These days there is an easiness which has settled in around us. We have grown in to something which the past few years had impaired. Most days we simply just be, him Chw and me, well- me. Routines fall in to place and there are moments, I will admit, when I question why it had felt so difficult before. It doesn’t take long before I remember. It wasn’t anyone’s fault but ours, really, but only in the ways that we allowed other people to take precedence over us. This happens so subtly that we don’t always realize that is what happens, especially when the couple transitions into a family.
I remember I was at a luncheon last fall and there was a discussion amongst the women at our table. All virtual strangers, there for a cause, one woman spoke up about how her youngest child was a junior in high school and she was terrified of what would become of her once he graduated and left the house. She was currently the team mom on his very heavy sports schedule. She was on the PTA. She ran each semester’s rather large fundraiser. She had made sure that in the high school careers of each of her three children, she had been ALL in. She was that mom. She admitted that she lived vicariously through the high school lives of her kids, attending every single function and never missing a moment. She loved it. She also admitted she was never home in the evenings or on weekends because her children deserved for everything to be about them.
What about your husband? I asked.
“Oh him? I don’t know. We have not had an actual conversation that wasn’t in passing about one of the kids sporting needs for well over a decade. I mean isn’t that what parenthood is? We will spend time together when it’s over.”
I was sad for her. When prodded a little, by another luncher, this woman briefly admitted that she had no idea who she even was outside of her kids high school lives. By this point I was really very sad for her. So sad in fact, that here we are months later and I think of this woman often. I am sad for her and her marriage. I am sad that she does not realize the couple part of her family equation, the foundation that began her family, may not really exist anymore. I was sad for both the man and the woman- the man who became invisible and unimportant to the woman he loved, and the woman who became those same things to herself.
I think that is the biggest marital advice I would ever have for anyone. In the way that we keep our eyes on the horizon so we don’t get car sick on the road- keep your eyes on your spouse. Never stop seeing them. I am not naive enough to think that hard seasons are done for us. We are approaching a heavy travel season where we won’t connect much, and honestly because our really ugly and painful bits aren’t that far in the past, this makes me nervous. What I do know however is that these current days of ease and being feel like all I have ever wanted, and I would not want to have them with anyone else. We have been together for twenty-four years, in various ways. He knows me, what I’ll like and not like, when I need to be close and when I don’t. He understands, without back story, the complications in relationships and who I truly value and trust. He knows the daughter, the mother and the friend I have been even better than myself. It is in those things, and the memories, moments and experiences with which the ease is founded. It took a lot of work to get to this place where the inside jokes of a lifetime ago still make us belly laugh until tears crest our eyes. This is what marriage becomes, but we have to allow it. We cannot allow our job, our children, family members or friends to come before this core part of our journey. There for a while we forgot that and allowed all of those things to take precedence, and our ship crashed hard.
What is it they say? If we learn from our mistakes then they weren’t failures after all? That feels true.
I have been thinking so much about that woman lately. Sadly, I would not recognize her if I crossed paths with her again, but I am hoping and praying she gets it and that it isn’t too late. During that meal and meeting, those months ago, the more she unlayered, the lonelier she sounded. Her drug for masking the feeling was her over-involvement with her kids. Once her kids move on to their next chapters though, I fear the insurmountable amount of pain she will likely slam into.
We’ve all done it: hide from our hurts/fears/failures in something else. It is the heart of addiction, adultery… It is the seed which grows the disasters of so many things. I know many lives, on this very day, of people I love and/or respect where this is happening. This is why we, as women, keep ourselves over busy. Let’s stop. Let’s let go of expectations and perceived expectations. Let’s take an honest look at the people we share our lives with, and ourselves, and then lets just kick back and be. Do I need to lose 50 lbs? yeah, I do. Should I go wash the handful of dishes in the sink? Absolutely. But hows my heart? Am I present in this moment? Am I feeling grounded? How’s my marriage? It isn’t that the superficial things are not important, but they are not the MOST important.