something that feels so important you’re willing to push each other away. Sometimes those days are the same days.

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downtown knoxville | foodloveswriting.com
smokies | foodloveswriting.com

Tim and I talked about these things, about marriage, the last two days in Knoxville, celebrating our first full year of being husband and wife, constantly recalling the one-year-ago memories of a rehearsal dinner and wedding speeches and a table of cookies and a too-good-to-be-true honeymoon. Either one of us would tell you that we still look at each other and think, genuinely, that we can’t believe the other one exists, that we fit each other so well it makes us marvel, kind of like looking at the mountains or a star-studded night sky. We feel so overwhelmingly thankful for each other and yet, still, we’re prone to take each other for granted, in the same way that we’re prone to go days without thinking twice about our health or our families or jobs we’ve been given that put money in the bank account and food in the fridge.

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leaves | foodloveswriting.com
Basil Shortbread | FoodLovesWriting.com

The honest truth is that thinking about this scares me. Intentionality in relationships—marriage, parents, roommates, siblings, friends—doesn’t happen naturally for long. Just one year into marriage, I already see how much easier it is to be lazy with Tim than it is to put thought into knowing him, and that because of this, sometimes, being lazy is exactly what I pick.

Taking Photos in the Smokies

But while we got away this weekend, just him and me, walking through streets of old Knoxville architecture, driving through golden leaves in the Smoky Mountains, sitting next to each other and asking hard questions and doing the work of relationship, of long talks and clarification and trying to explain thoughts and feelings, I tasted that real joy that comes from learning what it means to love, and I thought, again, how relationships are the hardest but best parts of living.

golden leaves | foodloveswriting.com

I taste it in marriage, I taste it in friendship, I taste it in the inward struggle I feel when someone does me evil and I try to return good. It makes me think of what C.S.Lewis wrote when he said:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

I think there’s this constant struggle in human nature, although we each face it in different ways, of whether or not to let people in and to work to know them and be known. “To love at all is to be vulnerable,” Lewis says, and to be vulnerable is to open yourself up to hurt. But the thing is, even though that’s true, to love is always better, always. Because only in letting yourself be vulnerable do you let yourself experience the best parts of life—in marriage, in friendship, with strangers you’re getting to know.

sitting at the park | foodloveswriting.com

And of all the things marriage is teaching me, this is one of the best.



(More Knoxville photos in our Facebook album here.)

Basil Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 18 small cookies
These gluten-free cookies, which we took with us on the road to Knoxville, are an adaptation of a shortbread crust from the latest Kinfolk, located on page 137 and from Erin Scott. When I made it as a crust, I found I liked the crust enough to eat on its own; a few adaptations later, we had this, what Tim calls the most unique cookie he’s liked all year.

Ingredients:
5 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup unrefined cane sugar (Sucanat)
1 1/2 cups blanched almond meal
1 teaspoon almond extract
5 or so basil leaves, chopped finely
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients with a spoon, eventually using your fingertips to form it into a ball of dough. Form into a log and stick in the freezer while you clean up the kitchen and line two cookie sheets with parchment (maybe 10 minutes). Slice dough into rounds and place on baking sheets. Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly golden.

Cooksnaps
Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 29 Comments

  1. Katie

    Ah – such true true words about relationships; adoring and despising in the same day. Wonderfully written in a way that makes me want to keep learning, to keep loving, and to keep listening.

  2. sarah

    I love this. Adam and I have been married 10 years now, and have had so many days of bliss and tears, days of joy, and then working through really hard, painful stuff. It’s the working out that is so difficult , but getting to the other side always brings depth, and a deeper love. I’ve had plenty of moments where I’ve chosen the lazy way out, but I am always so so glad when we’ve pushed through, walked through the ‘thing’, and found more connection.

    And that Lewis quote. I love him.

    Congrats on your first year! Love, and joy, and good things to both of you. xo

  3. Sharmila

    In just a year of marriage, you have grasped the essence of it in a way wise beyond the time passed. Happy anniversary and wishing you both so many more!
    “To love is to be vulnerable.” but the vulnerability brings two souls together that have so much more strength than the one.
    Beautiful post.

