Chasing Inspiration

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Friends and Gentle Reminders

I was out with a friend for lunch and we got to talking, as we do, about marriage. Our conversation moved into the territory of leaving and cleaving, needs and choices.

A healthy marriage consists of communication, positive conflict management and each partner having their needs met.  This is where I'm selfish. I want my needs met but I don't always see my husband's. We have lived in the chaos of renovations and higher education and work and life for so long, I think I've forgotten to really see him and his needs. And I interpret how he makes "requests" of me as attacks, as judgement or as a need to control his world. I forget that he needs structure and a certain level of order to the chaos. Me, I don't see the mess around me. I'm learning this is a coping mechanism and not how I actually function best, but I don't see the chaos. I survive despite it. 

So as my friend and I were talking and I shared with her a story about lemons, a kitchen sink and my husband, she gently but firmly showed me that my reaction to the situation was rather passive aggressive and that my husband likely needs some structure that I haven't been providing for him. She shared with me a different way I could have responded that would have met my need and given my husband what he needed. Instead of the push me pull you of relationship dynamics, I could have responded in a way that would have acknowledged we both have needs and we both know how to compromise in order for those needs to be fulfilled. 

We have a relatively healthy marriage, but even in good marriages there are things that need to be addressed and areas we can improve. Some behaviors that are getting in our way. Every marriage needs check-ups once in a while. A good physical where we can see potential issues or warning signs and head them off before they can take root and eat away at the foundation. 

I was reminded I need to really see my husband. To voice my needs instead of fuming at the status quo, and be willing to have some give and take that isn't all or nothing. That is, instead, partnering. These are not new concepts to me. There have been times I've been very good at these things. And times like now when I choose to act in a less than partnering manner. 

To change the patterns we are forming requires a willingness to change  behavior, and the willingness to have some difficult conversations instead of letting things slide. I can't change my husband's behavior, but I can change mine. I can't change his perspective, but I can work on mine. I can't make him share with me, but I can choose to share my needs, wants, thoughts with him. 

There are choices in every situation. They may not always be great choices, but there are choices. Letting things slide can lead to victim thinking (I had no choice, I can't change things, there's no point), or anger and resentment. Change which choice we make and we can instead work to build a stronger relationship. 

Lunch was good. The firm and gentle reminder was what I needed. I'm very grateful for friends who are willing to speak the truth. It helps me grow. And in turn, I hope it will help me as I continue to nurture and grow my marriage and my other relationships.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Just Ducky

My FIL's house may have just sold. After spending practically every weekend over there since Labour Day, it's nice to know our blood, sweat and tears are paying off. We hauled out so much crap and recycling from the basement and second floor it's not funny. I think the recycling dumpster at my husband's office has had more play in the last two months than it has ever in it's life. Yes, that is how much crap we hauled out. Most of it paper or electronics in nature.

We sorted. We tossed. We brought home little treasures and items to be sorted through later. We cleaned, we tossed some more. Hubby and his brother fixed miscellaneous items. The house never looked this good inside in the entire time I have been a member of this family. I almost wanted to make a bid on it myself!

We're going to miss the place. We haven't spent much time there over the last five years. My FIL and his wife became snowbirds and spent the winters out of state. Which meant they weren't around for Thanksgiving or Christmas. But after spending two months of weekends over there, I was reminded of why this is such a great house and just how unique it is, in this tiny micro-neighborhood where everyone has a huge wooded lot and houses built in a 70's modern style. It's like an oasis inside the city. You can't really hear a highway or traffic. You can't see your neighbors so you feel like you are out in the country. Wildlife is plentiful so if you're into birding or watching deer meander through your yard, this house would be the place for you.

While it hasn't quite hit my husband yet, this is going to be another good-bye. I know he's been saying good-bye to the house he grew up in for years. Life transitions have continued to remove him further and further from the home of his formative years - moving out, rooms being repurposed, renovations, and his father spending less and less time there.  Even cleaning through the house has been an exercise in saying good-bye. But the final farewell was just a theory. Something that was going to happen in the ambiguous future. Until that day, the house - and all it's memories - were still part of the family.

