I’m sitting next to a family.
Two parents with three most-likely-bio sons. I watch the oldest roll his eyes as the youngest runs around the cafe, repeating with gusto,
“I spy with my little eye…”
The middle boy colors quietly by himself.
I don’t know the names of the older boys.
The youngest is definitely named Liam.
Father and mother halfheartedly chase the towheaded toddler in turns, calling his name.
He expertly ignores, then evades them.
It is a blissful scene of family togetherness, childhood glee and parental exasperation.
Sometimes I watch other people with their children, heart aching.
I am not the woman who gave my children life.
Every so often, I wonder whether things would be different if I’d held them in my arms from birth.
a few days ago
I saw a lady watching as my daughter and I walked through the store
arms wrapped around each others’ shoulders
being our goofy selves
The woman’s eyes sparkled with tears.
I wondered about her story.
And it hit me.
We all watch each other.
Grieving our personal losses.
Assuming others have a better, happier life.
She has no idea of the depths of hell from which my girl and I have fought our way back to be mother and daughter.
She can’t imagine the years of despairing whether we’d ever have a relationship.
I reconsider some of my wishing.
Maybe Liam’s family lets him have run of the place because he’s recently had his third round of chemo and they don’t know if it will work. Maybe they seem happy together because it might be the last time.
None of us has any idea what the others’ lives are like, and yet, we wish.
A few weeks ago, I talked with a friend I’ve always seen as the epitome of happy and positive. We lost touch after college for over fifteen years. Three minutes into the phone call, our friendship was all caught up. She’s the same sunny girl.
Five minutes in, we’d spilled our guts.
Our adoption journey. Their many miscarriages.
Everyone has a difficult patch in life to overcome.
We all have our own battles, and none of us really knows what others endure.
I’m a born advocate; when I read Isaiah 1:17, Proverbs 31:8 and and Isaiah 58:6-11, I feel they were written to me personally.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
8 Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves.
Speak up for the rights of all those who are poor.
I can fight for what others (e.g., my kids) need all day long. But if I’m honest, miscarriages would utterly destroy me. God knew what I could handle.
God knew beforehand this was going to be my life, so I’m fully prepped to fight, love and pray my way through the hard times.
Maybe I just need to focus a little more on being thankful I’m equipped for this life, instead of wishing for someone else’s battle.
Isaiah 58:6-11, NIRV
Set free those who are held by chains without any reason.
Untie the ropes that hold people as slaves.
Set free those who are crushed.
Break every evil chain.
Share your food with hungry people.
Provide homeless people with a place to stay.
Give naked people clothes to wear.
Provide for the needs of your own family.
Then the light of my blessing will shine on you like the rising sun.
I will heal you quickly.
I will march out ahead of you.
And my glory will follow behind you and guard you.
That’s because I always do what is right.
You will call out to me for help.
And I will answer you.
You will cry out.
And I will say, ‘Here I am.’
Get rid of the chains you use to hold others down.
Stop pointing your finger at others as if they had done something wrong.
Stop saying harmful things about them.
Work hard to feed hungry people.
Satisfy the needs of those who are crushed.
Then my blessing will light up your darkness.
And the night of your suffering will become as bright as the noonday sun.
I will always guide you.
I will satisfy your needs in a land baked by the sun.
I will make you stronger.
You will be like a garden that has plenty of water.
You will be like a spring whose water never runs dry.
Continued from Part 1
Needless to say, we broke up.
Seven years later, I saw him. We chatted (in real life, not online) for a few minutes and exchanged addresses. I was attending college out of state. For two years, we made casual connection via letters (yes, on paper, written in pen). I tried to explain what I’d meant, all those years ago. He said I did a better job this time.
We were both dating other people.
Life happened. We lost contact again.
During that time, our respective relationships ended. I decided not to date anyone seriously for a year; at the end of the year, I prayed.
“God, if you could send me someone exactly like him, but a Christian…that would be perfect.”
God did one better.
A year later, we were dating, doing our best to follow God. Together.
I wanted to marry him when I was thirteen. I wanted to marry him nine years later. When he asked me, on Christmas Day, I couldn’t speak.
We’d discussed engagement and even picked out a ring but he fooled me. “Let’s wait to get engaged until you finish your Master’s degree.” Next year.
Then he bought the ring, created an elaborate, beautiful scavenger hunt and asked me to marry him. I was so shocked and overcome, I stood with my mouth open, gasping like a landed bass.
When he’d waited long enough to be concerned, he asked, “Are you going to answer me?” With one word, I gave him my whole heart, forever.
A year later we tied the knot. Jumped the broom. Got hitched. Smashed the glass.
Best. Decision. Ever.
Feed Him before Midnight
Learning the rules of cohabitation is one of the most important lessons in marriage. Food guidelines are especially important to communicate.
Determined to get it right, I cooked elaborate meals upon arriving home each evening.
- we both worked long hours (7 pm or after) and
- Hubby had hypoglycemia; he needed to eat frequently to maintain sugar levels.
We rarely dined before 8:30 pm, and often ate much later. When Hubby breezed through the door around 7 pm and made himself a PB&J, I took offense. My homemade chunky pasta sauce wasn’t worth the wait?
Hindsight, and all that. I should have prepped meals to pop in the microwave, enabling us to eat earlier.
