Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Light Reading

Here it is, an average Wednesday. I've decorated a Christmas tree, done laundry, vacuumed, cleaned two bathrooms, fixed a lunch, prepped a dinner, shopped, and had an evening out with a friend. The only oddity was the evening out.

I don't do that sort of thing on a regular basis. My family is still young enough that nights out entail babysitting, children being sniffle, ache, and cough free at any given time, and lots of preparation and planning. They'd better be worth all the effort, anxiety, and bother.

This one was. We went to a restaurant, got a cheap meal and a refillable drink and dove into John Paul II's Letter to the Families. We got as far as section 8. As this is something it would never occur to me to read on my own, I'm glad it was suggested as the first of our studies.

Being a recovering Protestant, I'd naturally tend to a Bible Study. Being a recovering feminist, I might even suggest forming a book club. Having the kind of friends I do, we're reading an important Church document. (What a gal, by the way. She is the "meekest, mildest, easiest to get along with" woman I know.)

I knew right away she was onto something, especially as we got to one section that seemed prophetic in its keen analysis and further predictions of the disintegration of our culture and the normalcy of family. We stopped to catch our breath and reflect on the dismal prospects for the future of Christian life in the West. We stopped again with knowing smiles at the genius of John Paul II and the guidance of the Holy Spirit when the very next section was entitled "Prayer" An unspoken question had been answered, "What now?"

It is too dense a document to give my impressions in one simple, introductory blog post. Indeed this is merely our first of many sessions with this work.

I'll simply leave you with this thought. While the U.N. was declaring the Year of the Family, it was funding the forced abortions and the One Child Policy of China and funding the forced sterilizations in Peru and other Latin American countries. The Church was not only trying to expose such human degradation (it never dwelt on the U.N.'s rank hypocrisy) to the world, but also was preparing the married faithful by educating them, bolstering them with charitable resources, and calling them to greater prayer and sanctity through the vocation of married life with its Year of the Family. Time will tell who managed to do a better job.

I'd place my money on the Church, though I'm not a betting kind of gal.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Low Points

The theme of marital low points is a difficult one. How do you approach it honestly, without whining, and without betraying that splendid gift of God who is your spouse?

The very first thing to bear in mind is that your spouse is God's. God expects you to love, honor and cherish him because (1) you promised to and (2) that's His child you are dealing with and you know how parents like their children to be treated, right? As much slack as you are expecting from God to forgive, improve, and patiently deal with your character weaknesses and quirks, you had better be willing to extend to your husband, or else! "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," right?

Yeah, right. I know. I know. But do it anyway.

The very next thing you need to bear in mind is that all those wonderful, beautiful and long-lived marriages you see around you? They've been where you are now: exactly in this pit of fear, despair, anger, resentment, and thinking the unthinkable at some point and they got over it. Let me repeat that for emphasis: they got over it. If you don't believe me, just ask them. Ask! Sure it looks easy...from the outside.

So now that we have so much stuff to bear in mind and I've stayed happily in the "2nd person" point of view: all that you, you, youing, it's time to get personal. How did I deal with my marital low point?

God Knows!

I kept prayer first and foremost in my marital difficulties. This helped in so many ways. I had the added graces available to me through prayer. I was calmer, clearer, and more yielding and patient. In addition, I didn't have to vent to friends and family to ease my burden because I was venting to God, Mary, and various saints who'd lived through it before me. Many of the details of our marriage were therefore kept out of the public view this way. Our reconciliation was not complicated by friends and family knowing too much. My husband and I didn't have to deal with excessive "exposure" or seek the added "forgiveness" of outsiders after exposing and forgiving ourselves.

This is very important for a man--that you remain loyal in this way. We women think we out emote men because we have such a greater ability to express our emotions outwardly. That's a debatable point. Consider this point: an unexpressed or inexpressible emotion is oftentimes that much more intense and personal. His emotional life is complicated by the very fact that it does not have as many outlets for expression and support as yours does. For many husbands, the wife is his only emotional support, so when you are at odds maritally, he has even less emotional wherewithal! Don't further stifle him by running to the P.A. system with every utterance and emotional blip he shares with you (as tempting and as temporarily satisfying as that many seem).

Fasting and Sacrifice

I keep straying from the "I" point of view. This next one is a hard one to open up publicly about because it is very old fashioned and personal. I fast. Although this spiritual practice will catch you flak from both liberal and conservative Christians alike (too fanatic! too self deprecating! too holier-than-thou!) I take to heart that verse (Mark 9:29) that says some things can only be exorcised through prayer and fasting. Of course, I don't believe that my husband or I are possessed, but some things do require that extra effort from us to overcome. Not to mention the fact that nothing alters your perspective faster than a fast.

