As the Spanish explorer Coronado first discovered the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona, he said, "Wow. What a really big canyon." His general beside him then said, "Yes sir. It truly is a grand canyon." To which Coronado quickly replied, "Uh, yeah. That's what I said. A 'Grand Canyon.' Now shut up." And thus the name of one of the most impressive landmarks in the world was coined. At least that's how I think it happened. Regardless, there are some times in our lives that impress us so much that it leaves us at a loss of words to accurately express our feelings. Such is my case in my recent marriage to my precious Mayu-chan.
In less than a year's time, I have undergone two watershed transitions in my life. The first one was August 28th last year when not only did I move out of my parents' home for the first time, but I moved to a foreign country as well where they could no longer help me like they once could. I started my first 8-4 job, cooking for myself, doing my own laundry, paying my own utility bills, and basically having to take care of myself with nobody's help for the first time in my life.
The second major transition in my life began last month, March 24th, when I married my precious Mayu-chan, who is my dream come true. So much has happened since I first moved to Japan at the end of last summer, and just when I got used to my new life, it has changed completely once again.
On March 6th, 1995 she wrote me her first letter as my pen-pal and thus began our beautiful friendship. I met her in person and spent plenty of time with her during my first trip to Japan in the summer of 1998. From that time on, our love for each other grew. I had so many people tell me that our relationship would never work out because long-distance relationships are usually doomed to fail. Some people insinuated that our love wasn't valid and that we didn't truly love each other. They said that we only thought we were only in love with the thought of each other, since we weren't spending much time with each other since we lived in separate countries. In other words, they believed that I never truly knew her and I only had my own concept of how she truly was. I'd like to point out that all this negative feedback came from guys. Women, on the other hand, know a romantic story when they hear one, and they never hesitated to tell me that my long-disance love with my pen-pal was very romantic.
And so now I am married. Wow. I guess marriage is something that needs to be experienced to be understood. A month or two before the marriage, I went through a "pre-marital blues" phase which I really wasn't expecting at all. I was happy to be getting married and I never had second thoughts on marrying her, but for some reason I felt like marriage would force me to become a completely different person and that I would have to redefine who I am. But now that it's after, I realize that I am still the same person, and Mayu is still the same person. The only difference is that we're married and living together now. I was afraid that my personality would be radically changed, but that's not the case. My life is very different now, though. My lifestyle has changed a bit, but I am still the same person. And I'm learning much more flexibility and patience than I ever did before.
Long ago I disposed of the concept that there is only one "right" person for me for me to marry. You get that a lot from people, but I don't believe in that. What if that "right one" died in a car accident when she was eight years old. Would I then have no option but to never marry? Or what if Mayu is somehow not the "right one." Have I then made the biggest mistake of my life? Certainly not. It might be possible that there might be somebody out there who is more compatable for me, but how would I ever know? All I know is that I have made a good decision on who I married, and that I have total peace about it. There is never one person who is perfect for me or anybody else. We human beings who are limited by our earthly bodies of flesh and blood and our small minds which fail us so often can never be completely compatible with each other. And if one person marries the "wrong one," then that person must have married the "wrong one" as well. Which means that the "right ones" for those two would probably then marry more wrong ones, and sooner or later nobody on the planet is married to the right one. I learned that marriage is not about finding the right one for myself, but for being the right one for someone else. There is no "right one" for you. There are only right and wrong decisions in life. And I know that since marrying Mayu was a right decision, I am content.
People often have so many misconceptions about marriage. People think that it's the solution to their life's problems. Someone with a self-esteem problem may think that marriage will complete their self worth. But as Robyn Hitchcock once sang, "If you don't love yourself, what's the use in someone else loving you?" Too true. A man who can't budget his money properly may think, "Hey, with dual incomes, money won't be a problem." A woman who struggles with depression and loneliness may think, "I feel so sad because I am so lonely. But if I was married, then I'd have companionship and I wouldn't feel lonely anymore." Or a man who struggles with pornography may think, "Pornography excites me because I'm single and I can't experience sex the way I want to. But if I was married, then I wouldn't feel the need to look at such stuff because my wife would fill that empty space of my life." Wrong, wrong, wrong. People who carry such problems into marriages usually find that the problems don't go away. They become worse most likely. So many people think, "I am only half of a person. I need the companionship of marriage to feel completion." I once thought this myself years ago. But can't you see the folly in this? If each one is only 50% of a person, then marriage is 100%. But if each one is a complete person and confident in his and her individuality, then 100+100=200%.
