January goals: Go to bed earlier, start exercising again and organize my home office
This month's focus is on love and marriage. Rubin notes that, "working on my marriage was an obvious goal for my happiness project, because a good marriage is one of the factors most strongly associated with happiness...the atmosphere of my marriage set the weather for my whole life" (39). Scientific study, anecdotal evidence and my own personal observation certainly confirm that, arguably the most primary relationship in an adult's life, the marital relationship has a strong impact on happiness.
Today is about reflecting on where you are, and brainstorming where you want to be.
Minivan mom’s post set me to thinking and feeling a bit melancholy because her words pierced a place in me that I thought was healed, but I obviously still have issues with. My first marriage ended.in.divorce. While I agree that it is best to stay married, even in an unhappy marriage, for the sake of the children, I couldn’t. Not only was it unhappy but it was abusive on several fronts. I stuck with it for the sake of our kids – all 10 of them, for as long as I could but when it got to the point that it was just as detrimental for them as it was for me; and when I knew it was a choice between which one of us lived and which one of us died, then I knew it had to end. And in theory so did I. I fell to pieces literally. I was mentally void of any kind of rational thought, action or emotion. I functioned on auto-pilot, anti-depressants and Valium. I was Humpty Dumpty and during that awful time of my life I never thought I could/would be whole again.
The depth of my bitterness, resentment, hatred and anger could not be measured and the idea of another man entering my life was as likely as a snowball surviving a minute in hell. For two years, I worked hard at restoring my children and myself. I lost a few battles and won a few along the way trying to fight for what I thought was fair and just through our judicial system and at the hands of men found myself being victimized all over again because in the south the “good old boy” network is still alive and thriving. The healing process continued though through a group of friends that stuck closer to me than my family and continues to do so. My faith and trust in God saw me through the pit of hell and one day in my world of darkness and despair, the sun started to shine and I started to grow once again – grow confident in myself, my abilities as a woman/mother/friend and a contributing member of society. My job afforded me the opportunity to support my family and travel. Life was good and although I was alone, I was ok. More than ok. I was ecstatic because I had survived. I was tired but not weary, a little overwhelmed but not drowning. I wasn’t whole but I was no longer broken in a million little pieces. And when I least expected it my whole world got turned upside down again.
I met someone while traveling for work. I wasn’t looking, didn’t make the connection and gave little thought that this was more than a chance meeting. Little did I know that there was something much greater in the works. I met my soul mate. The person I was destined to be with. Not because he made my life wonderful and perfect because he didn’t and it’s not; but because he came into my life when I was so much less than I was when I met my first husband but he could see beyond the brokenness into what I could become and he loved me all the more because of it.
Tony’s acceptance of me, my circumstances and my baggage was more than I had ever hoped for. Trust me when I say he got the short end of the stick. I’ve never been one to deny who I am or how I am. In fact, as much as I tried not to be, I am my mother’s child. A strong, independent, I don’t need/want anybody because I can do it all by myself woman! I know what I want, how I want it and don’t think I’m going to let anyone tell me differently; especially after all that I had been through. In my first marriage I was that submissive, subservient wife. I threw away all that I was to become all that I thought he wanted on any given day to keep the peace, to make the yelling, screaming and belittling stop. Not anymore. On the inside I had become hard, determined and fiercely protective of what is mine. In spite of all of this he made his intentions known, dug his heels in and has been holding on every since.
He had one child, a son; I had 6 still at home 1 son and 5 daughters. He’s laid back, relaxed and easy going. I am type A all the way – uptight, regimented and nauseated at the idea of a vacation lasting more than 3 days (Fri, Sat & Sun). Relax was a dirty word totally foreign to me. I didn’t do much laughing, crying or having fun. I was in a groove that didn’t sway left or right but went straight down the line and it took an act of God to move me off of it but He did and I have. I zig, I zag, and I love life a whole lot more when I look at it from his perspective rather than my own. He wipes my tears, holds me in the night when the nightmares creep back in and he laughs with me and at me when I do stupid stuff for reasons unknown even to myself. He loves the salt and pepper hair – no “Nice n Easy” happening in this house and has fattened me up with his cooking and loving. Where there was once despair is now hope, where there was once ashes there are now flowers blooming – dreams on the horizon. I radiate from my head to my toes thanks to God and my husband.
These past two years have been good ones for me. I know that I could not appreciate all that Tony is if I hadn’t experienced the bad. He has taught me a lot about life, living, loving and trusting. I wouldn’t have learned the art of compromise and letting go of the small stuff or even how to laugh at myself and stop being so uptight if it weren’t for him. I can’t say that everything has changed for the better because in some ways they haven’t. We still have our struggles with the kids, finances, jobs, family – you know... life. But we’re in it together and we respect each other enough to walk away and give the other space when needed. That was essential for me because I had to learn to share my space with someone again, to trust my heart to someone again knowing full well that he could hurt me but be willing to step out on faith that even if he does that it isn’t the same and never will be. I’ve had to let go of the past hurts and prejudices and say ok, let’s give it a try and see where it leads. I’ve had to lower my expectations and free him from the incredibly high standards I had set in my mind so that he could be free to be himself and not who I would have molded him into. I had to take the lessons from the past and apply them to this relationship thus making it stronger and better than any I’ve ever had or hoped to have.
My husband challenges me to be a better person without even knowing it. The dreams he has for us stretches me in ways that want to send me running the other way but instead I move forward, taking it one day at a time, working my way through it until it feels right and I can embrace it totally. No pressure, no strings attached, no hidden agenda and no skeletons lurking in the shadows to pull me down. I am free to come into my own.
What keeps me awake at night is the feeling I have of the scales being unbalanced. For all he has given me I wonder what I give him other than a hard time. I lost so much of myself and don’t feel like I’ve gained it all back and therefore he’s missing out on those things. Like how I used to be so easy going, loving and forgiving. It was a seamless part of me and now it takes concerted effort to do all of those things. I have to choose to love, to relax, to forgive and some days to just live and not let the ghosts of the past pull me down into the darkness again.
His acceptance of me is so much more than mine of him. In my mind I replay things over and over and have to talk the walls down more often than not but he doesn’t complain, he just accepts. I throw myself out there giving and giving and often have little left to give at home but he accepts that as part of who I am and tries to protect me from myself. I’m not as understanding all the time. I can be selfish, self-centered and judgmental. He looks out for his family, always putting our needs first. He thinks the whole thing through and is willing to take a chance whereas I’d play it safe and close to my chest.
Nonetheless, it is working for us. I love him for who he is, how he is and just because he is. I love that he loves me, my children (our children) and has made our house a home. I love that he has seen me at my best and my worst and finds he is willing to accept them both. And even though he is younger than me, he is much wiser when it comes to certain things in the world that could present a clear and present danger to us.
What I hope for the future? More laughter, more love, more hope and joy. I’m slowly wrapping my brain around a trip to Disney, possibly a cruise and a vacation that is a week long. I’m looking forward to aging like fine wine with him; to watching the children grow up, welcoming grandchildren and reaching for all that is awaiting us and then some. At this point, there is a future and that is the greatest blessing of all.