I do it quietly and without fanfare, sometimes a meal, sometimes a day's worth of meals, sometimes from a food group (meat or bread), or a favorite beverage (coffee). I try to make it a sacrifice that no one else notices, and I offer it up for the sake of my husband. In combination with frequent prayer and frequent Confession of my sins and imperfections (not his!), fasting has kept me from despair in despairing circumstance.

Another kind of sacrifice is to do more for him when you are mad, rather than using it as an excuse to do less. This practice goes against the grain. Of course I want to stop doing anything for him when I am mad, but the opposite is more helpful. For example, he hates inside out clothes on the hanger. When times are good, I usually remember this and oblige his quirk. When times are bad, I remember it every time and more than that I resent every blasted article of clothing that manages to be inside out! Such is human nature. I could indulge the whim to leave things inside out, and (speaking from experience here) when I do, I only feel worse. When I conquer myself and purposefully make sure each and every article is right side out, I feel better. Eventually.

Or maybe after a few days after the fight is over.

Or theoretically, actually.

OK, fine, so maybe I just know it's the better way to be in the long run and I never do actually feel so great about it. Such is also human nature.

Real Advice from Real Friends

Your real friends are going to assume the best of both you and your spouse. If you've got a male basher for a friend, avoid her at all costs when trouble starts. Instead, ask for advice from the best people you know--especially those who have solid marriages of 20 plus years--in the most generic way possible. "What do you do when you are feeling disconnected?" "How do you two come together on a big disagreement?"

Consider the advice you receive, listen to the better part, and try it. Here's some advice I've written previously that I've used on myself. I can attest first hand that it works. Eventually (which brings me to my final point).

The Three and Three of Marriage

The Three and Three Follow-Up: All You Have to Do Is...

When Marriage Gets to "For Worse"

Hang On!

This is the most valuable piece of advice I can give you. Ultimately, hanging on is the only thing that will keep you together. If you don't stay together, you don't stay together. Simple. Just remember always: this will pass. You will come back together. If you can out tough the tough stuff, you'll be that much stronger together.

Hang in there. You'll be happy together again. Trust me. Trust God. Trust him.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Coffee Break

I Knew It!

Spill after spill after spill, I begin to have my suspicions...

The baby eyeballs my 32 oz glass of water.
"Dink?" she asks. "Dink?"

She points, grabs the handle and clarifies, "Bath?"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wifey Wednesday

Today was one of those days. I had so many things scheduled that, although everything got done in a timely fashion, I was stressed out for most of the day.

As I was tag-teaming with my husband--he was coming in while I was going out--I heard myself barking orders at everyone instead of kissing goodbyes.

"Go help your sisters with...

Honey, don't forget we're meeting up

Are you ready yet?...

I need you to..."

I had to stop myself. I was still broiling on the inside with the furor and fervor of an overly scheduled day, but I hugged and kissed and smiled at my brood. My husband could still tell I was stressed, as I'm sure the kids could, but I decided to behave better than that.

As I'm always telling my kids, "Your feelings aren't ruling the roost!" it was nice to actually show them my philosophy in action for once. I was feeling absolutely frazzled. I could have used my emotions as an excuse to drive myself and them into a frenzy, but instead this thought came clear out of the blue: man, I should schedule less stuff on Tuesdays.

This was my "Ah-ha Moment." Not only did we have two morning appointments with people coming to the house (which means chores must be done three hours earlier and not spread out over the day) I'd scheduled a Math test for my oldest, rice and funnel play with my youngers (messy), plus I'd thawed a week's worth of burger to make into meatballs for future dinners (messy and time consuming), all before having to leave for the afternoon appointments half an hour after my husband got home.

What's the matter with me? Yes, it all got done. Yes, the morning and afternoon appointments were all attended to (Not to mention, my husband sold a car in the midst of all this Tuesday induced mayhem).

Tuesdays are naturally busy with several immovable events, but like the untidy pile on the end of the dining room table that grows if not attended to, Tuesday gathers clutter. Partly it is just schedule magnetism. I'll think, "Oh well, I'll be running into town on Tuesday anyway, I can just swing by and..." I don't know if there is some sort of perverse pride or martyrdom in voluntarily adding more and more stress to an already stressful day, but I think I'll pass.

Like now. I'm writing. On Tuesday. I scheduled this to round out the day. I could continue to examine my motives and insights until I come up with something really neat or inspiring, but instead I'm going to bed.

Now that's time well spent.