Jul 092014
 
Our Messy, Beautiful Summer Week 3: Marriage

A guest post by Bronwyn Lea

Angry SocksI carried a pair of mismatched, dirty Angry Birds socks in my pocket all day. At breakfast, my toddler was wearing them as mittens on his hands and was frustrated that his attempts to eat a banana with them were not going as well as he had hoped. I gave the boy a hand (his hands, actually) and stuffed the banana-icky socks in my pocket. Where they stayed: All. Day.

I thought about taking them out once or twice, but chose not to. The socks felt symbolic: representative of how I have messy, mismatched, sticky things going on in my head and my home right now. I took the socks to the store, to the park, to the school fundraiser concert. They were lumpy and hidden in my pocket, just like the other life-mess I carried with me. Sticky, but out of sight.

In truth, I kept holding on to the socks because I needed them there. I felt my pocket and my fingers could discern the shape of my sadness all balled up.

This week someone told me about their hard marriage on the phone: hard because there has been shouting and blaming and ugly-things-said. I listened and thought, “my marriage is nothing like that.”  Her marriage gets hard when the shouting is deafening. Mine gets hard when the silence is deafening. Rather than flare up, we freeze. Rather than shove, we shrivel. But our struggle is also hard in its own, private kind of way. The damage done is not as noticeable, and  perhaps such silence might even be considered by others to be signs of self-control or loving restraint. But when an iceberg sails into your living room, you would do well to remember the Titanic. Icy silence can do great damage.

I felt the socks in my pocket and I thought about our latest bout of silence. I thought about how fake I feel: a lay-leader in my church and a regular contributor to a website for engaged and newly married couples. Month after month, I write columns about healthy marriage, and I have hinted in my words that maybe “communication isn’t all there is to it.” But if people knew – if they really knew – how, even though we love each other fiercely and even though we are happy most of the time and laugh much of the time and even though he is mine and I am is – even with all that, we still get stuck. We hit a wall. We have a small handful of unsolvable problems. I hurt. I cry. I get lonely. And sometimes, there are ice-bergs in my living room.

And who can I tell, without it seeming that I am dishonoring or blaming my loved one? How can I ask for help, if the solution has to come without the requirement of us talking about it? And would saying these things out loud cause others, who see us as stable – no, need us to be stable – would it cause them worry? Would talking make it better? Or would it make it worse? It can be a lonely thing to struggle in silence in a Christian community.

Maybe I should quit writing about marriage, I thought. If the best I have to offer is a marriage with periodic Scenes of the Titanic, who needs that?

All day long, I thought about the socks. I thought about my husband and I: two angry birds ourselves, balled up together in a sticky mess. A mismatched pair, but a pair nonetheless. In it, together, even when things are hidden and icky. I felt the socks in my pocket and fingered them like prayer beads: asking God to help us fix our nest.

At the end of the day, I took the socks out my pocket and threw them in the laundry. We put the children to bed. We talked about our day. We watched an episode of Friday Night Lights. And drip by conversational drip, drop by habits-of-love drop, we started the days-long process of defrosting the iceberg.

I think maybe I won’t quit writing about marriage, after all, because we’re not quitting marriage. We may not know how to do the healthy-disagreement thing, and we have some issues, yessiree. But he’s the red sock to my yellow sock: we’re a pair of love birds, you know, even when we’re angry.

Tomorrow, those socks get a new start. Freshly laundered. Walking together.

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Bronwyn Lea is a South African-born immigrant to California, where she and her lovebird husband are teaching the three little ones in their nest to fly. Fueled by grace, caffeine and laughter, she writes at bronlea.com and a few other wonderful places. You can find her online at her blog, Facebook and on Twitter

This post is part of Momastery’s Our Messy, Beautiful Summer series.

Our Messy, Beautiful Summer

 



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest


Jul 072014
 
Our Messy, Beautiful Summer Week 3: Marriage

A guest post by Cindy Brandt

c-americaThis is the story of how our thirteenth anniversary screwed me over.

Week 1

A week before the actual anniversary, my seven-year-old son got ill with the flu. For six days he burned with a high fever along with a string of severe symptoms: vomiting, violent coughing, both restlessness and lethargy. By the end of the week, my husband and I were both ragged with worry and physical fatigue. We postponed any celebrations until the next weekend.

Week 2

We made plans for a terrific date: the movie, Captain America, followed by a fancy steak dinner.

On Monday, I woke up with a horrendous sore throat, having caught the bug presumably shared by dear son the week prior.

By Wednesday, I could barely speak as my voice gradually turned into a croak with intermittent missing syllables lost to my infected vocal chords.

Thursday, our childcare plans for the terrific date fell through. Instead of reasonably considering alternative options, J and I decided to spontaneously combust into an all-out rage fight. Issues discussed include:

  • Why we don’t understand each other.
  • Why we are so selfish.
  • Why the political instability in Taiwan shapes the futures of our college students.

None of which really had anything to do with why we started fighting in the first place. And remember, I was croaking my way through this fight – with missing syllables. When marital experts advise clear communication, I’m sure they assume COMPLETE SYLLABLES.

J suggests we postpone our terrific date. Why, I had to know. Well, because we just shouted and stomped and said nasty things to each other and who in their right mind is in the mood to celebrate a wedding anniversary after that? But…but, I argue, if we don’t go on this date, it signals a breach in the foundation of our marital covenant, our children will experience trauma, and the world as we know it will come to an end. Because this is the way my mind works: no Captain America = End of the world.

We’re not going, he says.

