Blessed are the flexible

Many people told us that our first year of marriage was going to be hard. We'd be challenged. We'd fight. We'd struggle. And pretty much, we didn't. Marriage was wonderful and easy. We'd hear about other newly married couples that fought a lot, and we'd pat ourselves on the back (humbly, of course), and smile sweetly at each other and say, "I'm so glad our marriage is so strong!" And it was. And it is.

But this first year of being Zoë's parents has been harder on our marriage than I thought it would be. We've been stressed out by our darling shrieking ball of energy that is already highly opinionated and can't talk yet to tell us what she wants or needs, so she shrieks. And as the tired evening hour approaches, and the shrieking gets louder, the stress builds. When Nathaniel is stressed out, I get stressed out. When I'm stressed out, he gets stressed out. A well-known marriage series calls this "the crazy cycle." We didn't think we had one. This year our crazy cycle was born, and we named her Zoë.

Having a baby brings out the good and the bad in a relationship. The good is obvious: you see your partner being a mother or a father, and the emotion this carries is enormous. When Nathaniel comes home and Zoë lights up and waves and shrieks Dada, my heart gets all mushy. The bad is less obvious: for me, all the little things add up and turn into resentment. It becomes all about me, and the things that I have to do, and the things I don't think are fair. I begin to keep a running mental list of all the things I've done that Nathaniel hasn't. I begin putting my needs first. I get resentful: my desires and wants are more important than anyone else's.

I ran across a photocopied quote that Nathaniel's Mormor had mailed us several years ago.

Blessed are the flexible,
 for they shall not be bent out of shape.

I've learned this year that I'm not as flexible as I think I am. When things happen that make my list longer or cause me to not get things done that I want to, I am decidedly inflexible. It's funny, because this picture I have of myself is someone that is easy-going and rolls with the punches, but when the stresses of life come, I just want to know what's happening next and then what and then what. I feel this little ball of stress begin to form in my very center, and if I'm not careful, it grows into anger.

Learning to be flexible means learning to let go. It means letting little things stay little things.  It means leaving lists undone. It means leaving dirty dishes in the sink (horrors!) so that I can pick up the baby that has attached herself to the back of my legs. It means giving shoulder rubs without asking. It means not keeping lists of who has done what.

Lord, I need your grace to help me to not get bent out of shape.

1 comment:

  1. Good thoughts. Joseph is back in school, and we choose to do the less stressful thing--of staying where we are at. (We did think of moving.) I'm happier with a calm husband...and know that life will soon bring us a transition that will bring some different stresses of its own. I'm with you on the 'crazy cycle'.

    When we had to reverse roles last year so Joseph could study Chinese I had some of the same problems of 'keeping track'. (This was also to maintain a visa for us both--I had to work.) Everyday I had about 50 things multi-tasking through my mind and I came to grips with the fact that isn't the way he functions. If I asked for one thing to be done on top of his studies, he'd usually do that. But he needed to know what he was expected to do. Believe it or not, I'm happy to help by cooking and cleaning now, but I do miss my job on occasion. It's temporary, it's a stage. I'll try to enjoy what I have while it lasts or changes again.

    Baby boy Bolton is due April 19th. Good thoughts!


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