Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Accepting Mindy Kaling's Challange

I recently read Mindy Kaling's book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me.  I always liked Mindy's character on The Office and her new show The Mindy Project is pretty funny.  Plus I felt like I needed a light humor read that was about frivolous and unimportant things like fashion.  One chapter however echoed with me, and while she wrote it in a funny way I am sure she was serious.  She said something like "Married people need to step it up."  I couldn't agree more, but I can only change myself so I will step it up.  
Her argument was that single ladies envision this beautiful happily ever after.  They WANT to be married.  While all the married people complain about their spouse, and eventually get divorced.  (She said it all way cooler, and i can't quote directly because it was a kindle library loan and it went *poof* back into the cloud of books a few days ago.)  So this post, is me stepping it up, and if your married, encouraging you to step it up.

(  If you are divorced, or separated my heart breaks for you and I hope this doesn't make you feel bad.  I hope you don't feel that I am bragging or judging.  I almost didn't write this because of fear of hurting my dear friends. )

The most important part of my job as a birth doula is to protect that sacred space in birth so that the family can fully feel and become bonded.  There is so much energy, love, endorphin, sometimes anger, sometimes sadness, and hope.  All of that must be guarded from the outside world. I stand guard keeping it wrapped into their space as everything transpires.   Marriage needs that same protection, it is sacred space that we must acknowledge and keep guarded.   
I write this with hesitation because my marriage is still young, 12 years now.  Also because my friends are hurting from fresh separation, broken vows, and broken hearts.   I've seen this pain close up and I don't for one second want them to think I am judging.  They have walked through these things with all the strength and grace you could ever imagine.  
Still there are those with relationships much younger than mine, with marriages just beginning to blossom.  These things I'm learning, I wish to share.  

We are the only ones who matter.  Now, I don't mean that we can't help our neighbor or that we should abandon everyone else.  What I mean is that what my husband and I choose and decide for our life, our family, or anything else.  That is our decision and if others disagree, or share options of how "he is too this," or "I am too that," if what we have is working for us then that is enough.  Social approval doesn't matter.    An example would be that I'm an extrovert and he is an introvert.   When we first got married I thought we were "supposed" to be together, like all the time.  He thought so too.  So we would go to parties because I wanted to, or we wouldn't because he didn't want to.   Years have taught me that I can go to parties with friends instead, and he can stay home with a book.  Sure, I might get comments like, "Hey, where is your husband?" and maybe they think he is a jerk for not coming.  It really doesn't matter, as long as I don't think he's a jerk for not coming.  

You will feel enraged and fight or flight will take over.  These feelings will flare up and  you can feed the fire or breath and release.  I had trouble with this a lot a few years ago, I think it was fueled by not sleeping thanks to a fun 18 month old who enjoyed seeing me every hour or two for eternity.    I would get so angry, suddenly everything that my husband did made me furious.  The way he walked, breathed, didn't do X,YZ, did do X,Y,Z.   The moments would flare up from nowhere, something little and every time they did I had to make a choice.   In my head I could keep going down that road and follow it to other things that bothered me.  Or, I could stop, breath, (maybe eat a chocolate) and think of something he did that I appreciated.   This is a choice, and sometimes I made the choice of anger, but it never left me feeling better.   Plus, I know that given the chance, he could have easily compiled a list of my shortcomings.  Deep down buried under the exhausted parents with the darkened eyes we knew that we loved each other and we were trying our best, even if it didn't look pretty.  Why make it worse with tiny junk?  It's like a cluttered desk, you can't get any work done with all that mess and marriage often times takes some work.  Especially when babies don't sleep.   

Women love to get together and talk and often times things that come out are complaints about their spouse. It seems there is a social pressure to complain.  It sometimes goes in a circle, and there you are, your turn to add in his latest blunder, or how he never does the laundry (I'm blessed with a laundry ninja who sneaks loads in when I'm extra busy.)  I am guilty of adding to the circle of talk but my goal is to stop participating.   I've had some wise words from women who have been married more years than I have been alive. Their marriages are still amazing and I want that.  They have discouraged this talk and I'm aiming for keeping my mouth shut.  I know it's going to be hard.   I don't want people to think I've got it all together.  I don't want my friends to feel bad about their own marriages because I don't commiserate with my own story.  By not saying anything, I hope they don't hear, "I have no problems, and my husband does everything right, you must have married a loser!"  Again though, this is about protecting that sacred space.  I know how much it would hurt me if I heard my husband complaining about me.  I would feel terrible, so why should being a woman give me a right to do the same to him?  Lets make a social change and start lifting our loves up instead!   We need to hear more good stories.

