Thursday, December 21, 2017

When the dark gives way to the growing light

Several months ago, in a marriage counseling session, the counselor said something that resonated enough with me that I still remember it today. It was along the lines of, "Partnerships like marriage are meant to help you grow and change into a better person. The fact that it isn't as easy to leave is what keeps you there during the hard times, but the work you put in to stay and develop is what curves your edges and builds you up."

Now I'm sure anyone could say the exact opposite and make it sound just as likely. After all, keeping marriages afloat is this woman's bread and butter. I chose to believe her, and I DO feel that one of the benefits of marriage is that it does make it little harder to cut and run on a whim.

I also know that keeping a long term relationship going is hard, no matter who you are, if you are really doing the work to keep it healthy and growing.

Some marriages have less strife than others. Some thrive on conflict. Others seem to just always be perfect (from the outside). I cannot judge anyone's marriage but my own. I also cannot defend the institution of marriage for anyone else but myself. For me and Mr. D, it was THE choice. It was was was vows that each of us took (and still do) very seriously.

Our problem has been born of this: I changed more than he did - and we didn't really change or grow together. So, now, like bending branches on an tree and tying them together, we are re-training ourselves, which is much more difficult than just having done it the right way from the start (easier said than done and so easy to see in hindsight).

Now, we aren't really starting over...because there is no real way to do that. We've been together too long to do that. We have too much history (good and bad) and too much emotion attached to that history.

Instead, we are taking what we have, the best parts, and rebuilding with those materials, leaving the weak ones out or reinforcing them with forgiveness.

Mr. D is my mirror. Of course, the image I see there is colored by his interpretation, but it's just as skewed as my own can be (of myself and of him). He is my best friend, my partner, my son's father, my companion, and (less often than is needed) my lover.

It's that weak - and sometimes missing - element that I'm focusing on here, because when it is working, everything else seems to fall into place. We become the soul mates we knew we were at the beginning.

My heart and mind can be fickle. But, there is something at my core that says, "This cannot be lost." So I have to use my mind and my heart to build what my core tells me to.

I am on a journey to find a true home within my marriage. This is about receptivity and graciousness. This about creativity and courage and letting my guard down...all the way. This is about vulnerability.

Several posts past, I used this image. I love yoga, and I feel that this idea of letting go, which shows up in my yoga practice on a regular basis, directly relates to this. I don't just go to yoga to build strength or practice balance. For me, it's like going to church. Pushing my body to go further, to open wider, and to breathe itself into focus is exactly what I have to do with my heart and mind in the context of my relationships.

Because, quite honestly, I don't know what I'm trying to protect. Whatever insecurities are hiding in my head, it really is time to let them all go. Half of my lifetime is already too long to have let them run the show.

I am not religious, but I am spiritual. And for me, marriage is a spiritual connection. It is a choice that I made to join my essence with another's, but for some reason, I have not allowed that to happen completely.

Rather than try to figure out why (hours of psychotherapy that I am not willing to subject myself to or pay for), I am just going to work out how to move forward with this "opening."

Today is Winter Solstice. The day when the dark half of the year gives way to the growing light. I can think of nothing more symbolically appropriate for my life right now.

Habit isn't really what I'm going for here. In it's simplest form, I suppose, but habits are things we do without thinking. Things that just happen because we have done them the same way repeatedly for a long period of time. Habits are not inherently good or bad. Intentions, however...that's where it's at. These are conscious decisions to believe or act a certain way. But, even intention isn't enough (we all know about the road to Hell, right?). What is important is the action. Love is a verb. And being a good lover is much more than intention. If intention were enough, I'd have had this thing nailed long ago, as my intentions have always been good.

The real questions that get at the heart of this problem are hard to face. What has been getting in my way? Why haven't the intentions grown into sustained action? What keeps me from prioritizing my marriage?

And once again...hours of psychotheraphy. But the simplest answer is self-centeredness. I'll just be painfully honest. I have a tendency toward self-preservation and self-motivation. If it benefits me, I'm all over it. If I have to move outside of myself, it feels like a chore. Believe, admitting things like this about myself doesn't feel good.

So, this is not only about becoming a better lover to my husband, but about becoming a better person, period: more deeply connected, more receptive, more sensual, more gracious and more centered. This is about creating a life vision and working my way toward it.

There is something oddly calming about realizing that I have achieved all of my major goals and that this is likely what has been causing all of my emotional disharmony...trying to answer the question "what now?" for someone who is all about productivity is unsettling. But, I've begun to feel that maybe "what now?" is the wrong question to ask. In fact, it makes me think of a favorite quote:
Maybe this is a year that answers. Maybe this is a year that I finally learn to simply be comfortable and content in my own skin. Accepting. Opening. Expanding. 

Happy Solstice!

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