Happily Marrieds, Hashtags and Self-Validating Facades

A few disclaimers, because I have some pretty harsh critics (who I genuinely appreciate), and because I’m not super touchy-feely in general, and the holidays wear me out physically and mentally…

#1 I say “happily married” because that’s what you say. I don’t know if you’re happy. You do. I’m trusting that you know more than I do on the topic and we’re going with it. 

#2 None of my writing is directed specifically at anyone, unless I mention you by name. It is beyond self-absorbed to truly believe that any one person could elicit an entire blog post from me. I apologize, but my life is maddeningly busy and I genuinely don’t have time to sit around and think about specifically you that much, even if I really love and adore you. At this point in my life, my attention is commanded, not willingly given. In short, it’s not you, it’s me. 

#3 “Words are a mirror. They either give us perspective on ourselves if turned inward, or perspective on the world around us if turned outward.” – Dr. Meyer, my Ethnic Lit professor in college

It’s not my responsibility to tell you which way the mirror needs to be turned for any set of specific words. That’s on you.

Now that the housekeeping is finished, we’re moving right along…

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With the abundance of warm and fuzzy social media posts surrounding the holidays, there is an overwhelming amount of posts from people wishing to shout from the mountain tops how very happily married they are. Oh the hashtags… #mrssoandsoforever, #imnotaquitter, #marriageissacred #strongerthandivorce #quittingisntanoption #marriageisntamood. You guys…

First, let me congratulate you on your thriving relationship. I assume that is what you are wholeheartedly seeking, and I am genuinely cheering you on from the sidelines. Perhaps it is because I am more minimalistic than not, but posting these declarations to a select group of people who you have accepted as your virtual friends seems redundant. I am assuming that you are planning on staying in your marriage for your entire life until death parts you, because you chose to be married. I have never met a person that expected their marriage to end, but still chose to exchange vows and shoot in the dark anyway.

Sometimes (a lot of the time) people publicly proclaim how amazing or wonderful their partner is because of blatant or suspected infidelity. In 2016, the only logical action is to blow up all social media outlets with some version of the following: “Oh my gosh!!! My husband is SOOOO amazing to me and his three small children!! He truly treats me like a queen and I am SOOO blessed!” … while simultaneously scrolling through his private messages that you hacked into while he’s unsuspectingly drooling on the pillow next to you. These beauties give themselves away almost always by the time posted… 3:15 am, 1:45 am… anytime after midnight, really. My grandpa used to tell me that nothing good happens after midnight. His logic persists.

Happily married people also declare their love and devotion from the highest mountain tops because they are truly having problems. Maybe if they say all is well repetitively to as many people as possible, it will feel like all is really okay. The fake it ’till you make it mentality. I jump on that bandwagon all the time when it comes to parenting, so no judgment from me, but own it if that’s you. If you are a spouse or partner that needs your ego stroked via social media (“Awww, look Bob. Linda posted that she appreciated me taking out the trash this morning. She must really love me.”) you may need to reevaluate your priorities.

The meat and potatoes of this issue is that you should ultimately be communicating with your partner, and the success of your relationship should shine through your genuine love and respect for each other. Who am I to speak on marriage anyway, you may ask (as beads of judgement and self-validation pour from your palms and forehead)? I am, in fact, a devout believer in love and marriage. Afterall, I’ve done it twice (it’s a joke, calm down, take a moment to wipe that reproach from your brow…). While the majority of marriages do not weather the storms of time and ultimately sink in divorce, the shipwrecks we are left with are almost always horribly surprising to those of us at the helm. I promise we don’t plan the devastation experienced in the aftermath of a split and sometimes, (gasp) it is unavoidable and the best decision. In my last post, I discussed the difference between what we want and what is ultimately best. Marriage is sometimes, unfortunately, a perfect example. I wanted my marriage to last. I wanted my husband and I to die in each other’s arms seconds apart like Noah and Allie in The Notebook. Turns out, the best decision for us was cutting ties and beginning again with just the kids and I. If your first thought is, “There’s no way that’s true,” I ask that you and I sit down and discuss. You may need to hear something I have to say.

The disconnect occurs when a person cannot fathom anything horrible happening in their own lives that would constitute divorce, and their partner surely would never engage in any behavior that would validate leaving, scrapping the marriage, cutting losses and walking away. I’m not encouraging pessimistic mentality in relationships, but I am pushing you to realize that we are talking about humans in a broken world, and any sense of control we think we have regarding the actions and behavior of any human (even YOUR human) in this broken world is a farce. You and your partner are Christians? My ex-husband and I are Christians. God is in control? Absolutely He is. GOD is in control. Not you, regardless of how strong, fierce and well-meaning that perceived control is according to you. And sometimes, because of other people’s (Christians or not) free will, the BEST place for you and your children is NOT in the God-ordained marriage you excitedly created and built from the ground up. 2fee8baa2662a964b48cdbb41c7f98d2

Let’s revisit these hashtags whirling around the internet, validating relationships left and right.

#mrssoandsoforever – Yes, we know. You’re married. We assume that your expectation is that it lasts forever.

#imnotaquitter – You know what else isn’t a quitter? Abuse. Addiction. Infidelity. Food for thought for the publicly self-proclaimed happily marrieds.

#marriageissacred  – Absolutely. As is our children’s well-being, emotional and spiritual development and life. Safety. The ability to sit in your own house with the doors locked and fear what is outside instead of what is within. All very sacred.

