Faith/Spirituality, Marriage, Recovery, Relationships

It’s not you, it’s me…

July 11th, 2020 was my 28th wedding anniversary. Our 28th wedding anniversary. By the grace of God. When we were preparing to get married we did some pre-marital counseling. I don’t remember much of it, but the biggest part I don’t remember is being told that the “worse” part of “for better or for worse” is far “worse” than you can imagine it can be at that point in your relationship. Most of our marriage was what people would define as good, but there were a few years that definitely put the “worse” part into practice. I would say that we both had ample opportunity to call it a day, call us incompatible and beyond repair. At times it felt to both of us that it might be easier to just start over with someone who really “got” us or just be on our own. Either of us could have made a good case that we were in the right and often there were people around us who even encouraged such an option. Leaving would have been understandable.

But after being separated emotionally and even physically for a period, here we are, trying to find an interesting way to celebrate this milestone during a pandemic. We settled on an afternoon at a local pool and dinner out. Occasionally, I have thought about what I would say if someone were to ask us to speak about how we made it out the other side of separation, addiction and leukemia (because, you know, the opportunities are just rolling in to do so! ) . Or, more realistically, how would I answer you if we were having coffee and the subject came up. What’s the key?

close up of wedding rings on floor
Photo by Megapixelstock on Pexels.com

Was it just us sticking to our guns and gritting our teeth in the name of God, ending up together but still miserable? There is nothing God honoring about that scenario. Just to be able to say “we didn’t quit” is not enough to keep us going strong as we move forward. It can be valid for a short stent, but it is not a long term solution to a solid marriage. It’s not about winning by digging our heels in to weather the storm, it’s about continuing to thrive and embrace each other as we invest in our marriage day after day. So, what would I say to someone who asked me how we reconciled and gave “us” another shot?

There is not just one answer, but I would say that the primary way we eventually found our way back to each other was by working on ourselves. This is the exact opposite strategy we had been using the rest of our marriage. We went to countless counseling sessions in order to “fix” our marriage, which was basically an attempt to fix the other person so we could be happy. If “he would just…. Or “she would just….” Then everything would be hunky dory! We created lists and assignments about how each of us would implement changes that would satisfy the needs of the other person (if you have been married for more than say, a week, you know the list of which I speak). This ended in failure and resentment every time.

When we finally each focused on ourselves, the primary goal of any recovery group. We made progress. Instead of looking to the other person to make us happy, content and whole, we took it upon ourselves to become the kind of person that could be content and happy, content and whole regardless of what other people did or said or how they behaved. In recovery terms, that is called “detachment with love”. Separating yourself spiritually and emotionally from other people so you can think and feel and act in ways that honor who God made you to be and what He is calling you to.

“The two shall become one” is a phrase used in many a wedding and sermon regarding a married couple. Over the years, though I believe it is true at some level, I realized that I had taken this principal to the extreme. Yes, we are one, but we are also an “I”. I am accountable before God for myself alone. I can’t blame or use my spouse as an excuse to not follow God’s lead on something. I am responsible to keep my side of the street clean even if theirs seems to be a wreck. I am the only one who can make me “OK”. That’s not my spouses job. Often we ourselves are not OK and we try with earnest manipulation to make it our spouses fault.

We also would do well to remember that being “one” does not require us to take on his/her foul mood or angst or depression or illness. I can be empathetic without allowing my day/week/life to hijacked so that we are both miserable in the end. It’s OK to be OK even when they are not OK. During our time apart, I learned I that to become “one” with someone I had to bring a whole-me to the table. He cannot complete me. To put someone in that position is to make them an idol. It puts them in the place where God alone needs to be, because while my husband is a fine husband, he makes a pretty shoddy god.

When we both got serious about focusing on our own emotional and spiritual health and becoming the type of caring, selfless, confident, serving, tender, gracious, understanding, tolerant, forgiving, encouraging, interesting, loving and whole-hearted person we could be, our marriage became, well, easy (er). Any time either of us falls out of alignment by expecting the other person to meet needs that only God or ourselves can meet, it becomes hard again. Then we evaluate and observe what we have been doing that smacks of anything that does not follow what we know to work: bringing our best self to the game. That’s something that only we can do as an individual.

It took times of struggling and learning and stretching to make it sound like a good idea to stay together. If you would have told either of us two years ago that we would be content and dare I say, happy, in our marriage, we would have had gigantic doubts and I, with dramatic flare, would have rolled my eyes and said, “we’ll see.”