So often it is a personal relationship with God that they truly crave, not marriage. If people would solve their problems on their own before marriage instead of thinking that marriage will fix everything, their marriages would be so far better. If we seek God first in every aspect of our lives, then he will bless us for it and only in him can we feel full completion and worth of ourselves. So if you were to ask me why I married Mayu-chan, I wouldn't say that it was because I wasn't happy being single or that I needed marriage to make me feel fulfilled and complete or that I wanted marriage to make my life better. I married Mayu-chan because I love her so much and I want to spend the rest of my life making her happy.
I never had the misconception beforehand that marriage would somehow solve my life's problems. But, still I am learning many things about marriage that is different than I originally thought. I now realize now that marriage is only as romantic as I choose to make it. It just doesn't happen on its own. Marriage takes work and effort. We've just decided together to make God our #1 priority in our marriage, and we know that God will bless us for that. We can't just let our feelings carry us around or we'll never make our marriage work. We made the decision from the beginning to honor God through our relationship. In God, our love is a three-dimensional relationship, with God above both of us. Without this element, I can't imagine that there would be as much fulfillment in our marriage as I feel now.
I'm saying this because I get tired of hearing people complain that they can't find the right person. I used to complain, but I got tired of complaining. Actually, I became jaded and cynical, and that's not good either. My advice to all my single friends is to just enjoy being single. Take this time to improve yourself and to become the right person for whoever you will marry in the future. Focus on improving yourself. If you focus on your loneliness, you're just wasting your time. I enjoyed being single, and now I enjoy being married. There are things that I would be able to do when I was single that I can't really do anymore. But there are also so many things I can do now that I am married. Sometimes I start to think that my marriage will be even better a year or so from now when we're more used to being married to each other, but I put an end to this destructive thought and not let it continue. If we keep thinking that we will be happier in the future when we have more of what we want, then we will never be happy. Just be patient and enjoy your life where you are right now. If you can't enjoy your life now, you won't be able to enjoy it in the future. Learn to become content with what you have instead of always longing for more.
The first day I met Mayu-chan in person, we were in Tokorozawa and we went to the Vineyard church in that town. I met her at the train station and we went to church together. I am a member of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of North Phoenix (VCFNP), and I love Vineyard churches. Thanks to the members from VCF Tokorozawa who volunteered to help our wedding, the wedding ceremony and reception went perfectly. We provided the money we bought decorations, and they helped set things up and they catered the reception afterwards. I don't think that the marriage would've been such a success without them. I don't even know where to begin looking for a wedding cake here in Japan! Or any cake for that matter. Houses in Japan don't have ovens in the kitchens like we have in America, so I can't even bake a cake myself if I wanted to.
Before the wedding, I was completely at peace. I thought that something might be wrong because I expected to be stressed, anxious, nervous, ad nauseam. But I didn't feel upset at all. I didn't feel butterflies in my stomach like I expected to. Only peace. It was a sign that I had made the right choice of who I was marrying.
Our marriage was a very inexpensive and humble wedding. I know one man who will have his wedding and reception in the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. I can't imagine how much that would cost. Our wedding was slightly more formal than an after-church potluck lunch, but it was so wonderful. Everything was so beautiful. Mayu was so beautiful in her dress that tears of joy filled my eyes. The music was beautiful. The flowers and decorations were beautiful. Everything went perfectly. The only thing that was different from what we planned is that we had asked the chorus to sing the Vineyard song "All Over the World", but they sang it in English instead of Japanese like we wanted. And I made a big mistake of not bowing to Mayu's father when he presented her hand to me. It's a typical custom in Japan, but I completely forgot when the time came. My mistake didn't occur to me until after the ceremony, and I had to suppress a Homer Simpson "Doh!" reaction in front of everyone. I apologized profusely, but her father forgot as well. I was relieved.
