The THING(s)

Wow.  It has been five and a half MONTHS since I have been here.  I couldn’t even remember my password as blog owner!  Hi there.

I need to write because I am LOSING MY MIND.

Matt and I have been squeezed through a wheat-sifter.  Our marriage, specifically.  It has been excruciating and we are a bloody mess emotionally.  I describe our current state as “we’re cleaning out all of the yuck in our wounds so that they can heal well.”  Delicious, no?

As it turns out, we are both overachievers at selfishness.  We are in counseling, we are in shred-apart-this-crap-and-find-the-valuable-hidden-parts mode, and we have decided to deal with some serious cracks in our relational foundation.  It is horrible.  I don’t want to describe how horrible… I’m going to let your imagination do that work for me.

But we are on a journey here.  There are things, amazing things, looming beyond us.  There is a something for the Olson Five to do, and we have to get these foundational cracks repaired (even if we have to dig up the entire structure and rebuild it, which it kind of seems like we are doing, but we’re so covered with sludge and the air is so thick with demolition dust that we don’t really see what we’re doing… we’re just DOING IT).  And we don’t know what the amazing things are that we headed toward, but we are committed to realistically dealing with our crap and moving in that direction.

We’re never going to get there.

It isn’t just a half-glass-empty doubt that punches me in the face in my weak moments.  We really are NEVER GOING TO GET THERE.  We’ll never have it together.  I thought we would by now.  I thought we’d be 10+ years into this marriage thing and have our issues all ironed out so that we can be available for everyone else’s issues.  Yeah, that’s not ever going to be true.  Our issues are immense.  We still CAN be available to others with their issues, but only because we know the deep and painful brokenness of ourselves.  We get you.  We hear what you’re saying.  We are piles of shards and we may never feel put together.  We should probably just snuggle in, razor edges and all, and let Jesus start building a beautiful picture out of our shared mosaic, because pulling back until we are smooth and soft is NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.  We can’t get there.  We’re a broken mess, and we are painfully aware of it.  And we are healing and being restored, but we’ll never be all set.  We’ll always be a mess.  And there’s a beauty in that, although I have difficulty finding it most days.

So this thing… or things… or whatever God has for us.  It has cost us our blinders, our masks, and our pretty patina that we paint on over our crumbles and cracks.  It has cost us our self-satisfaction and our arrogance.  It has been crazy expensive already, because it is ripping out solid chunks of us that we preferred to keep, thank you very much!

We don’t know what it is.  But allow me to walk you through the insanity that is my dream world these days.

“God knows our hearts for vulnerable children… if He is preparing us for THIS thing, then we’ll need this many beds donated, we’ll need to rearrange these rooms… no these ones… you know, it might work best if we left the master bedroom and switched to the guest roo… WHAT???  This can’t cost us our ROOM!  That’s our room!  I need a break.  <generous mental break>  Okay, so we have OPTIONS for room rearrangements… We aren’t in a position yet to go after any specifics because we have plans this summer that require just the 5 of us, okay… so we have some time.  And then what?”  I can tell you what vehicle switches we’d have to beg a car dealership for, I can tell you what laundry changes will need to take place, I can detail for you exactly how much more cooking I will have to do.  Oh, you should know this – I do not like cooking.  I don’t HATE it… but it seems so pointless.  We eat, then we eat again.  I have trouble finding the glamour in working on something that disappears.  It’s part of my “everything I do needs to COUNT and be BIG!” personal issues.  Meals?  Ehh.  So THAT attitude would need to shift, among every other detail of my life!

I get stuck in places like, “Could I keep my job?  We’d need the money, but if the thing God wants us to do is THIS, then He’d need my time devoted to that…” and anytime the room rearrangements in my head circle back toward booting Matt and me from our own bedroom.

I don’t like not knowing where we are going, but I promise you:  I canNOT handle knowing where we are going.  I really cannot.  I’m going mad just imagining things… can you even fathom how insufferable I’d be if I actually had to make the plans and carry them out?

