Last year was my 20th high school reunion. I didn’t get to go but I had planned to go right up until two weeks before the actual event. I remember telling my mom who was coming, who wasn’t coming, and who I hoped was coming. I mentioned one particular name and my mom did all but spit on the ground and made the sign of the cross to ward of the devil. Which would have been extra dramatic as we aren’t Catholic. This particular girl, a friend, had hurt my feelings so bad once in junior high that I sobbed on my mothers shoulder for hours while she rocked me in her lap and then I skipped school the next day because I was still just so upset. I have no idea what it was about. It was junior high and we were both smack dab in the middle of puberty. I went back to school and before the week was out, we were friends again. We were friends, but my mom still hates that girl with an intensity and longevity that rivals the fervor of religious fanatics. My mom would have sheltered me from any and all pain in life if she could have. I used to think that her inability to forgive the childish transgressions my friends committed while I was growing up was amusing. I have three girls and I no longer think it’s amusing. As soon as my girls started coming home telling us about their friends that hurt their feelings, my husband starting spouting a ridiculous sentiment that I silently classified as the most naive thought any parent had ever spoken out loud. He would say that we were grateful for these disputes, arguments, disagreements, social dramas, hurt feelings and tender hearts because it gave our children a chance to grow and learn. To learn how to overcome these obstacles with a loving and forgiving heart. To try to emulate God’s grace. To learn how to push past the emotional pain and make the correct decision. To learn that sometimes the person that hurt you isn’t going to be sorry, they aren’t going to apologize, and they will most likely hurt you again. To learn that you can’t run away from your problems, you have to place your feet firmly and deal with the issue head on. Wyatt EarpIt’s a sentiment worthy of a Hallmark Card. Worthy and True. It’s an epic lesson to teach your children. Perhaps the most important lesson. I’d agree if I wasn’t so filled with outrage. Mama Bear is way too busy trying not to channel Wyatt Earp in Tombstone. “All right, kid… you called down the thunder, well now you’ve got it!” You tell ’em I’m coming… and hell’s coming with me, you hear?… Hell’s coming with me!” When my husband got out of the Navy and he used a headhunter to find a good fit for his first job out of the military, the headhunter told him to “Try not to look so scary” when he was in the interview. He was rough around the edges growing up on a ranch in West Texas and the military took that and honed it into a relentless juggernaut of aggression when it comes to problem solving. He is not a gentle and sensitive flower of emotion. He is the voice of reason when my kids hearts are wounded. Oh, the irony. The thoughts and words coming out of my mouth can not be trusted when my children have sobbed their heartache on my shoulder. I would shelter them from any an all pain if I could. I would shelter them and that would be a mistake. won’t winAs much as it pains me to say it, my husband is right and we need to be grateful for these childhood chances to learn. Grateful for those childhood hurts and maybe wishing for more opportunities while we, as parents, have a chance to guide them. Grateful because as far as I can tell, adults that have no skill at processing emotional pain crash and burn. Crash and burn in a manner that takes decades, lives, families, marriages, loved ones, careers, homes and sometimes sanity with them. You can’t run from life. Running leads to ruin. We have a family friend who’s wife told him 30 years ago that she no longer loved him, she was in love with someone else. He will tell you that he was too afraid to live without her so they never got divorced. The situation was too big, too scary, too hurtful for him to face the problem so he ran from the huge wave of devastation a divorce would cause. He avoided that first tsunami of pain, and hurt, and change but they never resolved the problem. They ran from it. They have just continued to revolve around each other in rollercoaster of hurt and pain for three decades. If you mapped out his life, that’s the moment his hurt became too much and he fell into his addictions. It was a slow and steady slide: credit card debt, alcohol, sleeping pills, pain pills, lying to himself and others, stealing. His addictions and self destructive lifestyle have pushed him into the early stages of dementia or Alzheimers. He is a pale shadow of the man he could have been. I can’t imagine how betrayed he felt when his wife told him she no longer loved him. I can’t imagine the fear he felt regarding the change a divorce would cause. The loneliness he would feel. I’m sure the pain would be enough to bring anyone to their knees in despair. But I bet it wouldn’t have led to 30 years of constant daily pain, a destructive cycle of addictions to avoid his life, and the utter ruination