  4. Paula @ Vintage Kitchen

    Wonderful thoughts Shanna. You can´t have one without the other, it´s just how life works.
    I believe that what makes something and someone worth it is if, in the middle of whatever is causing you extreme pain, you still wouldn´t change the experience in spite of that horrible pain. Happy anniversary!

  5. Abby

    Congratulations on your first year! Your reflections on relationships are always thoughtful, but this one in particular made me pause to consider it more carefully. You’re right, loving with intention is one of the hardest, and yet most rewarding, things there is.

  6. Ruthy @ omeletta

    What a beautiful, beautiful post. Such a great way to start my morning! I found myself nodding and smiling and agreeing- happiest of happy one year anniversary. i’ve just found your blog and am so excited to keep following your story.

  7. Jacqui

    Sometimes your writing and your thoughts about marriage and life and every day and big things and small things and food and travel leave me speechless. This is one of those times. Just nodding and smiling and so getting it.

  8. Joanna

    “Asking hard questions and doing the work of relationship.” I love that. It’s work, but it’s such fulfilling, joyful work! Beautiful, true words. Happy anniversary!

    p.s. You have the BEST hair.

  9. Elizabeth Belof

    Congratulations, Shanna! Being married to my Sweetheart has been one of the most growing and wonderful gifts God has given me. I am so happy that you been equally blessed!

  10. Deb

    Thank you so much for this beautiful post, which I read at just the right time. When I was driving in to work today, sometimes everything just seemed so overwhelming, like everything was too much work – work, my boyfriend, everything. Having to worry about another human being in my life, and dealing with the complication that that inevitably brings, just seemed like too much. But reading your post, and the C.S. Lewis quote reminded me that while it IS work, the payoff, in the end, is worth it. Because it’s worth it to have other people in our lives, to give love freely, to care for others.

    Thank you again. Congratulations on your 1st anniversary; may many more happier ones come!

  11. Rachel

    I feel a strange connection to you, Shanna, lately, as you tell your stories about marriage and learning to live with another, the other who completes you. Yesterday, we went to the courthouse to get our marriage license, and the last minute details of our marriage are coming together as we prepare for our day of commitment, one week from tomorrow. I read your words, and use them to calm myself, not because I am nervous of the marriage itself, but I am anxious and excited to have this day dedicated to our love, and each other. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with marriage, and life, they really do mean so much.

  12. Anne Zimmerman

    So true, so true! The first year of marriage you learn so much. I heard many say this, but I never believed it to be true (I was so wise already… or so I thought!)

    But it really is unlike any other experience in this world and you’ve captured that so nicely. Congrats!

  13. Shannalee

    Man, oh man, I have loved reading through all the comments on this post. You guys! Thank you for your encouraging words and thoughtful responses and thank you especially to the ones who had the vulnerability to say “me too.”

    There’s a part of you that wonders, when you write a little more raw and exposed about the things closest to you, like we did in this post, how it will be received and if it will be misunderstood and if the people reading can be trusted. So thank you, each one of you, for showing once again that you can.

  14. Erin

    Happy anniversary (a bit late). Your reflections are beautiful and so truthful. You are so right: it is easier to be lazy sometimes, and this post is so time appropriate because this is exactly something I have been pondering in the past few weeks.

  15. Kellen

    These are the most truthful words I’ve read on the first year of marriage. My partner and I are in our 6th month– in all its familiarity, we are still getting to know one another in a way that, to this day, still surprises us. Mostly that comes from the work– the messy, scary, anxious, timid and even worse that seem to unearth the darker yet more poignant conversations. I am truly inspired by this, and it is forever bookmarked with all my unorganized 1st-year-honeymoon ideas. Not to just completely fawn over this, but GET IT GIRL.

  16. MJ

    I love this so much. And I love that you love Kinfolk.

    I’ve been reading and reading blogs, trying to figure out how to do mine, because I love food and friends and words and especially the intersection of all three…and something about your blog is just…nudging me, saying, “take good notes, girl. This is the kind of authenticity you will need if blogging is for you.”

    so thanks.

    MJ
    welleatyouup.wordpress.com

  17. Pingback: Greenville Anniversary Trip, Part One | A Literary Cookbook | Food Loves Writing

  18. Pingback: Lemon Curd Shortbread Cookies | Food Loves Writing / Real Food Recipes

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