Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Beautiful and Hard Discipline of Being Married

This week David and I are celebrating our two year wedding anniversary. I found it fitting that on our drive up to the North Shore, I was reading this blog I read from time to time called "Momastery", and she talked about marriage being hard. Beautiful, but hard. Which prompted me to write about my own feelings on marriage.

If any of you know me or have spent any time remotely with me over the last two years, I've made it no secret that I find marriage to be incredibly difficult. Think about it. You take two people, who are going to be different from each other no matter who you marry, and stick them in the same living space and say, "Okay, now figure out how to live together, plan your time together, manage family dynamics different from your own together, financially support yourselves with no outside help, split up the household chores in an equitable way, and oh yeah, love each other to the point of sacrificial love. Try not kill each other in the process." Whhhaaattt!!!???

So being the person I've decided I want to be, sincerely committed to openness and honesty, I've been pretty transparent about how hard I find this process. More with some than with others, and that's mostly because of the reactions I get from people. I think people have this idea that marriage is meant to make you happy (probably explains why the divorce rate is so high; the second you aren't happy anymore, it stops working for you). I think happiness is a by-product of marriage, absolutely, but I believe marriage, for me at least, was meant to teach me how to be better. A better person, a better friend, a better everything. And any kind of growth, for me at least, is hard. SUPER hard. Growth means being stretched, and it's not always easy and it's not always fun. It's always always good, but it's hard.

That being said, I'm always surprised when people respond to my narrative about the difficulty of being married with surprise and confusion. I've heard it all from "how did you end up together?", to "oh that's so sad, you're in the honeymoon phase!". The list of judgmental reactions goes on and on. And then on some more.

So I guess I'm writing this because I wanted to let others know, if you feel like your marriage doesn't look like the ones you've seen on tv or the one others are telling you you're supposed to have: that's okay. Expect it to be hard. Good things, anything worth having, can be really hard to achieve, and takes work. REALLY hard and difficult work, but beautiful and meaningful work. We put in the work because eventually, it will pay off. It may take a while, but you'll see. I mean hey, I'm celebrating two years aren't I? ;)

Here an excerpt from the blog I mentioned in the first paragraph. The author's name is Glennon Doyle Melton, and she writes at her blog It's people like her that give me the freedom to speak my truth. I hope by doing so, others don't feel so alone.

I talk about my flailing marriage because (and a year ago I’d have ripped your well-meaning head off if you’d predicted this to me) the truth is that my marriage had to be shattered before it could be pieced back together. My marriage was like a busted arm that The Doctor had to re-break before it could heal right. A year ago- it all fell apart. Yes it did. And I about died. But now. Just a year later – my marriage is excruciating and real and true and deep and GORGEOUS for the first time. For the very first time. It also still sucks. It hurts and burns and refuses to leave me in peace – like every crucible does. But damned if all that discomfort didn’t turn out to be the good stuff. Like the Velveteen Rabbit – maybe neither people nor marriages become Real until the shine and newness rubs off and they look ugly and worn out to the rest of the world but real and soft and comforting and lovely to the one who holds them.

This past year has been a special slice of hell for me and Craig-  and I never, ever thought it would get better. I had no outward hope for a long while– but I kept showing up, and so did Craig. We kept fiercely and relentlessly showing up. We did NOT commit to each other this past year. We individually committed to the Spiritual Practice of Showing Up.

And last week I looked at Craig and thought- Holy SHIT. I think I love him. For the first time. For the first time - I respect the hell out of this man. It took a year of tears and faith and sweat and therapy and prayer and more tears and it will always be hard. It will always be hard and that’s okay. We have proved to our kids and ourselves that We Can Do Hard Things.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Social Media, How I Loathe Thee

Sometimes, I just hate facebook.

I know you know what I'm talking about. It's everyone's way to engage in what many call "image management". It's our way of controlling the way the rest of the world see us: our marriages, our careers, our families, our friendships.... the list goes on and on. We project to the world the person we want others to see. And you know what? I hate it. Get that instagram filtered picture of your dinner or feet on the beach out of my newsfeed, please.

Another reason I hate facebook? Religious facebook statuses. Ugh. If I have to read another bible verse posed as am ambiguous status about what the person is going through, I'm going to barf. But more than that, it's made me realize how radically different I am than a lot of people I used to associate with, and that makes me sad.

Facebook has also become the place where we fight about social and political happenings, post photos with "social facts" written across them (like the people on welfare should be drug tested and post this if you agree blah blah blah), and generally just fight with one another by commenting on stuff. Hiding behind the computer screen in an attempts to connect and be correct, when really, it's pushing me further away from connection most days.

But then I have days like today.

I have a WONDERFUL friend from college who has recently started reevaluating his religion, or should I say, the way he was practicing religion. Daniel Koons (love you man!) has been posting all kinds of intriguing articles, and stepping out facebook style to share with us the changes he's going through with how he's interacting with his faith and his God. I've never felt more close to Daniel, and we are thousands of miles away from each other.

And then there is Ben. He's been dealing with underemployment for over a year, and has been brave enough to share his family's struggles via facebook with us. When David lost his job? I didn't feel so alone. I'll admit, some days I'd revert back to being jealous of the progress it seems my friends are making, but for the most part? I'd think of Ben, and I'd know somewhere out there, someone else got it.

And then there is Amanda. A friend from Middle School who I totally lost touch with over the years, and now she blogs about being a mom. Not the warm fuzzy "look at how cute my baby is" crap, but the "oh dear God I just locked my kid in the car" kind of crap. I'm not even a mom and I can't help but feel a total connection with her, even though we haven't spoken in years and I think kids are generally gross and sticky.

So to those of you who dare to be open and honest about who you are: thank you. You people are the reason why I don't totally deactivate my facebook and swear off social media. You bring what I believe facebook is attempting to foster: connectedness over distance. You share your stories, good and bad, so that authentic soul connections can actually happen. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Sweet Spot

This blog post has been a long time coming. I’ve been thinking on some things over the past few months; stewing on something, but I wasn’t quite sure exactly what it was that had me so restless. I just knew whatever it was, I wanted to write it down. 

And today is that day. Today is the day I write down what’s been brewing in me for the last few months, and here is it:

I like who I am.  

How many of us can really say that? And better yet, actually mean it? I feel like for so long, I’ve felt like I’ve been suffering from the “imposter” syndrome. You know, where you’re old enough to be working a “real” job but still young enough to feel like you’re “playing adult”. Like, you keep hoping no one figures out that you really don’t know exactly what you’re talking about, and for the most part, you feel like you’re playing dress up when it comes to work and life as an adult. You keep wondering how long it will take for the other people at the table to realize you so do not belong there. 

I remember the first time I felt this way. It was my first year in graduate school, and my boss at the time (Patty) brought me to a planning session in the Twin Cities of about 5-6 people from various colleges in Minnesota; we called ourselves “The Partnership for Safer Communities Consortium”. It was a group of head honchos from higher education and the Department of Corrections, and our goal was to find ways to continue providing higher educational opportunities to incarcerated students. Funding was running out, and our programs were at risk of closing down. And all I could think was, “Do they know I don’t belong here? That I am pinching myself as I sit here because I can’t believe I’m even in this room right now? Who said that I had any kind of insight to provide on this huge, important topic of social justice? Do they really think that I, a twenty two year old grad student, can change social fabric in this state I’ve lived in for 6 months!?”

And thank God for Patty who brought me to that meeting, because she saw something in me that I certainly did not see. She saw the potential and drive that I brought to my work, and she showed me that although I was young, what I had to say was important. That my thoughts were valuable and meaningful. That I had every opportunity to change my world, even if it didn’t seem like I had the power to do so.

And seven years later, I’ve presented at national conferences with her, contributed to a published textbook on emerging technologies in higher education, and been adjunct faculty at the second largest school in Minnesota, teaching incarcerated men in a level four security prison.  I’ve started educational programs on my own, and quite frankly, made shit happen in regards to serving unprivileged students in Minnesota and beyond.

So you know what? I like who I am. I like who I’ve become, and I no longer feel like an imposter. My experiences and what I think, matters. Do I still have a long way to go? Absolutely. Just ask my new boss; I feel like I know nothing there. But I don’t care. Because I’ll learn. Not knowing doesn’t make me any less valuable of a member of our team, because like everything else in my life, I’ll give it everything I have. Why? Because I know why I’m here. My focus is on helping students change their lives through education. Nothing else matters to me except that fact. I don’t care if I don’t know all the answers today; I’ll figure them out. I don’t care if people think I’m crazy because of how much I work with students on stuff they “should know” or “be able to figure out on their own”. I do what I know is right, and that’s enough for me. It’s an awesome feeling, to finally be comfortable with who you are and what you believe enough to stand behind it even if the world thinks you’re crazy.