So we’re in this “we need to heal because we let ourselves get damaged/damage one another and that needs to STOP” phase of life.  And we’re approaching this “if we could be honest with ourselves and open with God about what we’re willing to do in His Kingdom, He might ask this or this or THIS!!!” phase of life that is totally exhilarating and murderously dangerous at the same time.  I think God’s goal is to kill our overinflated senses of self so that whenever we get to the THING(s), He just has to remind us to leave that corpse dead instead of kill it then.  But we experience it this way:  He is killing US.  My arrogance IS me.  It’s part of me!  I can’t be me without it!  Augh!!!  I’m dying.  It hurts and I whine at God incessantly.  For unknown reasons, He still calls me His child and is pleased with me despite my brattiness.  And Matt too.  Our self-importance is the worst kind of zombie; you think it’s finally dead and can’t hurt us anymore, and then it’s BACK!  And creepier than ever!

So… I took a lengthy break from blogging and then popped in to tell you all of this, and that’s literally all I have to say.  I’m a jerk.  But I think we’re all well-acquainted with THAT factoid!  If you want to pray for us, pray that the horrible parts of both Matt and I will just DIE and that we’ll leave them dead and stop trying to resurrect our own ridiculousness.  And you could pray for our marriage.  It sucks, but in the same way as climbing Mount Everest sucks.  “Why are we doing this?  What were we thinking?  This is the worst thing ever!  We’ll never survive!” and then”Whoa.  Look at all of THAT.  Worth it!”  And you could pray for whatever the THING(s) is/are that God intends for us/is preparing us to do.  Because it’s likely going to be so big and epic that we’ll die again.  And I have a pre-recorded whining session for what to say when that happens.  And it will be a place of brokenness and beauty, which is exactly how life is meant to be.  I think we’ll feel fully alive then more than we ever have… but only because we know the deep frailty of ourselves.  We’re in the process of learning that lesson now.

Hi!  I’ve missed you!  I’ve gone crazy without you, dear reader!  Sorry I left and sorry that I don’t know when I’ll be back.

–Jaime

One of our Fights

In this post, I’m going to give you an insider’s glimpse into the dysfunction of my marriage and family.  You’d never discover this information unless we chose to share it, and most people would choose not to reveal these things about themselves.  But I think honesty (KIND honesty) is likely to be helpful!  And you’ll see the beauty of our marriage and family too.  And even if this does nothing for those who read it now, I want to document it for my kids.  Because this blog is for them… even though I hardly find time to write here anymore!

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Olson Tinies, someday, when you read this and are no longer tiny, you will be reminded that your parents fought when you were little.  We aren’t there yet, but I’m guessing it is a pretty sure bet that your parents fought when you were big too.  And of course you remember – you lived here while it happened!  When you remember that we fought/still fight, I hope you also remember that we came to find you afterward so we could talk to you about it.  Because the fears you imagine and the unknowns you cannot name are far more terrifying than whatever is really happening, and we know that.  So we told you what was going on, and even  more so as you got bigger and could understand.  You might also remember that you were welcome to weigh in, never during, but always after the fight once we told you about it.  And you did weigh in – you bravely pointed out how we both contributed to the problem, whatever it was.  And we talked about it.  If nothing else in this family, we TALK about things, don’t we?  That’s because we love each other.

The other day, Mommy and Daddy had a fight about vacuuming the van, or so it would appear.  But we never actually fight about things, issues, topics…  I can’t imagine that many people do.  If we look closely, we notice that we fight about people, specifically, we fight for people.  And most often, we fight for ourselves.  Some facet of our personhood is being questioned or damaged, and our feathers get ruffled, and we step up to fight!  Defend!  Set things right!  When we do this on behalf of someone else, it is a good thing.  When we fight for someone who cannot or will not fight for themselves, we are laying ourselves down and instead picking up the cause of someone because they matter.  They have value and we see it in them, even if they don’t see it in themselves.  We are so proud every time each of you has done that!  But when we fight on behalf of ourselves, our selfishness gets in the way and muddles things up.  Are we doing good?  Or just defending our pride?  It’s often hard to tell.

