Love is a choice and marriage is work. As I’m approaching my eleventh year of marriage on April 15th, every day I wake up and set the intention in choosing love and family. When I think about these years, so much has transpired, and yet there is still so much more life to experience. RK and I have been blessed with health and a son during our journey. We’ve traveled; our village is filled with supportive friends and family and we have experienced career success. We have also encountered our fair share of disappointment and loss. Time is a great accountability marker. When I reflect back on the beginning – the energy, the excitement, and possibility of creating the life we said we wanted – it felt like all we had was time to dream.
Our story started out pretty story-book seeing each other again after several years. We worked together previously when I was a summer intern and he was kicking off his early technology career. This time, I was a working professional recovering from heartbreak, and RK felt like a breath of fresh air. Fast forward, we were engaged in nine months and married a year later. Our Thursday wedding was beautiful as our loved ones bore witness to not just the ceremony but were encouraged by our Pastor to be active participants in our union. We promised before them, to each other and with God to have and to hold from this day forward, for better – for worse, for richer – for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ‘til death do us part. The vow is so simple, yet so layered at the same time. It has always been serious to me, particularly when I was dreaming of reciting it for my wedding day. This truth of the complexity of these simple words only revealed itself as I now have lived experience with it.
My dream was to be married and have a family. It’s what I grew up aspiring to achieve. Hashtag goals before that was a thing. I would have a job of course, but it was simply a means to an end, because having a family was paramount. I was that girl, and now my dream was turning into a reality. Subsequently, while I was manifesting my life vision, I was also concurrently growing under the anointed teachings of the good Rev. Dr. B. Here is where RK and I both learned that marriage was about designing a life, not simply planning a wedding day. And here I was, having only dreamt of the marriage ceremony and having the baby, but perhaps not the subsequent life there-after. I mean, the dream also included that everything else works itself out because you have each other. Naïve perhaps, but to be honest, I really only wanted to focus on the upside of the vows – for better, for richer, for health. Cue the music!
So here we are – our magical wedding and ceremony was all we designed it to be, anchored in love, that 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love. And the reality confronted me, I wasn’t dreaming anymore. Post-wedding we were covered in Essence Magazine’s Bridal Bliss, and we took an extended weekend deciding to honeymoon later. Surprise, six months later we were pregnant and we appeared (and won) on The Newlywed Game. The winning trip culminated in the celebration of our one-year anniversary, honeymoon and babymoon in Costa Rica. Not too bad for starting to design a life beyond the initial dream. None of these details even appeared on my personal game board for the game of life.
Now here comes baby boy CMK a year and three months into our union, and I’m legit overwhelmed that I didn’t plan a thing beyond this moment. You see, as a calculated risk-taker, I’ve managed to navigate life in a way that allowed me to curate the moments that matter most. It was my survival mode and it served me well after losing my folks by age 22. It also is the mini control freak within me that is still working on flexing and relinquishing. Now, more than a decade later, here I was living the moment I curated for myself. My biggest emotional challenge became deciding to continue dreaming and planning a life – no script, only the Good Book to guide us, and the love of family and a few friends. Along the way, there have been equal parts achievements as well as roadblocks that impacted us. How we have navigated the roadblocks has kept us in some seasons longer than others. And I am forever leaning into the Good Book for guidance.
You see, we’ve always felt it was important for us to each plan around our individual goals just as much as the family and couple goals. The seasons during our eleven years have been markers for those achievements and disappointments. And to be honest, during those rough patches, communication suffered – even trust was broken and needed repair. There was a long season where we had gone in separate corners while living in the same space and our hearts were hardened. We decided and agreed we needed to invest further in each other and added couples therapy into our midst.
Therapy has been one of the greatest gifts I gave to myself before I met RK. My Good Doctor (as I used to call her), helped me shape and refine my view of myself. She also helped to heighten my self-awareness, making me aware that I had actually stopped dreaming about life beyond the wedding after I lost my parents. I mean it was defining moment they were no longer going to be a part of. I guess I couldn’t see how I was going to get there, let alone get past it. God is good, and as RK and I started our journey and added CMK, the Good Doctor continued to be a sounding board for me. I navigated that season in session independently for a long while until I felt confident in all the tools and growth I had achieved. It was then when our season transitioned. Now, here I was ready to present this gift to RK to prayerfully help us navigate our own collective terrain, while gathering more tools to strengthen our union.
Pastor taught us you cannot grow in isolation. I firmly believe that, however, RK and I both have a tendency to go into ourselves to “fix it.” I liken it again to our survival mode as we both share the same story of losing parents young. The healing of the survivor mentality is a deep subconscious effort that I believe we needed to work on to expand. Going to chat with a third party about our uncomfortable stuff was not easy. And because I have “experience” with it, I absolutely had an expectation of how fast the process should yield results. I’m laughing at myself even as I write this because literally, it took me years to unpack my stuff with my Good Doctor alone, and here I was expecting our marital dynamics would be unpacked and refined with a neat bow in a few months. Not!