of his hopes and dreams. He ran and the hurt chased him down for decades of torture. He will die broken and unfulfilled by his life. armorHe never learned how to plant his feet firmly and deal with his problems head on. He didn’t have practice pushing past the emotional pain. He didn’t believe in himself and he didn’t know how to seek solace in the Lord. Don’t run. When you turn from your problems you are just facing straight into the temptation of your addictions. As far as I can tell, once you’ve taken that first step into your sins, your addictions, your cravings, you can’t stop. You will never be able to shake loose that terrible hunger. You can’t free yourself because you won’t be able to satisfy that need. Your need can not be filled by your addictions. That huge pit of despair, that endless depth of wanting can only be filled by God. Be a fighter. Do not give up. You will stumble. You will fall. You will cry. You will hurt. You will cuss. You will lose. Just make sure you stand back up to fight some more. Don’t run. The monsters just give chase.
When I was in fifth grade my mom came home with 6 paperback books that were in a series and were cased in a small cardboard box that was intended to look like a small bookshelf or some such. A publishing company had sent the books as a promotion to her office and she brought them home to me without opening them up and looking at the books. They still had the plastic wrapping around the entire package. You couldn’t see the front cover of the books. That would have been a clue to the content. An important clue. It was a HARLEQUIN PRESENTS series. The first ones published, numbers 1-6. (Yes, I’m that old.) My mom had no clue she had just given her 12 year old 6 romance novels and I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to tell her. I remember all the teachers and family members praising me for being so smart and wasn’t it great that I loved to read so much. I would just smile and agree that yes, I was very smart. My friends would say they just didn’t like to read like I did and I would simply say they hadn’t found the right type of books yet. My amusement at this situation was almost equal to my amazement of the happenings written down between the pages of these books. As I stated, this was the first of these series romances. The publishing departments had no idea they just launched something that would turn the publishing business upside down. They had no idea so they boxed those six books up and sent it with a postcard allowing you to sign up for a year subscription for $9.00 a month. They wanted to build up their consumer base. I remember it had a little red heart sticker you would take and stick on the postcard. As a 12 year old, I didn’t give a thought to how that $9.00 was going to be paid. I just placed the heart sticker on the postcard and sent it in. I had those books delivered to my house for 6 months before my mom realized something fishy was going on. I might be the only person you know that was grounded for clandestine reading. The truth of the matter is that those first romances were very tame. They had a handful of writers in the beginning and their bios would be on the inside back cover. As a whole, they were typically middle aged women (or older) and each and every one of those books carried the same theme: Good girls were smart, kind, innocent and the men were strong, valiant, rich and fell madly in love at first site. The sex scenes were implied rather than scripted out and each and every heroine in those books was a virgin. Every. Single. One. (*Those books no longer support that message and I would be horrified if a child was reading those series now. Even the series romances the publishers classify as tame are graphic and inappropriate for young minds.) My 12 year old brain absorbed the following message: You have to be a virgin when you meet your true love and he has to be amazing like the men in the book. That’s not the worst message to get absorbed into a 12 year old’s head. So let’s fast-forward. MarriageBefore I married my husband we had to have “the talk” from my preacher. Brother James did not hold back and he did not sugar coat this talk. It was horrifying on multiple levels. It was damn good advice from a man who had seen it all. He said married couples get divorced for 4 main reasons: Money, Sex, Children, and Extended family. He covered each topic, but spent a large part of the talk directed toward sex within a marriage. He said disagreements or dissatisfaction regarding sex from one or both parties was not an issue to ignore. Basically he said it was time to ignore all the messages pummeled into your mind by the church your entire life and go immediately the other direction and make this a priority in your life. I obviously heard what he was saying, but I didn’t understand the message in any real way. I’m not sure you can just change directions that swiftly after a lifetime of training that sex is taboo. So life happens and the 20 year olds that are childless, mortgage-less, sometimes job-less become 30 year olds with multiple children, a big mortgage, and multiple jobs to juggle. The wild and free