I called Daddy and told him that we were going to clean out the van after lunch.  It took a long time!  We emptied out all of the trash.  We collected all of the toys and artwork and random items that were worth keeping but had been forgotten in our van.  We took out the booster seats and CLEANED.  We used Clorox Wipes and worked on the windows and the cup holders and all the nooks that collect junk.  We even vacuumed with the wet/dry vac!  It took a long time, we did it in the hot sun, and we worked as a team.

I called Daddy again to tell him about our hard work.  The wet/dry vac hadn’t really done a thorough job, so I told him that we were going to take the van to a detailing place.  He immediately responded to a secret fear that cropped up – he didn’t want to spend money unnecessarily.  He didn’t know how hard we had worked and that the wet/dry vac wasn’t sufficient.  But without realizing it, he believed I was asking him to be flippant with money, and his feathers ruffled and he was not going to let that happen!  Instead of directly telling me that he was concerned about the money so that we could talk about it further, he started making various excuses about why we couldn’t and wouldn’t be taking our van to get vacuumed.  These excuses included questioning my credibility to make this decision, whether we had done good enough work in the first place and were just being lazy and passing it off to a professional instead of working hard ourselves, questions about cost, questions about whether their equipment was any better than what we had at home, and other things I don’t remember now.

That triggered two of my secret fears – I was being treated unfairly and someone considered me inferior when compared to them.  My feathers were ruffled and I set out to prove that of COURSE I knew what I was talking about and we WERE going to do this because I said so.  I systematically found the flaw in each random excuse Daddy listed, readily proved that this was doable, practical, and definitely going to happen, and even researched our community for places to take the van.  I found one, and they closed in 40 minutes.  This was a problem because I couldn’t drive the van over myself and leave you all at home (the booster seats were out and staying out until the vacuuming was finished) and Daddy would have to hurry home to switch vehicles, then hurry across town to get the van there before the business closed.  He didn’t think it could be done, and I decided that it had to be done and Daddy had to do it.

And I was making excuses too for why Daddy had to do it.  It did make more sense since I had all 3 of you home and no good way to get you there without reinstalling carseats that are time-consuming to install safely.  But those were excuses, because my real reason was that if Daddy didn’t take it there himself, he would question me again and I was tired of defending my intelligence and ability.  So he drove home, switched vehicles, made it in time, and got the van taken care of, all for a very reasonable price.

Since his real concern was spending money unnecessarily and that had been avoided AND the van was now beautifully vacuumed, he felt that resolution had been met when he got home.  However, since my real concern was that I was treated as an inferior, I was hurt and angry when he got home.  He wanted to know why I had been so crabby on the phone; I wanted to know why he thought it was okay to talk to me like I’m a moron who can’t think anything through for myself and needs to be told what to do.  I was crushed by his perception of me.

I did a lot of yelling.  To his credit, Daddy had already grown immensely in actually acknowledging the places that he was at fault, and he saw what really happened.  He saw that his fear about wasting money was more important to him than treating me respectfully and approaching this and every situation as partners.  He saw that his lack of trust in my ability to manage the details of our life was irrational and also damaging to me.  He saw that he makes up random crap to constitute excuses for why he doesn’t want to do something rather than just tell me his actual concerns.

Before Daddy got home and I yelled, I actually handled everything really well.  I showed myself to be a good household manager, I did the majority of the hard work with the help of my awesome kids, and I planned and executed the final piece.  But then I yelled.  And everything I said was true and applicable and I shared my feelings, but I was sinfully angry and more than willing to stomp on Daddy while trying to tell him that he is not allowed to stomp on me!  And no one should be stomping on anyone in this family.  I felt justified in my anger and I was defending my personhood and I was making sure Daddy knew he wouldn’t get away with treating me so badly, so I told myself that yelling was okay.  I believed that I could yell however much was “necessary” to make myself heard.  That’s a lie, and I believed it.