My parents flew from America to attend our wedding. They were the only Americans who attended our wedding. But I had other friends from parts of Japan who I haven't seen in awhile, and I was so happy to see them again. My friend Hiromi flew all the way from Shimane-ken, which is much further away from Tokorozawa than Himeji where I live. Mayu's best friend Yumiko, who she hasn't seen since junior high, came to the wedding and she was so happy that she was crying.
The reception was so beautiful. There were flowers everywhere and colorful candles on the tables. Mayu's little sister Yukari is an excellent piano player and is going to a music college in Kanagawa-ken. She played Chopin's 2nd Nocturne for us. It was so beautiful that I was crying. There were so many people that Mayu had invited who I had never met before. I didn't want the wedding to end. But sure enough, it was time to say goodbye.
falling in the forest
We drove to Himeji where we stayed for a night at a hotel, and the next day we left for our honeymoon. We went to a small town called Hiruzen in northern Okayama-ken along the border of Tottori-ken. The vice principal of my old school I taught at prior to spring break has a good friend who owns a cabin in the mountains in Hiruzen. I had stayed with him and his family there last November and had a nice time. He had invited me to use the cabin whenever I wanted to, so I thought it would be a good place for our honeymoon.
When we got to the cabin, I was reminded about the problem with the cabin's major problem: insects. It's a very beautiful cabin, but it is full of cracks and holes somewhere that the bugs can get in through.There's a kind of bug here in Japan called a kame mushi, named because of its back that is shaped slightly like a turtle's shell. They're about the size of your thumbnail, terribly stupid, and they stink when you kill them. They aren't dangerous bugs... just stinky. They like to get into the cabin and crawl on the windows, walls, lights, bed sheets, anywhere. I was using the vacuum cleaner to suck them up. Fortunately there weren't too many during the day and if we kept most of the lights in the cabin off at night, there weren't too many then either. I figured they would take a break over the winter, but I was wrong. Despite this, we were able to have a romantic time. It was still snowing up there, and actually we were snowed in for four days because Mayu didn't bring the snow chains for her car. At the end of March, I figured that it would be spring there. But it was high up in the mountains. On the last day we were there, the snow was melting and the bugs were coming into the cabin in force. We left that afternoon. The vacuum was clogged full of pissed off bugs and wouldn't work anymore.
Hiruzen is famous for cows. We didn't see very many, but we did see a few. There's nothing to do there besides going to a really big o-miyage souvenir store where you can buy food and things with cows on them to basically prove to your friends, "Gee, I went to Hiruzen." Any place that's famous for cows has to be some inaka hick town. It's really tucked away in the mountains and apparently they don't get too many foreigners there. One day when we were walking to the store to buy some food, there was a family in a car waiting at the red light as we were waiting to cross the street. The entire family was staring at me with their mouths open like a bunch of idiots. I looked right at them and pointed at myself and said, "Gaijin!" It really took them off guard. They realized that they were being stupid and the smiled at me as they drove off. I embarassed Mayu completely. I think she'll have to get used to being married to me because there's more to come.
Our next stop was a nearby town called Yubara, famous for it's coed rotemburo (outside, open-air onsen hotspring) in the river. We stayed at a nice hotel for two nights. We were very relieved to be away from the kame mushi and in the warm luxury of a hotel. Despite this, I still had dreams of insects crawling on the walls and in my hair while I slept. Yeesh. But anyhow, Yubara Onsen is a great place to go. The hotel we stayed at has many of its own built-in onsen, but they aren't nearly as romantic as the rotemburo down by the river where we could bathe together. The only downside was a few not-so-clever men who kept trying to get a better look at my wife's body. One guy kept trying to engage in a conversation with me just for an excuse to get closer. Nevertheless, she felt comfortable and we had a nice time together.
So, that's about it. I can't think of anything more to say. And I can't think of a way to conclude this, so I think an abrupt ending would suffice.
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Gotta go--there are escalators in India without Slinkies!