Our children need to hear and see more good stories too.  Not the fairy tales, the real stories about what love can look like.   One of my dear friends said that when she was a young girl and her parents were divorced she had a friend that she would sometimes go home with after school.  When she would go to her friends house the girl was often embarrassed because her parents would hold hands.  This simple act of love showed my friend, who's parents never acted like this, what marriage could look like.  Married people could hold hands and love each other.  It gave her hope and an example that she didn't have at home. My friend is now in a very loving and wonderful marriage and still thinks of this couple and the example they gave her.   Now, please don't make out in front of children, but if you love your spouse, don't be afraid to love them in public too.  We need to break the idea of marriage being the end of romance.  

We must go on dates for goodness sake.  Before people get married they spend hours picking out what to wear, getting their hair done, fretting about insignificant things to impress and woo the person they adore.  Men, maybe do less picking out clothes and more Axe body spray, but you get the picture.  We try REALLY hard, until we don't need to.  Except, we still need to, sometimes.  I'm not saying everyday.  If your kid is up all night with the flu, or you just pulled a 70 hour work week.  Perhaps that day you stomp around in your bathrobe and grumble things about more coffee.  Often though, we need to go back to trying, and go out, somewhere you would have gone before marriage, without your kids, and remember the couple version of you and your spouse.   When my husband and I do this, and we are getting better at doing it more often, we say things like "Oh yeah, there you are, I like hanging out with you." Sometimes we don't say anything, we just sit knowing that we both needed this time together.  This time away from kids and housework and regular work and carpools.  Sacred space, just us, alone.    This time must be protected, it must be honored, and it must happen more often then once a year.   No excuses.  If you can figure out how to attend a parent teacher conference together then you can figure out how to go on a date.  

Read this book, For Women Only, and if your married to a man there is one for him called For Men Only.  This book is so interesting because guess what.  Men are crazy different than women (talk about the book and find out what is true for you and your partner, there are always people who don't fit in boxes.)    
Here is the deal, simple things can be huge things.  Like respect, Men want respect more than love.  OK, maybe you knew that part, but did you know that offering help or directions when your man is doing something is disrespectful?  Yeah, apparently it says, "I think your an idiot."  I thought it said, "I love you so much, let me help you with that."   Nope!   Things like that are in the book.  Something small, but if everyday your husband is hearing that you think he's an idiot and you think you are saying, "I love helping you" then eventually you are going to have a problem.   This book is great, she interviewed tons of men and took the top 7 things or something like that.  Just read it and then you can scratch your head and go, wow, men are so funny.

One more thing, for the puppy love couples who think they need to like all the same music and movies in order to have a lasting relationship.   You do not have to agree on everything.  My husband and I have a joke, a funny thing we don't talk about but sometimes say the word to get a laugh.  That word is homeopathy.  My science guy cannot stand it.  He says it doesn't work because blablablablablascience.   I listened once or twice to his logic and reason, watched a video, but I don't care.  I love it anyway.   It works!  Or does it?  It doesn't matter.  We don't have to agree and we can laugh about how amazingly opposed he is, and how I think it's just dandy and would you like some arnica?   So I take my tiny white pills sometimes and he rolls his eyes but it's not a deal breaker, and it certainly not worth an argument.   There are too many real, big issues to trouble with, no reason to agree on the tiny things.   

I'm not perfect, I will mess up.  I will forget to pay a bill, wash pants, turn off the hot water valve while installing a new faucet while he naps on the couch so that he can awake to hot water blasting everywhere (yeah, that happened.)  I am a messy human.  I need forgiveness, I need grace, I need  sacred space to be my quirky, dancing, messy self.   So does my husband.  We must offer it to each other daily.  Like I said, our marriage is young, I am sure there will be more trials and trouble ahead but if we keep doing our best and letting go of the tiny junk I think we will make it.