I believe there are two levels to life. The first level is the one where we most often find ourselves. We’re concerned with the job, the promotion, the projects, the business, the house, the car, the plans for Saturday night (or lack thereof), the Christmas presents, the perceived slights from others, that guy who cut you off on the expressway and on and on. These are the things that seem so important and angst-laden that they take up all our time and mental processing cycles.

These are the things that, a year from now, we won’t remember. Even if we do, the emotional baggage will be largely missing. Besides, we’ve moved on to the current concerns of the job, the promotion, the projects, the business….

That’s the top level. The surface. That’s not where we really live.

It’s the other, deeper level that matters more. This level holds the people we love. It’s here where, in our best lived lives, things don’t change except to grow and become even more integral to our being. This is where the people we depend on, the people who make our lives worth living, hold space in our hearts and minds. These are the people who walk with us through everything else, helping us navigate through the things we think really matter.

It’s ironic that these people, the ones who actually make everything matter, are the ones we can most often take for granted.

It’s not a moral failing. It’s just life. These people are so important that the idea of being without them seems alien. It’s like imagining life without your right arm. It’s vitally important to you, but you wake up with it every day and, barring some industrial accident, should be there tomorrow just as it was today.

Let me back up.

I’ve been married to my best friend for 10 years today. We’ve been through some of the ups and downs of life (thankfully, mostly ups), and we’ve had each other’s backs whenever and wherever we’ve needed to. There has never been a doubt in my mind that she would be there for me at any given moment, just as I wouldn’t hesitate to give her whatever she needed whenever she needed it. It’s a fact of life. The sun rises in the east, sets in the west and Kristen and I there for each other no matter what.

The enormity of that thought is almost too much to fully comprehend. The fact that, in this world full of people, the two of us found each other and never looked back seems somehow far-fetched.

It’s easier to take it as a given, to depend on it the way we need to and yet never really examine the magnitude of how amazing that is.

I know there are people who will never find that kind of acceptance and grace. I know there are people who blissfully never examine their own good fortune. I know there are people who have it and would piss it away for whatever shiny new thing comes along.

I don’t ever want to be any part of those groups.

That being said, it’s hard to sustain the kind of awe that I feel when I fully examine this woman in my life. The ability to trust someone, down to your bones, doesn’t come easily for me. Faith doesn’t come easily to me. And yet, I know I can trust her. I know that she is who she says she is, who I think she is, and while she can still surprise me, those surprises just underscore how perfect we are for each other. She believes in me far more than I believe in myself. I like to think that I add something to her life that she couldn’t find anywhere else. We’re far stronger together than we ever were apart.

We also have a similar background which just goes to underscore exactly what we found in each other. We were both married to others for about five years, long before we knew each other existed. Both marriages were mistakes. Bruising, costly, “learn from this” mistakes in judgment.

We both, it seemed, came pre-disastered.

You go into your first marriage hoping for the best. You go into your second marriage looking for potential mistakes and reasons to call it early before further pain is inflicted.

And yet.

Even going in gun-shy and suspicious of my heart’s faulty radar, I knew after our first date that I was going to marry this girl. Cynicism gave way to a belief in the future with her. Something deep down clicked so hard that it was impossible to ignore. Less than six months later, we were engaged. A little over a year later, we were married. And we’ve never looked back.

She takes me out of my comfort zone and shows me what life can be if you’re not expecting the world to cave in at any given moment. She took me to Scotland (twice) and gave me the permission that I never gave myself to write the books that were locked up inside. She’s built a home with me, one that I would have never known without her.

For my part, I think I’ve helped her figure out real-world solutions that would allow her to start living her dreams. She the dreamer, I’m the pragmatist. Both sides need each other. We’ve sheltered the storms together. We’ve been each other’s biggest cheerleaders. We’ve protected each other against the world and, when necessary, from our own inner demons. It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses (if you think that’s the way life is, dear summer child, you’re in for a rude surprise), but it has always been support and love. And that’s everything that really matters.

So, for the times I’ve taken her for granted, I’m sorry. I swear I’ve never meant to, and I take every opportunity that comes my way to dispel that notion. Seems like a 10th anniversary is an excellent time to shine some light on a relationship — one that I can’t imagine what my life would be without.

Kristen, you are my love and you are my life. These past 10 years have gone by so quickly, but I can’t wait to see what we do from here.