We started the work pre-quarantine. And knowing that quarantining as a family was not something any of us planned, I was keenly aware that we needed to maintain our appointments virtually. I’m so glad RK was aligned because balancing work, family, ourselves, and each other has required us to renegotiate our norms. Change is a process, and for us, we’re attempting to re-create a vision for our family utilizing the tools were are learning, and in some instances re-learning and refining.
On the road to eleven years, we shared with our Doc that we use our anniversary as a time to revisit and reflect on our wedding day. We look at the pictures and our video to celebrate and remind us of all the energy and love that we had on that day. And our self-introspection affords us the opportunity to identify how we want to approach the road ahead, while reflecting on the year we have just conquered. Doc gave us a great anchor heading into this new season. He encouraged us to fortify and reinforce what is working. By giving credit to the other for witnessing a purposeful behavior, we are thereby making the acknowledgment an anchor for the other in fortifying something positive to build on. Sometimes we are both guilty of being head down, placing check marks on the board, yet not really sitting in the acknowledgment of the achievement – that ironically symbolizes the growth. As such, that word fortify was so powerful for me, and I changed the name of this blog to Fortifying The Vow.
In those seasons where we both acknowledge how challenging it can be to work toward ‘til death do us part, every little step we take is worth recognizing. Particularly for those seasons where for worse, for poorer, and in sickness have managed to take up space. We both become aware we can continue to stretch further (without breaking) as we strengthen our communication style and flow. Doc acknowledged you don’t want to move too far too quickly without a stable base. Efforts to go too far too soon are hard to sustain. So all the time it has taken us to get to this point, has me humbled because I couldn’t control it. We had to put in the work and the time.
As I started to consider what fortifying the vow means to me as I was writing this piece, I also wanted to honor where my heart has been for this man that I believe God chose for me. I originally wrote this piece in July 2008 shortly after RK and I started dating. I published it on my former blog one month before CMK was born, June 2011. I humbly pray that I continue to fortify in RK’s heart what I felt those thirteen years ago…and remind myself to navigate through the potential and possibilities for our marriage and family with faith, hope, love, and patience – starting with myself.
Guns blazing, your masculinity feminizes me.
The depth of your voice
Reflects the enormity of your character.
You stand tall
As if all of the sun, moon and stars created this effect.
You found me
Somewhere between his broken promises
And your eyes
It was there that we witnessed vulnerability.
Implicitly stated you are
Not necessarily in that order.
I am Daughter
You spit protection like comfort food
And I am well fed.
By your actions I am nourished,
With the mere thought of your ambition
Comes to fruition
Giving life force to the spirit that resides within you.
I see the depth of your heart
Scarred and marred by pain.
Life and death have
Yet not completely.
Inhibitions to freely fly
Leave me speechless because my wings
Have not yet recovered
From the smothering
Of their covering in the spring.
I see you soaring
High above rooftops
Yet I feel numb.
As a dove
I’ve been in awe of your flaws.
Because your quiet acceptance leads me to accept you as you are
Which is far from perfect.
Just like me.
You confidently speak your peace
Keep it a lil street
As you consistently reach
For all that is within your grasp.
How can you have such an ability to make it last?
Prolong the inevitable
That savoy edible
Connectedness that allows you to release.
You opened your arms like gateways to your heart
That was the start.
When I saw a glimmer of what you had to share.
Long and hard
Cause my P-O-V had me witness this same facade
Like a bodyguard
On someone else’s frame.
Was real good
Cause I was the only one who misunderstood.
That love language
Left me damaged.
But that was then
And this is now.
And damnit there’s no way
And there’s no how
When it comes to acknowledging your worth
That I’ll let too much time pass
Before I decide
-July 29, 2008
KK is an energetic storyteller, creative marketer and servant leader with a kaleidoscope of professional pathways in music, print publishing and television. Currently, KK is a marketing executive at a major media company. Faith and family anchor KK’s ambitions, and she believes Luke 12:48 hold true, “from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” KK leverages her gifts, talents and abilities in support of advancing others, particularly in motivating her 9 year old son CMK.
Passionate about education and inclusion, KK is a graduate of New York University with a MS, Integrated Marketing and she supports her undergrad alma-mater Wesleyan University with dual, alumni volunteer leadership roles. As a Trustee on the Oliver Scholars board, preparing high-achieving African-American and Latino students for academic success is a priority. Through her writing and in her relationships, KK continues to unpack and explore life transformations the only way she knows how – with unconditional love, raw honesty and a touch of humor.