Jrex and I woke early this morning. Dad was still asleep. We chatted for a couple hours (with a dog walk intermission). One of the hard parts about having a houseguest is missing each other. Normally, it’s just the two of us, so we take our daily chats for granted. It was good to catch up a bit.
We discussed how, in my house growing up, it truly was survival of the fittest. Kids are by nature relatively self-focused, so without both parents reinforcing consideration, a kid isn’t going to learn to think of others. Much as we love him, our Dad was an only child and his default option is oblivious. Poor Mom, she didn’t have a skill set for dealing with little kids since her main tool for discipline was yelling. Dad backed her up as much as he could, but due to his entrepreneurial housing firm, he wasn’t around much. This created kids who could endure emotional onslaughts then shrug it off and do what they wanted anyway. For my sister and me, that means husbands who have no idea how to get us to change behaviors that drive them crazy. It means we’re often bulls in china shops of other’s emotions. Ironically, my brother is the most sensitive and thoughtful of the three of us.
On the other hand, for Jrex, he might have been relentlessly trained to think of others, but he wasn’t allowed to feel his emotions. His father, before becoming a Christian, was a very angry, abrasive and oblivious man*. His Mom could only handle one person in the family being angry and wouldn’t let the kids express frustration. Jrex wasn’t allowed to pursue music despite his teacher urging his parents to allow him to go in that direction. Wasn’t allowed to take a year off after college, despite being exhausted and clinically depressed. He’s had to think of others at the expense of his own soul.
As a wise friend once observed to us, we usually marry the person who is perfect for either continuing our childhood traumas or helping to heal them. We’ve both made huge choices to try to be part of healing what our parents never gave us. It means that over the years, I have had to draw out Jrex’s anger. Which, unfortunately, is often at me. It’s challenging to keep asking for more details instead of reacting defensively! It’s meant that over the years, he’s had to turn off the stove after I cook, endure my relentless projects, and grit his teeth through my fend-for-yourself attitude and my inconsiderate actions.
Today, for Christmas, he wrote me a poem that recognized my choices to remain in our marriage. Knowing that he sees what I’m doing was the best present I could have asked for today. (Though Mom K sent me a very sparkly, very Korean red sweater jacket! And my Dad made me some very cool hardware store accessories—really!)
Part of what makes life meaningful and healing is what we can carry for each other. The places we can give each other grace to be who we are--the flaws and the beauty. We're both grateful for the parents we've had. We're incredibly rich people in terms of our legacies from them. And I'm incredibly grateful that we have each other.
May you find someone willing to carry with you this year. Merry Christmas (and/or Happy Holidays)!
*Of course, he survived years in occupied Korea, years in the army and relocation to a new country, new language and new customs. He had reasons for the anger. And, after becoming a Christian, truly transformed into a big-hearted, generous man.