When we sat down to eat dinner (late, because you guys had to wait for us while we worked through all of that), we talked to you about it.  We explained that Daddy said some really mean things about us not doing good enough work on cleaning the van.  All 3 of you were rightfully offended, and you said various versions of, “Daddy!  That is not nice to say!  We did a GREAT job!  The vacuum couldn’t get everything, but we still tried really hard!”  And Daddy apologized and you said it was okay and Daddy said, “It’s not okay, but I’m really glad that you forgive me.”  When we prayed before we ate, one of you asked God to help you not be so mad at Daddy for saying something rude.  And I was struck by how I should have prayed that exact thing back before I started yelling!  We learn so many things from our amazing kids.

We also explained that I had been yelling a lot at Daddy about what he said, which you knew, so you all nodded and agreed that my yelling was a bad choice and not okay either.  And Daddy said that he is working on being a partner and not trying to be in charge of everything and take over and tell other people that they can’t do good work unless he does it for them.  And I said that I am working on talking about things without yelling, because that makes things much worse instead of better.  You nodded your support of us and our need to work on the areas where we sinned.

And then the most amazing thing happened.  You listened and understood the situation first, and then you graciously joined us.  One of you kids pointed out that you were working on whining.  One of you was working on being okay with not being perfect and accepting your mistakes.  And one of you was working on obeying.  After we had all shared because you were willing to be vulnerable too, Rissa said, “See!  We ALL have things that we are working on!”  And that was that.  We’re a mess, we’re working on it, it’s hard, but we’re in this together.

And that’s why we come and explain things to you kids.  Yes, it is important for you to know that our family has a real marriage where Mommy and Daddy make real mistakes.  And we need to admit those to each other and to you, because you have to live with the consequences of our bad choices too.  But you also have incredible insight into your own hearts as well as the workings of our family.  And you model partnering to us by being vulnerable and joining us when we admit our wrongs.  And we model partnering to you by coming to you as your parents and acknowledging our wrongs.  And then we all grow.

The very next day, someone prayed at dinner, “Thank you, God, that we have such a nice family.”  I don’t always think of us a nice family.  We are fun… we are real… we are loving and snugglebugs… we are a disaster in many ways… we are a mess… we are constantly working on it… but nice?  That sounds like a distant future version of us when we have all of these problems handled and are better able to deal with our life!  And I worry that we’ll never actually get there, wherever there is.

But hearing one of you pray that and knowing that you experience us as a nice family, despite the fight that happened only 24 hours prior and the rest of the craziness that goes on around here – that floored me.  I realized that God HAS given us a nice family because He has given us one another and Himself too!  We are so very blessed to have a Mommy, a Daddy, a Zach, a Rissa, and a Nathaniel!  We are exactly what each other needs and also what each other has always wanted.

Yes, there will be more fights.  But we’ll keep talking about it and working on it.  And there will always be love here.  We’ll learn and grow, and we’ll do it together.  That’s Mommy and Daddy’s promise to one another and to each of you.

Killing and Poisoning Love

I wish I could cite this amazing resource… but all I know is that our counselor had it and he’s not sure where he got it.

I wish this information wasn’t so incredibly useful… I could keep it to myself and not share this laundry list of exactly what’s wrong with the marriage Matt and me are building and rebuilding.

I wish that one or both of us didn’t fulfill every single item on this list in our marriage, but right now, we do.  That’s going to change.

I wish these things weren’t killing and poisoning your loves too.  Take heart.  We are there with you, and now you know that about us.

I wish these didn’t apply to all relationships – parenting, friendship, family, work, community.  But these poisons and killers can infiltrate anywhere.

I wish a lot of things.  Time to reflect, confess, and then act to make change.  Here’s the list and a summary of each one.  If someone knows the source, please share it in a comment!

