On Being Happily Married

 

As a self-declared happily married woman in a monogamous relationship, I feel as though I’m rather akin to a unicorn sometimes: fictitious, and overly dramatized with glitter and sparkle (metaphorically speaking, that is) to the point of making it impossible not to deem it ridiculously absurd. I’m not at all like a unicorn, however, when it comes to my coolness factor. Unicorns are everywhere nowadays in the merch realm, whereas happily married people don’t really market well. We’re just not hip and fashionable in the same way.

But, as happy people in general are in short supply, and you can’t throw a dead cat without hitting a cynic, I awoke this morning called by my pen to write some thoughts out on a topic that feels both radical and terribly un-interesting to the mainstream at the same time. Unlike the mythical unicorn, I’m here to tell you that I exist.

And I exist not in a trite, pie-in-the-sky sort of way but in a this-is-for-real sort of way. I love my husband. I’ve loved my husband long enough that I can’t clearly recall a time when our lives were not intertwined. We’ve been together over half of my life. Born in the same year, I was 19 and he was 20 when we met; 20 and 21 when we married. And in a week from now, we’ll celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary.

I’d like to convey two things that I’ve found to be important in our love journey thus far. And by important, I mean crucial to our surthrival. (Notice I just coined a new word there: surthrival, which combines the words ‘survival’ and ‘thrive’.)

One: We’re genuinely kind to each other. And two: We’re both diligent in our own commitment to ongoing personal growth work.

#1 applies especially to me, as I used to be the queen of being passive aggressive. I spent the first few years of our marriage being routinely unkind to my husband. It took me a long while to see the reality of how I could be a real bitch. And I’ll tell you, it wasn’t easy coming to terms with this part of myself. No one wants to admit they’re a jerk. And without some kind of reflective practice to help us learn the skills to see ourselves clearly, few of us will break free of this cycle of meanness too, by the way. Collectively, we’ve learned all sorts of creative, sure-fire ways to armor ourselves up with excuses, reasonings, and justifications for our crappy behavior and treatment of others, especially our closest person. Looking deeper it becomes clear: we treat others how we treat our own selves internally. So there’s that.

What’s important to mention about #2 is that it takes two to tango. And by tango I mean form a life together. My husband and I have gone through some rough times – and our last rough time, about 8 years ago, was such that we wondered for the first time ever whether or not we’d make it. During such times, we’ve learned that there is no such thing as a difficulty being only one person’s responsibility to tend to. It’s never just one of us causing harm or hardship, no matter what’s going on. It takes both of us to co-create the environment and landscape we find ourselves amid. In order for us to take good care of one another as part of a couple in a life-partnership, we see clearly that we must learn and practice to take good care of our own self as individuals. If either one of us weren’t committed to ongoing and continual personal growth work, our marriage wouldn’t be successful. Knowing how to stay on our own side of the fence and take responsibility and ownership for how we’re showing up and engaging in the relationship is critical to our well-being as husband and wife.

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Ode To My Husband

Mike giving love to the cat before taking off for the airport

Written at 5:37am, Friday January 25th, 2019:

Given the expedient fashion with which we managed to both get to and through the airport – checking bags and all – I’m already back at home.

We even lingered in the airport gift shop for a spell, wrinkling our noses at the horrid smell of perfumed, decorative soaps and delighting in the array of stuffed animals, in order to further delay parting ways at the security line.

It was me who made the call. “Okay,” I said, “it’s probably time.”

After a proper embrace, we headed in opposite directions. As I headed out, I glanced back 2-3 times and met his gaze doing the same each time.

And that was that.

I was outside, surrounded by the dark chill of early morning in Missoula – and he was inside, surrounded by bright artificial lighting, soon to take off sky high and land in short order in southern California, where I hope he will be cradled well for the next 3-months.

_______

Over the past week, multiple times a day, I took inventory of the things I would miss about him while he was gone and also the things I would look forward to having a break from. But in the last day or two, the line between these categories grew increasingly blurry and I came to see that I would miss all of it. Even the stuff I really don’t like, such as cleaning up wads of chewing tobacco on the windowsill that serves as his nightstand.

I take solace in the truth of our situation, of the little thing that has happened in our being together for almost 20-years: because we resound in the graces of our interbeing nature, we are strong and strengthened both when we’re together and when we’re apart.

_______

I reckon from here on out, until he returns in 3-months, the ol homestead will be in the same state of affairs when I come home each day as to when I left.

It was only 8-months ago I was preparing dinner each night for 3-4 people. In June, our household reduced to a steady 3. In November, we were whittled down to 2. And now, starting today, I am paired down to 1.

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Allowing Others To Be As They Are

This is me crafting a response to a friend that I thought might prove helpful to post here as well. Recently, a friend approached me inquiring about how I was able to manage the ability to stop trying to control my husband. She had spoken to my husband, Mike, and learned that one of the components in his journey of getting clean and sober 5 years ago, while simultaneously healing from a long bout of depression, involved the work I was doing on myself, centered around, among other things, letting go of being so controlling.

With the crucial support of Alanon (a 12-step group aimed at helping people who have loved ones struggling with addiction), I was able to learn a key element in regards to how to cultivate my own sense of deep-rooted joy and happiness, which was to detach from Mike with love. Detaching with love was an alien concept at first. I was clumsy around it and fumbled with it for a while as I tried to understand what it meant, in a real-life application sort of way. But I slowly started to figure it out, using a slightly adapted version of the Serenity Prayer as a guiding principle along the way (see my own re-worded iteration above).

It is my opinion that most of us do not really and truly know that we are not in the position to change other people. I think we have an intellectual grasp that we cannot change others, but when it comes down to it, we think we’re right and others are wrong on a routine basis. And as long as we think our way of doing things is the right way –  maybe even the ONLY way – then we will continue to try to assert control over others, especially those closest to us, in an effort to get them to change.