#strongerthandivorce  – Fantastic. But are you already scrolling through his private messages that you hacked into while he’s unsuspectingly drooling on the pillow next to you? Please tell me you see the problem there. Are you stronger than addiction, abuse and mental illness? If you say yes, you haven’t had those issues brush close enough to your own life to weigh in.

#quittingisntanoption – Please see #imnotaquitter. Sometimes it is absolutely the BEST and only option.

#marriageisntamood – I’m kind of beating a dead horse, but neither is addiction, abuse, mental illness… you see where I’m going with this.

I love seeing anniversary posts and birthday posts and lovey dovey posts from all of you who really capitalize on a special day to lift your special someone up and recognize their place in your life. However, you should know that continually posting how amaaaaazzzing your husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/non-organic partner/baby daddy is in a pretend dimension (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) actually communicates the exact opposite. Its two shakes away from those joint social media accounts. If people weren’t talking about you before, they will be now, and they’ll be wondering which one of you cheated or lied or talked to the neighbor a little too long in the driveway this evening before dinner.

And you do know social media is a pretend dimension, right?

‘Tis the Season

Four years ago.

I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a post commemorating the Sandy Hook shooting. It said, “We will always remember four years ago: 12/14/2012.”

I stopped breathing for a minute. My back involuntarily tensed and my face flushed. I had to consciously gather myself and remember I was, in fact, at my desk waiting on my software to update. This is probably another reason why you should never open social media at work, even if you have legitimate dead time to fill.

Sandy Hook was definitely devastating, but the date is what knocked the breath out of me. December 2012 was four years ago. Four short years that have seemed like a lifetime a hundred times over. Four years ago was our last Christmas with the boys. It was the last time we saw them, actually. Four years ago, I thought I was losing the greatest thing that had ever happened to me. Four years ago, La Vega hadn’t happened. Four years ago, I still got a quick kiss and tight hug every once in a while from my husband, even though his eyes were empty and his mind had been a million miles away for at least a year. I had no comprehension regarding the strength of mental illness and addiction versus the strength of love. I still truly believed that as long as you had love, you had enough. Four years ago, I was praying desperately for a miracle, completely broke and struggling to pay for counseling and medication that Ren was quite literally flushing down the toilet. Four years ago, my body was in the best shape of my life, but my spirit was broken and my heart was grieving a best friend and life partner, physically alive but ravaged by meth, mountains of whores, false friends, mental illness and other drugs.

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly, I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:22-24.

Over the rocky terrain of 2013 and 2014, I shouted this verse at God. I was so angry above all other emotions. I told God time and time again how angry I was that He  discarded my desperate, fervent prayers. I spent a few years distancing myself from God because I felt absolutely passed over and betrayed. I believed God had lost interest in me, but nothing could have been farther from the truth. In fact, God graciously and deliberately responded with the complete opposite of December 2012’s disillusioned, impassioned pleas. I received my miracle. Ren swirled down the toilet right behind his expensive medication and rejected counseling. That’s not what I prayed for and absolutely not what I wanted. I prayed for what I wanted, and received what was best. I wanted my husband back. I wanted our family Friday pizza and movie nights with all four kids to continue until they graduated from high school, then maybe beyond that when they came to visit with their spouses and children. I wanted the life I had planned, and I fought long and hard for it. I lost myself in the fight for my family, home and future. I lost the ability to define love for what it was, and was only able to define it by what it was not. Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” If you insist on fighting your own battles, God will step back and wait for you to get your ass kicked so miserably that you have no choice but be still. I am relentlessly stubborn, so I’ve taken this route more often than not. It’s taken my entire 35 years and about a million paradigm shifts to learn that I’d rather be still  and ask God to fight for me at the first suspicion of battle regardless of how large or small. Life clicks along better that way, and aftershocks and post-traumatic damage are kept to a manageable minimum. Crushing defeats transform into growth opportunities before your mortal eyes. You can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks.

Grace is the power we receive to live our life from the standpoint of victory regardless of the circumstances swirling around us. Grace is received only through faith. God’s grace is sufficient when we actively trust that His all-encompassing view is much superior to our ridiculously limited perspective. I am the tuba player marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and God is the blimp overhead. It is in my best interest to trust the blimp’s perspective instead of my own. The blimp can see everything for miles. I can see the sweat beading through the back of the ugly uniform directly in front of me. I’m learning. I am learning that what we want often looks completely different from what is best. In this season of Christmas, I am so grateful and humbled that I get what is best, even though I deserve what I want instead.

So many changes have violently elbowed their way into our world over the last four years, and I’ve come to appreciate and savor the value in them all. The process of absolute brokenness and subsequent rebuilding has made me unrecognizable to those who don’t know me deeply. But those who do say I just put the pieces back together differently.

December 2012 was bondage I didn’t recognize as bondage. December 2016 is freedom. I am finally true and honest with myself, which evolves into truth and honesty in all aspects of my life. I spend my time on people and treasures that make me think and feel and laugh so hard I cry. Freedom means pausing my Gabriel Garcia Marquez documentary to watch The Farting Preacher, then jumping right back into Marquez, but pausing once more to catch Jason Boland live on Instagram. Freedom means swiftly and completely disregarding opinions and advice of those who have no concept of what our world looks like. Freedom means putting effort into what I know is important instead of being obligated to extinguish petty fires every moment of every day. Freedom means having the courage to live in the present instead of being comfortably chained to the sinking bricks of the past.

2017, we are ready. Morning by morning new mercies I see.