Week 3

Instead of gradually recovering from the common cold which typically lasts 7-10 days, my 8-day cold virus decides to go ahead and creep up into my eyes, giving me a double eye infection. What the what?! Apparently, this is a thing: respiratory viruses don’t just wreak havoc on the respiratory system but can affect vision. Also, now I’m hacking up a lung. Physically, I’m not doing so well. Maritally, things are looking up. We are back to speaking soft, kind words to each other, but it’s still slightly awkward. Emotions are tender; the sting of accusations hurled in the state of anger and confusion are taking time to heal. Our hugs feel a bit manufactured and our routine interactions take on an extra layer of vulnerability, slowly rebuilding trust with every gesture.

J suggests, for a third week in a row, we go out to lunch to celebrate our anniversary. I don’t say no, but I’m tempted to. I am tired of forcing a celebration. I’m tired of pretending to be happy when things are awkward and unsure. Just like the way my infected eyes are glazed over and hidden behind my heavy, prescriptive glasses, I feel shielded and incapable of connecting my true self with this man I am committed to. I feel drained of energy to lift the veil of misunderstanding, mistrust, and mishandled emotions which hang precariously between us.

But I showed up. Like a warrior, I carried on. I didn’t put on a nice dress because I didn’t feel beautiful. I changed out of my sweats and put on black slacks. I briefly combed over the hideous tangles in my hair, checked my infected eyes which were still puffy and red behind my glasses, sighed audibly over the hot mess I was, and just showed up.

The restaurant was beautiful, the meal extravagant, but the date was not magical. There was no grand, romantic gesture, no sparks of rekindled passion. It was just us, two people who have been together for thirteen years, exchanging information regarding our mundane daily lives. At one point, I started getting excited to share something important when a baby in the next booth started high-pitch crying. And kept crying, with varying intensity, for the duration of our lunch.

Somewhere between the entree and the dessert, between bout 4 and 16 of baby crying episodes, it occured to me how much of a metaphor our botched anniversary celebration is for our marriage and for life. We wanted this terrific date in a perfect world where there is no sickness, plans for childcare don’t foil, our emotions are always held in check and our brains are 100% in sync, and where Captain America is the answer to all of our life’s problems. We long for magical experiences where every plan is executed with precision, every category is defined and checked, every emotion neat and contained. But life is not a Hollywood movie, and we are not superheroes. Life is messy and we are oh-so-ordinary – frail to disease, dependent on other imperfect people. We make mistakes and wound those we love.

And just about the time this realization dawns on me, I also began to understand the value of our non-magical date. This is plainly how we keep our marital vows: we make the choice, again and again, to come together despite our imperfections. Despite the puffy eyes, the tired soul, the interruptive baby; despite awkward hugs, tense conversations, missed assumptions, we show up anyway. We make each other laugh a little and roll our eyes at each other’s stupid jokes–with every decision to be present together, we are proclaiming our marriage vows all over again. Each moment we share, no matter how mundane, is a sacred covenant. This is how we live our messy, beautiful life.

It’s not wrong to want or expect magic in marriage and in life. But if every moment is magical then nothing can delight. We must learn to find our joy in the mess and never, ever give up meeting together. When we can find beauty in the margins, then, all of a sudden, life feels full and worth showing up for every day.

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Cindy Brandt puts words about faith, culture, social justice, and life together on www.cindywords.com. She serves on the board of One Day’s Wages, an organization working to put justice for the poor in the hands of the ordinary. You can find her on Facebook and see her life on the tropical island of Taiwan on Instagram.

This post is part of Momastery’s Our Messy, Beautiful Summer series.

Our Messy, Beautiful Summer



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest


Jul 062014
 

Masterpiece

Your body is not your masterpiece – your life is.

It is suggested to us a million times a day that our BODIES are PROJECTS. They aren’t. Our lives are. Our spirituality is. Our relationships are. Our work is.

Stop spending all day obsessing, cursing, perfecting your body like it’s all you’ve got to offer the world. Your body is not your art, it’s your paintbrush. Whether your paintbrush is a tall paintbrush or a thin paintbrush or a stocky paintbrush or a scratched up paintbrush is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is that YOU HAVE A PAINTBRUSH which can be used to transfer your insides onto the canvas of your life- where others can see it and be inspired and comforted by it.

Your body is not your offering. It’s just a really amazing instrument which you can use to create your offering each day. Don’t curse your paintbrush. Don’t sit in a corner wishing you had a different paintbrush. You’re wasting time. You’ve got the one you got. Be grateful, because without it you’d have nothing with which to paint your life’s work. Your life’s work is the love you give and receive- and your body is the instrument you use to accept and offer love on your soul’s behalf. It’s a system.

We are encouraged to obsess over our instrument’s SHAPE  - but our body’s shape has no effect on it’s ability to accept and offer love for us. Just none.  Maybe we continue to obsess because  as long we keep wringing our hands about our paintbrush shape, we don’t have to get to work painting our lives. Stop fretting. The truth is that all paintbrush shapes work just fine -and anybody who tells you different is trying to sell you something. Don’t buy. Just paint.

No wait- first, stop what you are doing and say THANK YOU to your body – right now. Say THANK YOU to your eyes for taking in the beauty of sunsets and storms and children blowing out birthday candles and say THANK YOU to your hands for writing love letters and opening doors and stirring soup and waving to strangers and say THANK YOU to your legs for walking you from danger to safety and climbing so many mountains for you.

Then pick  up your instrument and start painting this day beautiful and bold and wild and free and YOU.

Love,

G



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest