Saturday, July 24, 2010

Can I Bleach His Collar?

It has been fifty-four days since my husband has taken a full day off of work.  It isn't the sit-behind-your-desk or hide-inside-a-cubicle sort of work either.  It is demanding and physical, resulting in weight loss and fatigue.  He has probably lost about twenty-five pounds, and anyone who sees him this time of year notes how tired he looks.  He is tired...and skinny.  It has started to take a toll on him.

As his wife, I feel a sense of responsibility for his well-being.  "Have you eaten today?"  "Can you get home to get a nap?"  "Here is a gift of a massage...will you please go do it?"  I want so badly to wave my magic wand and turn his dirty t-shirts into white-collared business attire.  That might mean a five-day-a-week schedule, a steady paycheck, regular weekends and a well-rested husband.  A girl can dream, right?

I know to my core, that even if I could change the color of his collar, I couldn't change the worker inside.  My husband loves to work with his hands. He uses his down time (at our cabin) to build things and renovate. He enjoys the rigor of his job and the variety of the tasks.  What drives him hardest is the fact that working like this through the summer affords him the opportunity to do what he loves more than anything in this world: to coach hockey.

He's not a cubicle kid, and he wants to use his suit and tie money to buy the color-coordinated ensembles he can wear standing behind the bench.  It is not my right to deny him that.  It is what breathes life back in to him after he lays limp at the end of the summer.  I support him the only way I know how.  I shuttle kids from here to there.  I plan excursions and soothe frustrations.  I distract the kids and count with them the days until we can rest with him.

I took the girls to see Ramona and Beezus as part of my distraction technique yesterday.  I cried in so many places in the movie, and for completely different reasons.  There was a part in the movie where the dad explains how he was forced to take a "real" job after his kids were born so that he could support the family.  His passion for art was not a feasible means to an end.  The dad in our house has the same problem.  He has a passion that could not support our family of five right now, and he is married to a woman who wants nothing more than to write for peanuts.  Maybe I should don the white collar...and give him a chance to rest for a while?  I don't know whether we need a white collar in the house, or just some centering to get us back on a track with what works for everyone.

It's all still a progress.

Monday, July 19, 2010

It Matters Not How YOU Define Marriage...

If you are not my husband, your definition of marriage is of little consequence to me. I might bend my ear to hear what you think, but in the end, what has any effect on my marriage is how my definition lines up with my husband's.

I recently asked him, as far away from context as I could (I waited until we were talking about sausages---NO, not those sausages!)

"Hey, I have a question for you, and I want you to say the first thing that pops into your head."

"Okay," he looked at me curiously.

"What is your definition of marriage?"

I love that he barely moved his gaze from mine.

He was somber when he listed, "Companionship. Friendship.  Someone being there through the hard times and good times.  Being there to listen."

I wrote it down, internally calculating how we were doing.  My definition was almost exactly what he had said...which is a good thing.  We both think that marriage should be a relationship built on friendship and propelled by commitment.

"How do you think we are doing...this time of year?" I pressed him.

"Horrible." He admitted.

He's right.  We can hardly call ourselves companions when I see him maybe ten hours in a week.  We are comfortable roommates during the summer months.  The difference between us, and other couples who find themselves regularly passing each other in the hallway, is that the current state of our relationship is temporary.  We will be close companions in a few months when we huddle in for the frigid Minnesota winter.

One of the questions on my marriage survey, distributed during my book research, asked about a definition of a successful marriage.  There were 173 responders to the survey, and there were 173 unique definitions.  The only way I could analyze the definitions was to take out the keywords and categorize them.  Two words won out for the most important things to remember in a marriage relationship.  RESPECT and COMMUNICATION.  Thankfully, no matter how often I see him, I can still wholeheartedly respect him, and we can maintain good communication, even if we talk for a few minutes at a time.

My husband and I will celebrate our twelfth anniversary this August.  Researchers have moved the seven-year itch to the twelfth-year turmoil and it's probably important to take stock again.  I'm so happy we are on the same page.  It is comforting to know that he is as frustrated, in the moment, as I am, but that we are both still moving in the same direction.

At church yesterday, the priest used a timely analogy.  He was talking about the Martha and Mary differences and whether it is better to serve or to be present.  He commented about how it is more about the state of your heart than it is about the choice you make.  The analogy he used was about marriage and  when the spouses are forced to conduct their lives apart (I'm not kidding...this is what he talked about). He explained hearts that stay true in separation is how our relationship with God should be. 

Our marriage definition... today...Friendship propelled by commitment with a goal of respect and open communication.  We can do that!