Self-centeredness/Ego-centricity:  “Self-centeredness” is closest to a real description of a truly selfish person.  Self-centered means someone basically experiences life mostly in terms of him or herself.  When one is self-centered, he guarantees the failure of love, for love is an attachment between two people.  The self-centered person denies the reality of the other.  He only sees others as extensions of himself.  Others exists to make him happy, serve his needs, and regulate his feelings.  When others fail to do that by having an existence of their own, he has some sort of negative reaction, such as anger, withdrawal of love, controlling behavior, or rejection.  This orientation to another person being more of an object for self-gratification than a person makes a true attachment impossible; love requires two people, not one person and an “object.”

Lack of Observing Oneself:  Psalm 36 says the following:  “For in his own eyes, he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.”  I John says it a different way:  “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”  The inability to see one’s own behavior, especially when one is wrong, is one of the most frustrating qualities that anyone can have in a relationship.  If you have ever had that experience, being in a relationship with someone who could not see when they were wrong, you know there is very little hope to get past any conflict that you might be having.  No relationship or person is perfect.  And any kind of conflict can be worked out, as along as both people involved are able and willing to look at their own behavior and own it.  Taking ownership of our wrongs makes moving past the conflict and getting to a deeper connection possible, and when someone cannot see their wrong, the relationship gets stuck.  The injured party feels helpless, and there is little chance for comforting them by the one who hurt them, because no apology is forthcoming.  The conflict cannot be solved without ownership.  This is why God is so committed to our confession.  It brings us to a better place.  Look to yourself first in any conflict to see where you might be wrong.  That will enable you to see the truth of the situation more clearly.

Inability to Validate Another’s Experience:  Being understood is one of our deepest needs.  We don’t need to know that we are right as much as we need to know that someone understands how we feel and what our reality is.  Making this connection in relationship is called empathy.  When we feel a certain way, we need to know that others validate our experience.  We need to be listened to and understood, not quickly negated for how we feel and what we think.  For instance, how do you feel when someone says, “Oh, come on, that didn’t hurt!” or “Oh, that wasn’t so bad.”?  We immediately go further away inside our hearts and feel a breach with the person.  On the other hand, when someone says something that shows their understanding, we are more open to input about our reality.  “Sounds like that was very difficult for you” is an example of an empathetic statement that draws people closer together.  Taking the time to understand how someone feels or thinks or how an experience was for them is something that builds bonds and connections between people.  The inability to do that destroys connection and alienates the parties.

Play Fair:  It seems that playing fair would be a good thing.  The problem is that fair is what the Bible calls the Law.  In other words, it means returning “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”  It means that we treat others as they treat us.  If they are kind, then we are kind.  If they hurt us, then we hurt them back.  But Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners do that.  But to you, I say Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6).  It is easy for us to be good to those who earn it.  The problem is that no one earns it all the time, and every relationship has problem behavior.  This is why simple fairness cannot work, for then the worst behavior in the relationship becomes the common denominator.  To transcend this pattern, we cannot play fair and return evil for evil.  The only way for a relationship to overcome the imperfections is to return grace and truth instead of the injury.

Emotional Detachment:  To be emotionally detached is to be out of touch with one’s feelings and unable to be emotionally present in a relationship.  It can be a killer to intimacy, because it feels to the other party that they are alone, even though someone is there.  The Bible says that to love God involves the heart as well as the mind.  When we are out of touch with our feelings and cannot express them to one another, then intimacy is blocked and our experience is of the other person’s heart being far away.  To feel close, we need to be emotionally present.  Our needs, vulnerabilities, fears, pain, and tender feelings must be communicated and expressed.  Intimacy involves our hearts and our minds.  If someone is out of touch with their deep feelings and innermost parts, then shallow relationships follow.