5 years ago, the work I was doing on myself could be summed up with this statement: I was learning how to take responsibility for the quality of my own well-being. One of the biggest pieces of doing this work involved coming to see how much I heaped the quality of my well-being onto Mike. How oftentimes my mood depended on his. How I allowed his actions to affect my attitude and outlook. I came to see that as long as my mood, disposition, attitude, and outlook relied on his, I was powerless. If I was needing him to be a certain way in order for me to be a certain way, I was going to be miserable, and stay that way.

I’ll take the issue of cleanliness, as an easy and workable example. I am someone who greatly appreciates, and on some level really needs, a sense of spacial orderliness and cleanliness. However, one look through the window into his truck cab, and you would clearly see that my husband could care less about such things. I spent years and years being the sort of wife who mastered the common and destructive patterns of being passive-aggressive: huffing and puffing my way around him picking up dishes and dirty clothes, stomping around on my way to take out the trash or mow the lawn, and washing dishes or cleaning the house with the manic energy of the Tasmanian Devil. And, of course, no master passive-aggressive would be complete without having their own well-cultivated Tone of Voice, indicating to those that know them best to Watch the F*** Out. I remember my mom’s Tone of Voice while growing up. Like mother like daughter.

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On Marriage

Photo Credit: Bill McDavid

 

On Saturday, my husband and I attended the wedding of one of his oldest friends from high school. I wrote this for them:

When I was a little girl, I thought marriage was all pleasantries and rainbows – the sort of which I would reenact with my Barbie and Ken dolls, in their fancy attire and meticulously well-groomed hair, not a stitch affray.

When I was a teenager, I thought marriage was both what you were supposed to do and what drove those, who would otherwise be considered delightful people, a little crazy.

On the cusp of adulthood, just as I was about to open the door to my 20’s, I met the long-fabled, mystically-entrenched, and dangerously-romanticized creature, commonly known as “the one.”

Armed with culturally passed down crappy-ass misinformation about what married life was slated to be and look like and what I, as wife, should do and not do, it’s sort of miraculous we weathered those early seas as well as we did – what with my unpleasant, controlling, passive-aggressive energies steering the ship and all.

But when “the one” and I got married, we made a loving and binding contract. We vowed to grow up together. And that’s what we’ve been doing ever since.

I’ve learned that marriage isn’t something you “do,” it’s about entering into a perpetual state of becoming – becoming someone who’s committed to cultivating their own inner landscape, guided by what’s in the best interest for their most cherished and beloved one. It’s about learning how to be together…and stay together, even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.

Marriage has been, at times, the most painfully challenging endeavor I’ve ever encountered, and will always be the single greatest decision I’ve ever had the great fortune of making.

And even now, all these years later, whenever I stand alone and bear witness to the great and awesome spectacle of a sunrise (which is not uncommon given that I’m a morning person and my “one” most assuredly is not), he’s who my heart calls for to share it with, every…single…time. And this is my fervent wish for you both: that your hearts continue calling for each other, whether you’re near or far apart, happy or sad, sleeping or awake, for the rest of your days.

 

17 Years & Still Soaking!

17 Years & Still Soaking

(in the spirit of Dr. Seuss)

We were wed at 20 and 21 years old,
thank goodness we didn’t do what we were told,
otherwise we might never have stuck,
which would’ve been terrible, lousy, no good, rotten luck.
But, alas, instead we followed our hearts,
and had a rockin’ young and awesome start.

For 17 married years, and 18 with dating,
we’ve been living, laughing, growing, and contemplating
all that it means to be husband and wife,
to ride the high highs and weather the strife.
And I’ll tell ya, in all honesty, I’m pretty sure I’ve won,
cause marrying my sweet husband is the best thing I’ve ever done.

 – In honor of our 17th wedding anniversary: March 9th, 2017

Happy & Hella in Love

happy

I feel it’s worth mentioning/announcing/declaring/celebrating, even at the risk of sounding all puppies and rainbows, that I am a happy person, with the added awesome benefit of being super in love with my husband. Funny how “puppies and rainbows” can be viewed as some kind of disingenuous statement, as though someone couldn’t POSSIBLY be THAT level of happy, without putting on some serious airs. But I truly am that kind of happy. And since it’s so very easy to hear from people about how their life sucks and they’re unsatisfied and full of fear and worry about the future and on and on, I thought it might provide a satisfying breath of fresh air to hear about how someone (me) is full of happiness, love and great levels of satisfaction in the present, and a trust that what will unfold in the future is part of what needs to happen in the grand scheme of life.

I was hesitant to offer a post about this, for fear of alienating/offending those who do honestly feel quite discontent. But as it is not my intention to make anyone feel badly, I was compelled to step into this discomfort in order to elevate my platform that happiness is indeed possible. So here’s what I’d like to share:

10 Things I Do To Ensure that Happiness is Possible:

1. I wake up early, meditate for 30 minutes (6 days a week), and end each meditation with a gratitude practice.

2. I prioritize self-care and nourishment.

3. I actively practice to simplify my lifestyle.

4. I don’t wallow in challenges when they arise. I acknowledge them, accept them, and move forward.

5. I devote my time to the service, care, and support of others.

6. I make time to do the things I enjoy doing – and I also diligently practice to enjoy the things I do.

7. I practice to deepen my self-awareness and investigate my habit energies.

8. I revel in music (listening, playing, singing, dancing, going to live shows).

9. I stay in close contact with my spiritual community and surround myself with lovely people.

10. I absorb from others what they have to offer and teach me and continue to thirst for more.

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