But here we are. After 28 years we are giving a whole new meaning to, “It’s not you. It’s me.” I am 100% the only one with who I am “till death do us part”. I am a full time job. I owe it to myself to put the work in to become the kind of person that brings every bit of who she is to my husband and accept what he has to offer as well. If I am committed to staying, It is indeed me and me alone who who can activate the changes I want to see in my marriage. The rest is up to God.

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Anxiety/Worry, Brokenness, Cancer, Control, Faith/Spirituality, fear, Relationships, Trust

Your own weird anniversary

I have admitted to you in the past, that I tend to put an abnormally high value on significant dates. Birthdays for sure, but anniversaries of any kind also fit nicely into my mild disorder. And I’m not talking about the kind of anniversaries they make hallmark cards for. Unfortunately, most of the anniversaries are not ones that anyone would want to celebrate, because they, as a general rule, mark a day (or hour) in time that a traumatic event changed the course of my unsuspecting life. February 6th, 2015 was one such day. It was the day I sat in my kitchen while a doctor informed me, over the phone, that I had Leukemia.

For the past 3 years I have been acutely aware of the coming and going of this particular date. Each year, I feel the need to do something on that exact day that helps me recognize it. I know it sounds weird that I want to remember that day at all. My family sure doesn’t. On the first anniversary of my diagnosis, I made my kids and husband go eat at the hospital with me. I spent so much time there that it felt like a good way to celebrate not being there anymore. They were less than enthusiastic about this. Apparently they would prefer to forget any of it happened at all. It was horrific and hard for them and they have no interest in “celebrating” anything to do with it. But for me, as the person who was fully “invested” in it non-stop for 7 months and sat in a hospital bed for 70 days, it was necessary to go back. To relive, in a sense. To even honor and revere the events of that daunting day. Because today, though Leukemia changed my life forever, it holds no power over me.

This year, on my 3 year anniversary of being diagnosed, I decided not to involve my family in my weird little commemoration. I went to lunch by myself at the hospital cafeteria, like I had done dozens of times during my treatments. Then I went up to 2E, the floor where I had stayed in 10 different rooms over 7 months. Now, at the risk of implying that the world revolves around me, I find it interesting that it is being remodeled and on that exact day, actually about that hour, they officially closed and locked the doors. Everyone had been moved to a different floor. No more walking, again, the floors that I had paced a thousand times, trying to keep my strength up. Nothing would ever look the same and I had no more visual to bring me back to that point in time that feels frozen, sealed off, set apart.

I made my way up to the 4th floor, where they had re-stationed all the nurses. I knew I needed to connect with them. Thank them, on this anniversary, for their compassion and kindness. I got to see three of the nurses who were there for me during my entire 7 month battle. One of the nurses I saw that day was also on shift the night we came in 3 years before; fully in shock and shook to our core. She just kept telling us that it was going to be ok. This is just a bump in the road and we were all going to get past it. Just a little detour. I don’t know why, but I believed her. How else could I move forward?

Today we are indeed past it. But make no mistake, it will never be something I will chose to forget. It’s impossible. The reason I feel compelled to look back and remember, is because I am aware (on some days, more than others) that God used the disease of cancer to root out a cancer in me that has nothing to do with cancer. If you have read any of my blogs, by now, you know exactly what I mean by that. To date, I have written (the ability to write is a gift I was given by God only upon my diagnosis) over 400 blogs addressing the common diseases of the heart and the various remedies I have found to combat them. So, even though my battle with Leukemia is over, my battle against fear, worry, anger, and control is chronic. It takes daily doses of prayer, meditation and vulnerability with God and you all, to have any kind of success in combatting such plagues.

Looking back reminds me that God and I have a track record. When I trust Him, He shows up. When I ask him to help me learn from the hard stuff, He accommodates. When I beg him for peace in the midst of painful experiences, He comforts me. When I allow Him, He uses my dark and embarrassing past to encourage friends, family and strangers who thought they were unique in their depravity.

Don’t be afraid to look back, but don’t live there. Do it with a sense of awe and reverence and gratitude for where you are now. You are exactly who and where you are supposed to be. If you don’t have one already, God wants to develop a track record of trust with you, starting today. Let this date (write down: February 22nd, 2018) mark the day you chose to let Him use your whole life, the good the bad and the ugly, to bring His light and love and hope to desperate and hurting people.

…Now you have your own weird little anniversary to celebrate 🤗