Control and Denial of Separateness:  In Galatians 5:1, we find that freedom is so important that Jesus died for it.  We are not to be under slavery ever again.  But the reality is that many people do not honor freedom in their relationships.  They do not see the other person as a free person from them, able to make their own decisions and have their own desires.  Instead, they see the other as an extension of themselves, and make strong attempts to control the other’s freedom.  Love can only exist where there is freedom.  Our attempts to control what another person thinks, feels, wants, does, values, and believes are destined to drive them away and ultimately destroy love.  Love only exists as we see another person in their own right as a separate individual who is free to do what they want to with what is their own.  When someone says “no,” we are to respect it.  When they have choices and wishes that are different from ours, we are to respect that as well.

“I know Better” and other Parental Dynamics:  Adults in significant relationships are meant to be equals and share the reality of who they are in a spirit of mutuality.  Some people, however, do not want to be equals.  Instead, they one-up the other person and prefer more of a parent-child type of connection where they are in charge.  They have expectations for the other to be in subjection to them and are dominating in their style.  This blocks love in a horrible way, as the person who is subjugated feels belittled, controlled, dominated, and disrespected and the person who is dominating acts as a so-called “benevolent dictator.”  One person dominates with “you should’s” and freely tell the other how to think, live, be and do.  The other person becomes resentful and is driven to become independent from the dominating one.

Lack of Boundaries:  This is a person’s inability to take a stance of self-control and to have a proper relation to the word “no.”  Boundary problems usually show up as someone’s inability to say “no” or to hear “no” from others.  This disturbance either allows people to walk all over us in a way that destroys respect or we walk all over them and trespass against them.  Either way, love is destroyed.  True love respects each other’s boundaries, says “no” when needed, and respects “no” when it is heard.  Another aspect of boundaries involves requiring responsible behavior from each other in relationships and taking a stance against evil when it occurs.  True love cannot grow when evil is allowed to triumph.  When we have the boundaries to abhor what is evil and take a stance against it in our relationships, we preserve the good and help the relationship grow by solving problems.

Summary:  Love is not easy to accomplish.  It is particularly difficult because of our inclinations to do each of the behaviors on this list.  There is a part of all of us that tends to try to please ourselves instead of accomplish love, and in the process, we lose the love that we wanted in the first place.  Love does not just happen; it takes work.  And part of that work is avoiding these love killers and poisons.

Sweetie, I recently heard this song and thought of us.  We’re not broken, just bent, and we can learn to love again!

In or Out?

This blog is ultimately an archive for my children.  I haven’t known how much to say about Matt and I’s marriage lately because I haven’t wanted to document the difficulty.  I still don’t want to, but it isn’t going away, so I may as well publicly acknowledge it.

We are dangling by our fingernails.

That’s a precarious image anyway, but since I bit and ripped my nails off since childhood and have never experienced anything but stubby and crazy-looking nails, it feels especially precarious for me.

This morning in the shower where I do all of my best thinking, I saw an image of a wet/dry vac.  If you’ve done any sort of home remodeling, you’ve battled with one of those things.  They are heavy, they need constant filter changes, and they are used to suck up disgusting sludge and yuck to remove it from your living space.  And then you haul the entire thing – full, heavy, and gross – up or down a staircase (why don’t we ever need those things on the first floor of a structure???)  You dump out the yuck and bag it up and send it away with your friendly waste management professional at your earliest convenience.  Our comes on Mondays.  Repeat.

Wet/dry vacs have an in/out button.  You can suck things in like a normal vacuum, but you can also push “out” and have all of the disgusting yuck in the can blow out with impressive force.  I have not ever MEANT to push the out button… so you can imagine my response when the vacuum expels grossness all over a place I just cleaned.  Ugh.  More hauling, more filling and emptying, more stairs.  It is drudgery and hard and you are sore and cranky during and after.  But for a wet/dry mess, a wet/dry vac is your go-to tool.  Because the yuck must be removed.

