The Terrible Proposal—15 Years Later

I tease you a lot about your proposal. We’d already been dating more than seven years. We already had a wedding date picked out, already reserved a beautiful villa nestled into the Hill Country of Central Texas. The ring wasn’t as important as the promises we’d already made to each other, the commitment already laid in our shared past and planned future. When you brought me up to the overlook, I already knew.

I tease you because it was the most unromantic proposal in the history of proposals. Of all the flowery, lovely things you could have said, instead you offered me one more chance to take the out. You reminded me how hard you are to be with, how much you had put us through in those years you grew from a 16-year-old to a man. You told me to make sure I was saying “yes” not just out of habit, but that I really was thinking about what I was agreeing to.

Because, you reminded me, sometimes a full heart can get in the way of clear eyes.

Of course I said “yes” anyway.

And now we’ve had fifteen more years. And those years have been filled with all of the sparkling adventures I knew they would hold. We’ve traveled around the world, been lost in Cambodian jungles, panted on the endless stairs of the Great Wall, slept at cloud level in the Andes, dipped in the baths of Budapest. We’ve brought children into our arms, taken a leap across the country, laughed until we’ve cried.

You reminded me, all those years ago, how hard this could be, and I teased you about the bleak forecast when you could have promised me sunshine.

But these 15 years have held other things, too. We’ve yelled and cursed and cried. I’ve been so mad at you I couldn’t see straight. You’ve been in such darkness you didn’t believe it would ever be light again. We’ve lied. We’ve accused. We’ve lost trust. We’ve learned what healing feels like, and what fragility feels like, and what it means to try again.

I know you worry about it. I know you worry that I regret that full-hearted “yes” so many years ago. That even though I said I knew all about how hard it could be, I didn’t really, and that clearer eyes may have saved me.

I know how you love to save me.

And it’s true. I would answer differently now. If you offered me the same broken proposal today, I would say something more like this.

“I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.”

-“The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

You thought you offered me your broken self, but what you’ve actually given me is someone who sees beauty even when it’s not pretty. Someone who stands with failure and still shouts “yes” at the moon with me. Someone who’s gotten up after every unending night and faced another day. Someone who has never shrank from the fire.

We are celebrating our 15 years at home this year, in quarantine, our whole lives put on indefinite pause while the world is swarmed by a virus we can do nothing about. You hold me when I cry from exhaustion and fear. You calm me when I yell from the same things. You get food for us, and find us masks, and make sure I am taking vitamins and walks and time to myself.

I tease you about your proposal, but maybe your love isn’t promises of sunshine. Maybe you just let the sunshine speak for itself. Maybe your love is reminding me that fires will come and that you will stand in them with me without shrinking back.

I don’t know if I will ever stop teasing you. Maybe teasing is my love language (lucky you!). But my answer to your terrible, perfect proposal is still “yes,” 15 years and a million fires in.

-Kelly, New Hampshire

All Love Letters’ are pristine, posted as they were received.  Please forgive any spelling and grammar issues, since the writing was done in the throes of love, and sometimes love doesn’t care about commas or misplaced letters.

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2 comments

  1. Hi – Just wanted you to know that The Invitation was written by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. David Brown happened to post it on his webpage (and he does site the author). Interestingly, Oriah Mountain Dreamer wrote The Invitation as part of a poetry workshop she did with David Whyte, who gave participants the exercise to do based on his own poem, Self Portrait. Keep writing!

    1. Hello Jessica, thank you so much for reaching out and letting me know this. I have corrected this in the story. I am sure that the writer, Kelly, who sent in this love story hadn’t know. When I looked at the David Browns page to verify, I hadn’t realized he had been citing her either.

      Maravilla love’s goal is to spread love one story at a time, people submit their stories, of all types, to the site. Check us out, and if you have a story you’d want to share, that’d be wonderful too.

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