As it was, we had a daily tiff about the sandwich because I saw it as a personal affront to my culinary skills. He just needed to eat something. Anything. For a while, he acquiesced to my inane request and waited for dinner. During which time I made the acquaintance of Mr. Hyde (also known as Hungry Hubby).
Have you seen the candy bar commercials “for when you’re hangry” (angry because hungry)? It’s a thing.
I learned we could both be happier if I had a PB&J waiting for him. We still ate dinner together. Win-win.
Argument. Screaming match. Fight. Spat. Tiff. Row. Scrap. Knock-down-and-drag-out. Rumpus. Squabble. Brannigan.
Doesn’t really matter what you call it. Our first years were peppered with provocation. We both grew up in…vocally demonstrative…families. Angry? Yell. Mad? Yell. Annoyed? Yell.
The greater our passion surrounding a topic, the higher the decibel level.
I once heard a preacher say, “Church is the only place people shoot their own wounded.” He was wrong.
In the art of war, Hubby and I were Picasso and Van Gogh. We tossed barbed words, insinuations, blame and comparisons like grenades. We wounded each other with abandon.
Sometime around year five (during a lull in the storm), Hubby asked, “Have you ever noticed? We only yell about stupid stuff we blow out of proportion. If an issue is important, we work together to solve the problem.” He suggested we decide to stop screaming. We agreed.
Other than a stint in year seven when we were both acting like idiots (and I’ll admit freely that I was being the bigger idiot), we’ve managed to uphold our arrangement.
One of my proudest moments: last year, a counselor asked our children how they feel when “mom and dad have a big fight.” The kids looked at each other, confused, then said, “Daddy and Mama don’t fight.”
With a condescending grin, the counselor said, “Sure. So…how do you feel when they yell at each other?” The kids shook their heads.
“When they argue,” he tried.
“Daddy and Mama just work together on everything. They never fight,” the kids told him.
Since then, we’ve had a couple arguments (mostly stemming from occasional hormone fluctuations during which time I may become…unreasonable), but overall, we hold to our agreement.
Feel free to steal this idea; eliminating fights is great for the blood pressure.
As I mentioned above, Year 7 was not our best.
We almost broke up for good. Hubby had a bag packed in the trunk of his car. We discussed logistics. He said I could keep the house. I said I’d probably move out of state. We thought we had no options.
It’s easy to feel alone in the midst of a struggle. Even more so when it involves marriage; you’re separated from the person who should be your best friend.
If you’re smart, you don’t involve mutual friends, family members or work colleagues (they’ll take sides, hold lifelong grudges and give bad advice since they have no vested interest, respectively). That means, though, that you experience solitude in the grief.
Thankfully, a slightly older couple befriended us with the intent to mentor us. They could see our struggles; they’d been in similar straits and recognized the signs. Thanks to their care and committed support, we survived.
Help came from two other odd sources:
- Recognizing that a large percentage of our troubles stemmed from my issues, I went to a counselor who looked and sounded like Elmer Fudd, but everything he said made sense.
- Our good buddy freaked out, telling Hubby, “You can’t leave. You’re the only normal married people I know!”
Fight, but not each other.
Another friend told us to be like mules.
“When horses are threatened, they freak out and run around, accidentally kicking each other. Predators can take them down. Mules put their heads together and kick out at the danger. Keep your heads together. Your spouse is not the enemy.”
Here’s what we learned: Love is a choice, not a feeling. Fight for your relationship. Anything worth having comes at a price. We fought—against our own selfishness and desire for an easy out—and won.
If you’re thinking about divorce, this guy has some good advice.
Fight FOR each other.
In response to Today’s Prompt in Writing 101: Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else. Today’s twist: write your post in the form of a dialogue.
I wrote this as both fable and poem, with a 7-7-8-8 pattern (for those who are interested, I left the numbers).
Conversation Cut Short
Two young beauties, out to play, 7
Rosie Sue and Daisy Mae. 7
Mothers called, “don’t soil your dresses!” 8
Rosie tossed her short red tresses. 8
Both girls, dressed in shades of green, 7
Faced the sun, began to preen. 7
“My dress is best,” said Rosie Sue. 8
“No, I’m much prettier than you!” 8
Daisy Mae retorted, and 7
Dug her toes into the sand. 7
“Ah, you just wish you could be me,” 8
Rosie Sue sniffed back at Daisy. 8
“You are crazy, Rosie Sue. 7
I’ve no desire to be you. 7
Your hair’s a mess, your nose is long 8
And when you try to sing a song 8
Bees buzz louder, donkeys bray, 7
All the bunnies hop away.” 7
She waved a hand and flounced her skirt 8
And tipped her sunny face, quite pert. 8
“I’d suggest you wear a hat 7
If you keep your hair like that. 7
I think it looks like a rat’s nest—” 8
Rosie cut in, “Give it a rest! 8
Your hair is much worse than mine; 7
I get tired when you whine. 7
You are annoying and you’re mean— 8
Always trying to steal the scene. 8
I don’t even want to play 7
With you out here ev’ry day.” 7
“Well,” said Daisy, “call your mother. 8
Go now, go play with your brother.” 8
Rosie turned away to prance 7
But she never had a chance. 7
With gard’ning shears, so sharp and light, 8
I swooped in fast, cut short their fight. 8
So ended the nasty talk, 7
As my hand grasped each small stalk. 7
And now flowers grace my table; 8
Hear the lesson of this fable. 8