That’s my marriage right now.  Matt and I have intentionally pushed the “out” button.  There is so much yuck contained in us, between us, and around us.  We want it out.  But now that it is coming out, it is EVERYWHERE!  And it’s gross and painful and hard and we fight the temptation to just suck it all back in and pretend it is contained and handled, stewing inside of us.  We don’t want it in or out!  We want it AWAY!

I don’t feel lovey today.  I don’t feel loved today.  I don’t feel much at all, except for revulsion at all of the yuck that we are surrounded by.  Somewhere in this sludge, the man I married is here and also experience revulsion at all of this.  We have that in common – we see the crap, some of it is being seen for the first time, and we hate it.

We recently sat our kids down for dinner and I said, “Guys, do you know what divorce is?”  The kids shook  their heads.  They didn’t.  I explained that it is when 2 married people want to stop being married to each other.  They pay some money and go to the courthouse and say, “we’re not married anymore.”  And then they live in different houses and don’t spend time together anymore.  Sometimes they have kids, and their kids live at one house or the other house, or they bounce between houses.  The twins nodded with recognition; they have friends who have two households.  I explained that the kids often think it is their fault, but it NEVER is.  They can’t make choices for the adults, and adults can be selfish just like everyone else.

Then I said, “Guys, we just want you to know that Mommy and Daddy are not going to get divorced.  Ever.”  And Matt chimed in, “Never.”  We pointed out what they already knew, that we have been fighting and talking about LOTS of hard things lately.  And that we are doing that because we love each other and we love them and we want to fix our family.  We know that they know about that, and we’re sorry that it is hard, but we have to work hard to deal with hurt feelings so that we can be strong in our love.  But we aren’t going to quit.  The kids smiled, nodded, and said, “Cool.”  Then we ate dinner.  And that was that.

It was scary to make that promise to my children.  Now my “out” is gone, and Matt’s “out” too!  But we already made that promise, the day we took our wedding vows.  There are reasons for divorce, good reasons, important reasons, necessary reasons.  But we don’t have those reasons.  We have two selfish people who are tired of all of the crap.  We have two broken people who come from messes and bring messes to this mess that we call our life together.  And we are both sick of the crap.

Instead of tossing one another, we’re expelling the crap.  Because THAT is the problem.  We’re getting it all out, and then we’re going to remove it instead of stew in it forever, and we’re going to get better.  And no, we don’t feel like getting better.  But we must.  Because we can’t live like this anymore.  And we can’t be apart.  We are both crafted specifically as mirrors for one another.  We see the real one another when we look at each other, and it hurts.

After hearing some particularly harrowing details of the pain we have inflicted on one another, our counselor recently asked us, “So… why are you still together?”  And we answered with the truth.  “Because we HAVE to make this work.  If I left this relationship, I’d just take my same crap to the next one.  And I’d likely pick someone with the same crap I’m dealing with here.  And Matt would do the same.  We aren’t going to find something better… there isn’t something better.  We’re the mess.  We need the help.  We need to be healed.”

And damn it, healing sucks!  Yay, let’s tear off the scar tissue, dig out the festering infections, and strew them around to look at and examine!  It sucks.  But I’ll tell you what, the alternative kills.  Because leaving all of that in there is going to kill us.  So we’re pulling it out and we’re dealing with it and we are utterly overwhelmed with our own depravity.  Truthfully, I think we are most overwhelmed with each other’s depravity!  But ours is there too.

So we’re “in.”  But our crap, the deeply rooted traumas and terrors and arrogance and selfishness that destroy us?  Those are OUT.  Well, they are in the process of coming out.  And our kids know that we’re in it to win it.  Not just slog through for decades so we can fakely claim we were “together.”  We want to win.  Which means we need to be shredded first, so all the yuck can be lifted out.  We hate it.  But this is what we have to do.  And Matt and I are NOTHING if not stubborn enough to stick it!

Nine Years

Matt and I took the plunge 9 years ago.  We got married.  We had a beautiful day and we remember all of it.  There were an appropriate number of “that will be funny in 5 minutes/5 years” mishaps for a Jaime and Matt event.  We can’t fathom the point of doing something if you can’t at least get a story out of it!