After December 7th, he'll only be able to lay claim to the memories.

I know how that goes. My grandmother's house on Vancouver Island was a place of joy for me. Every summer I would spend weeks there, exploring the house, the fields, the surrounding area. It was always filled with love and acceptance and my grandma's amazing pies. I loved this house and what it represented to me so much I felt I was going to die when both my grandparents passed away and the family sold the remaining property, including the house.

I would go out of my way and drive by the old farmstead every time I would visit, catching glimpses of changes to the house and the property. Once I even went to the door and asked if I could walk around the property. I never asked to step inside the house. Even if they hadn't changed a thing, it wouldn't be grandma's house anymore. And that I couldn't bear. I would take my memories, wrap them tightly about my shoulders and comfort myself with them.

My husband isn't as sentimental as I am, so I don't think he's going to break down in tears over the sale of his family home. I do know when the documents are signed and we have to hand over our keys, he's going to have a moment or two. Just like he did when we closed the cabin for the first time without his dad. Just like he will when a significant date comes and goes and his dad isn't there to share it with him.

Grief is like that. One day we can feel just ducky, life is fine. We have a handle on things. Then WHAM! out of now where we are hit with a memory, a thought, a niggle that reminds us that things have changed, that we have lost something. And that even though we are managing to move forward, there will always be a hole in our lives from our loss. And that's okay. Better than okay. Without his dad, my husband wouldn't be the man he is today. It's okay to ride the waves and ripples of grief and to acknowledge that this hole is never going to be filled. The hole represents his dad. A man who cannot be replaced. The pain associated with that hole will grow fainter. It will always be there in some way, but he will go days, months, years without it's acute ache.

Grief is necessary. And it's okay. I wish our culture was more comfortable with grief and loss. And the need to express the emotions surrounding both. Without grief, we can't fully taste joy. Without joy, we aren't fully alive.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Laughter: The Great Stress Reliever

This past weekend is the first weekend since we got the call that my FIL was dying that we didn't have any obligations. Okay, my husband had homework and we still had to take care of the dog, but we didn't have to be anywhere or do anything.

I did what I always do when I have a moment to relax. I ended up getting sick. I wasn't feeling that terrific all week and I don't get a lot of time off at work so because I wasn't contagious I Ididn't take any time off. Then I got good and achy and feverish on Saturday. Blessing in disguise because I ended up spending the day in bed watching Netflix and Hulu on my nook tablet, catching up on some shows and generally getting in some laughter therapy.

My husband spent Saturday taking care of some of the outdoor things - raking and bagging the copious amount of leaves blowing around the yard, fertilizing the lawn before winter sets in. You know, those adult-like things that must be done, but I prefer to believe the home maintenance fairies take care of while I sleep. For hubby, these things are therapeutic. I don't get it myself but I don't argue with the results. He's more relaxed, more centered and grounded. Now, if I could convince him that I'm more relaxed and centered when someone else takes care of these items on my behalf.

We ordered in pizza for dinner and spent some highly needed time just being with each other. We've been in one problem solving mode after another for the past three months that it was nice to just be. To breathe. To laugh. Was it ever good to laugh.

We release stress in a few different ways: crying, laughing, sweating. I haven't spent much time crying (I'm sure there's going to be a crying jag in my future). I sweat a bit at Pilates but am not really a fan - even during good sex. So we laughed. So hard my belly hurt and I was actually reduced to tears because I was laughing. So. Darn. Hard. I have no idea what I was laughing at, but man, did that release some of the pent up stress I have been experiencing.

A nice side effect was that my rolling-on-the-floor-dying-from-laughter episode was highly entertaining to hubby. Cuz, I live to entertain. *snort*

Laughter therapy. I highly recommend it. I also recommend going out for dinner with a good friend and laughing uproariously when it becomes apparent that the waiter is giving you special attention due to that shirt you wore that shows off your assets quite nicely. Anywhere you can find it, laughter can be great therapy.