Advice. It pours out when you go through a life transition. Marriage. Death. Birth. School. Moving. New Job.
“The key to a happy marriage is for each person to give 100 percent and expect 0 percent.” The most counter-intuitive advice given when we were getting married, it’s what echoes most true as we muddle along this path together.
We’re trying to work through this new pattern of parenting and owning a house and both working demanding jobs. In Baltimore, Jrex was sucked almost completely dry by his onc0logy fellowship. He had very little left for me or us, and hardly anything for a house. In Baltimore though, I had a job where I worked four days a week, usually had lots of time for surfing the internet, and was only stressed in small spurts. My California job gives me rare slow days and is creatively and emotionally draining.
Now, again, he’s being sucked dry. He loves the new job and is working hard to figure it all out, but it’s challenging to be an entrepreneur inside a big institution. Not only to measure up to his own expectations (high), but to also not disappoint all the people who have believed in him, granted him space, given him advice and who want him to succeed.
In the midst of all that, who takes out the garbage?
Who wakes up and stays up to engage with the baby when he’s up for the day at 5:30 AM?
Who makes dinner?
Picks up socks?
When sick, who gets to rest? When?
These are ordinary negotiations around a new pattern. Nothing out of the ordinary except the compression into the same few months of so many new things.
While on maternity leave, it felt ‘fair’ that I do all the laundry and deal with all the house stuff. That felt like my ‘job’. Focus on the baby and deal with what I can around the house. No problem. I was able to mostly give cheerfully.
Now that I’m back at work, it’s been hard to not keep tally. Not on a daily level, but over time, feeling like I’m giving 110% and getting 30%. Knowing he’s giving as much as he can, but feeling overwhelmed, tired and increasingly resentful. Behind it all lies a fear that if I give 110%, it still won’t be enough (since my 110% still doesn’t match what his Mom was doing when she stayed with us). A fear that he’ll take my actions for granted and ask for still more. That as much as I’ve flipped a switch into being a Mommy (Moms wash laundry, Moms cook dinner, Moms are available for their kids and keep house and make the world a better place for everyone around them...), maybe he’s switched into being a deadbeat Dad (easily frustrated, lashing out, stressed, no emotional resources, sitting on the couch watching TV while the Mom does everything without complaining, impatient with children, waiting to be served).
The fear that the cup of love just sprang a leak and all I can give will never be enough.
Knowing it’s a lie, yet being driven by that fear into self-protection and counting the cost. Demanding more from him. Beating a winded horse and getting impatient when it won’t pick up the pace.
“The key to a happy marriage is to give 100 percent and expect 0 percent.”
But if I do that, I’ll die!
I’ll die. I have to die to my ‘right’ to whatever it is I’m demanding from him. Yet, behind that. When I give up that demand. When I open up my fist, turn my opening hand up and let the ashes of what I was clutching blow away. When I trust that behind every true death, there is a better resurrection. Well. Then. Then there is life. Then he turns towards me and towards us. Then there’s room for him to give, in his way. And for me to be grateful instead of thinking, “That’s it?!” Usually then, he gives more then than I could have ever demanded.
Somehow, that lesson is the hardest part of marriage. I stop on a threshold filled with fear, need and disappointed expectations. How could I give MORE? How can I let him get away with IT (whatever that IT might be)? And in that place, our marriage begins to shrink and shrivel from bitterness and resentment. Knowing this secret of the resurrection, that there’s a joy set before me that outweighs the death required right now, it’s not enough. Somehow, on the threshold, that hope seems like a tiny little liquid light. Barely weighing anything, certainly not heavier on the scale than this current NEED.
Hands open before Him. Crying again. Breaking open. Waiting. The light gets bigger, brighter and heavier until my life fills again with a golden light that is warm, thick and filled with love.
Welcome home. Be at peace. Be still and know that He is God and this marriage, this child, this home is His. We are not alone here left to our own devices and our own capacities. There IS more. And it IS good. Take the key, open the door, and rest.