Some of our anniversaries have felt like a taking a shared zipline through the rainforest at sunset across the finish line.  Spectacular and adventurous.

Some of our anniversaries have felt like dragging our parched and dehydrated selves across the finish line in a desert on our scratched up hands and knees.  Painful and “let’s never speak of this again.”

And this one… this 9 years of marriage anniversary?  Well, it feels like apathy.  “Ah, 9 years.  Okay then.”

At first, I thought that sounded far more painful than the desert anniversary!  “Meh” and lack of discernible feelings are NOT appropriate responses to marriage!  Right???

It has not been a year of epic highs.  But we also did not plunge to the ravine below and dash ourselves among craggy rocks and crocodile teeth.  We didn’t quit.  We didn’t visit the dastardly lows of previous years of marriage.  We’ll definitely see better in the future, we’ll definitely see worse.  Here we are, somewhere in between.

Not in between in a good way, like, “Yeah, everything is good.  We’re cruising across the ocean in our seaworthy vessel, the sky is clear, we’ll probably find land exactly 3 months before our supplies run out.  Onward.”

We are in between in a dangerous way.  As in, “Well, we’ve been climbing this mountain for nine years now.  We didn’t encounter any sliding gravel patches that shredded us to bits and set us back 6 months like we did lower down.  And we can’t see the top anymore, so sunsets don’t drop behind the peaks… the sun just disappears and we get cold.  Then it comes back and we get warm.  We can’ see the top or the bottom right now.  Eh… why am I even working so hard to hold this position?  I spent a year not falling… shouldn’t I have spent this year climbing?”

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And why can’t we climb?  Well, we encumber one another!  Matt is always getting in my way and I am always getting in his.  Not to mention how our kids are certain that the only point of this climb is to give them a thrilling ride.  We could keep climbing our marriage mountain and choose separate paths.  We could fall and die.  We could fall and die and not care.  We could stop moving and never see anything ever again.  We could stick together and drag one another along in the slow tedium that teamwork requires and continue thinking, “You know, this would be a LOT easier if I didn’t have to haul you AND myself AND all of our gear AND those dangling cuties that will surely be damaged if we don’t proceed with caution and intentionality!”

We’re not so far in that we don’t remember the freedom of deciding things on our own.  But we’re too far in to disentangle our equipment without both of us severing ourselves into shreds.

Can we celebrate a situation like that?

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I think we can.  We have already committed to stay.  We can choose to move slowly and allow for one another.  We can hold steady.  Because getting to the top implies the work… but doing the work without seeing ahead or behind is pure tenacity.  And it’s far more impressive than telling the story later… we are living the story.  It hurts.  It gouges away the parts of us that aren’t necessary for this task.  And sometimes it feels lonely.

We sincerely appreciate all who are climbing around us.  So many people have entangled their gear with ours as they commit to our success.  “We’re watching.  We’ll let the kids dangle from us for a bit until you can get somewhere more firm.  We’ll share this ledge with you… take a rest.  We’ll encourage you with megaphones… we’ll encourage you with love.  If you slip, we’ll offer a hand before you fall.  We all want you to succeed.”

dangerous-campsite

And the thing is, we have a marriage.  Our ropes aren’t made out of us.  They are made out of Jesus.  He holds us together.  He patiently waits while we quibble about who ate the last of the Elven bread.  He whispers to us and reminds us that He built the mountain and He built us for the mountain.

So nine years.  Somehow, we got here.  And somehow, we’ll get past here.  Lots of things depend on us – our family health, our kids, our friends and neighbors who need us to support them just as much as we need them to support us.  But most of all, Matt and I are most invested in this.  The mystery of marriage is that God views us as one flesh… and somehow, we have become that.  We have no other way to survive but to do it together.  And seriously, there isn’t anyone else I’d rather be symbiotically joined to!

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