become the tame and burdened. Money, sex, children, and extended family issues are no longer a vague issue to tackle in the future as they are currently pummeling your marriage from all sides. If you don’t cling to each other you are going to crash and burn on the rocks. I try my hardest to constantly be on guard and grow with things such as classes and lectures and books to assist you in keeping your marriage alive and thriving. TED talkI recently watched a TED talk about Love that rocked my world. Rocked it. I had an Ah-Ha moment so big that I’m writing this despite my horror that I’m writing about a taboo topic with people that I might have to look in the eye sometime soon. God help me if my mom wants to discuss this particular blog post after she reads it. So here goes. (TED Talk: Esther Perel: The secret to desire in a long-term relationship) I absorbed two main points from this 19 minute TED talk. Both were big realizations but the second idea that rocked my world. The main premise of her talk is that you can have a highly intimate, loving marriage without desire. (This is bad, by the way.) The reason was because intimacy killed the desire. She argues that they are opposites of each other. After listening to her, I agree with her point. Point 1: Care-taking, Maternal moments were a huge “off switch” to desire. An actual off switch. The chemicals that flood a woman’s brain when they are immersed in these moments make it physically impossible for you to reach the area of “desire” in your brain until you have turned the switch back to the “on” position. You can perform the act of sex in a loving and intimate way but you will not be able to reach the “zing” and “zest” of desire. Your spouse could do everything perfect and you still won’t attain “desire” until the switch is back to the “on” position. It is your job to turn that switch. Your spouse can’t do it for you. switchThe talk wasn’t long enough for her to give suggestions on how to flip your switch but I’m thinking doing dishes, loading laundry, folding your husbands socks, tucking the children into bed moments before it’s GO TIME are more than a buzz kill, they are a chemical cocktail of disaster in your brain. Care-taking for your husband was in the same category as care-taking for the children. Those moments may lead to intimacy and love but they kill desire like a knife to the gut. You are thinking this isn’t such a big deal, people have been saying you have to be “in the mood” for years and years. I agree, but the thought that you have a legitimate chemical hurdle to overcome and you need to approach that hurdle with intent and focus was a new concept for me. Point 2: (This was the kicker for me) Intimacy is the antithesis of desire. A funeral for “zest.” This is a new concept for me as my entire life I have thought, have been trained to think, and I know most women think that the reason we sometimes aren’t feeling the “zest” is because we are not feeling loved in our marriage in those moments. We thought wrong. No wonder I could never pin down any rhyme or reason as to when I’d be “on” or “off.” I’d chalk it down to life. No one is arguing that feeling love and intimacy isn’t the bedrock of a good marriage. It is. You should work hard, fight for that intimacy and love. Yes, you still need to work hard to fulfill each others love language. It’s just that those intimate moments with your spouse do not spark desire. They just don’t. They can create an actual barrier to the goal. Telling your husband that you need more quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation or whatever your love language may be will not create the “zing.” That’s not what floods your brain with the “zest” chemicals and makes it happen. It won’t light the fire, set off the fireworks, or rev your engine. Intimacy is not the “on” switch. What? Hold up, wait a minute. What? I was totally told that WAS the “on” switch my entire life. I’ve been reading illicit books since I was 12 years old that emphatically state that IS the “on” switch. Thousands of them. Thousands of trashy romance novels that all support that thought. desireMore importantly, I’ve believed and I’ve been telling my husband that 100% was the “on” switch and the only “on” switch. We are just going to have to focus all our energy on pushing that one button. He was going to need to take out the trash more enthusiastically than ever before. I know it has never worked when we push that button, but maybe we just need to try harder at pushing that one button. The nonexistent, works against your goal, big fat lie of the century button. We’ve been bamboozled. Dear Hubby, you know how I’ve been telling you that taking out the trash and those long talks about my day discussing, in painstaking detail, all the care-taking I’ve done for the family was the magic ticket? Umm…turns out it’s the buzz kill you’ve always said it was. Turns out my “on” button is in another area entirely. I’m not exactly sure where it is either. Let’s find it together. How do you feel about leather chaps? (Just kidding…hopefully.) I’m going to need a refund on my $9.00 commitment post-card I sent in when I was 12 years old.