On Finding Fault and Taking Blame

I really try to write when I’m having a good day, and there is a reason for that. Growth is messy, and it is rarely pretty down in the trenches. It can look fatal. (It can feel fatal.) Writing about my struggles with religion and mixed-faith marriage wouldn’t be very inspiring or hope-promoting if I got stuck in the mess of it. It would be a lot of finger pointing and blame. It is true that my change in perspective has thrown a huge wrench in our life, and it was my need to understand the dynamics we were living with that led to that change. It is also true that my husband’s perspective can be very black and white, and that doesn’t always lead to happy and productive conversations. I’ve spoken to a lot of people this month that have asked how we are and gotten a honest answer – it’s day-to-day, sometimes. It’s hard. These things are all very true. But, they’re a myopic view of what is really a much broader dynamic.

Human nature leads us to want to understand what we’re seeing. (Thank God for that!) When we recognize struggle, we pick it apart, look at the parties and try to assign blame where it fits the most comfortably within our own experience. I’ve been there. But, the one thing I’ve learned from life if I’ve learned anything is that it is C.O.M.P.L.I.C.A.T.E.D. Trying to fit things into a neat, little box is rarely genuine to any person or perspective. Speaking from my own pain and perspective only, though this is my platform, would be woefully unfair. I struggle with this when it comes to my own kids. My adult children find it easier to relate to where I’m at, and I think it leads them to unfairly judge their believing father. They see the struggle and just want him to be different or think differently or change to fix things. They think I’m the one holding this marriage together.

I’m not. It’s not me. There are certainly qualities that I bring to this table that are helping this work. My husband will tell you that I’m a precise communicator, and it is incredibly hard to debate me. (If you don’t come prepared, you’ll find yourself in trouble.) This is true. I have an unwavering commitment to my family, and I make it a point to understand what is happening behind the scenes with history, people and dynamics. (I also take damn good care of him which helps us to ride the waves when it gets choppy.) Still, NONE of this would matter if it wasn’t for his own integrity, strengths and commitment. At the end of the day, his flexibility, genuine desire for growth and ability to see nuance and step back from the emotions of the hard stuff in order to gain objectivity carries us. We are challenging to one another (I honestly think it’s why we picked each other,) but that is where the growth is. Truly. I would not be who I am without him, and he would be a very different person had he married someone else.

I posted this on my Facebook page today, and ruminating on the depth of what is said here is what prompted this train of thought. The tagline to this blog is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” I think the more life I live, the more I recognize that the mess IS beautiful. It IS where you find the silver lining, the joy, the excruciating love that pushes and pulls at you and makes the entire journey worthwhile. Without mess and struggle, we would be stagnant and, frankly, probably bored.

“It’s not about what’s ‘right and wrong’, it’s about understanding. And once you understand somebody and how they are feeling and what their view is, you can move on with more ease because you have that understanding. Those are the steps toward building love.

It’s so freaking difficult, and so freaking excruciating, and sometimes you think it’s not love, but it is.

Is it worth it? At the end of the day, to have someone who can love you for ALL that you are. And say, __________ has loved me through the worst of myself, and I have done the same. When somebody can love in that way, lay down the expectations and rules, it makes your faith in the world come together in a way which is like ‘I Am, This Is, and All Is Well.’

It’s like climbing a mountain–do the work and see the beauty. It’s worth it.”

-Red Table Talk

I think what I would most like to communicate today is that there isn’t really any fault or blame here. The way that I relate to the world contributes to what we have to navigate, and the way he relates to the world does as well. But, I’m not “making us struggle” and neither is he. It just is. It’s just life. It’s a complicated situation, but we are undoubtedly living it. Sometimes you think it’s not love, but it is. The mindfulness I approach this with helps us win the day, and his ability to see a bigger picture and love me like most women will never experience carries us through. We’re winning together, and I absolutely would not be if it wasn’t for him.


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The Struggle is Good, and It’s Ours

It’s hard for me to address subjects that are so broad and meaningful and close to my heart. I rarely can express it adequately. People freak out when I open my figurative mouth in this forum and come to my husband in a flat panic thinking our world is falling apart. While I wish they wouldn’t due to the sheer unaffordable distraction of it, the thing is that they aren’t wrong.

It is. Our world is in pieces. It’s hard. Brutal. Filled with fear and an unknowing uneasiness. I know it looks like a flat disaster from the outside. And, there is no context for where we walk. It is, at the most base level, completely uncharted territory. I don’t like the raw and the ugly and the unpredictable. And, it has unpacked and moved in. I like certainty and peace and security ever so much, and I’ve had so little of it in my life.

However, that’s not the fight we’re in. And, we are in it. We’re here for the growth and for the challenge and for the struggle. Mostly, we’re here for each other, and the dance is both brutal and beautiful. My biggest fears are other people telling my husband who I am and whether I’m worth it or not, and my biggest gifts are the assurance that he is in this wilderness with me, 100% committed to the new and bold and hard. For me. For our children. Because he values me as a unique person, gives me room to move in the world how I need to and deeply appreciates what I bring into his life after 25 years together.

We had a conversation the other night. While my husband doesn’t read my blog, he says with some frequency that I should write about certain things we talk about, and this was one of them. In exploring the idea of having healthy relationships with institutions, we lamented the fact that there seems to be so little useful support for people trying to navigate hard and unconventional things. Wouldn’t it be transformative if dogma could be set aside, and we could all live by the Hippocratic oath of first, do no harm? It would still be hard here, but it would be hard in a way that didn’t leave me looking over my shoulder for other people’s priorities to unpack in my bedroom. Let people succeed. Cheer them on. Get out of their way, and let them get to work.

We have significant disagreements at this point about life and philosophy, but our greatest strength, I think, is our willingness to be present and engaged in them together. In hard ways. In meaningful ways. In ways that lead to the lowest lows swinging wildly into the highest highs of my life. If I could have looked into the future and seen how this would all play out, I would have ran, no doubt. I would not choose it with my eyes open. But, I like to believe that there was a time and a place and a knowing that led me here, and that it is what we both need. We are exactly where we should be.

As first-world humans, our relationship with struggle has become soft and privileged, and like most people, I seek to dodge, avoid and deflect. We both miss the quietness we had when everything lived in a dark corner of our closet, but we both draw from an ever-deepening well of love and commitment that allows us to pick up the sword and keep fighting the good fight, back-to-back, every day, to protect our home and family. The words of Jordan Peterson resonate with both my husband and I, and we’ve come to see the struggle as a necessary component to a meaningful life. We regularly find these on YouTube and share them with each other, and this was today’s gem.

Our success is never a sure thing – it would be counterproductive to think otherwise. It is volatile and painful many days. However, your success isn’t any more sure than ours, though it looks so much quieter over so many other fences. But, we’re alive here, engaged, wrestling, sometimes “drawing blood,” doing the work and loving with every fiber that we can muster. I’ll take that as a pretty good sign for us. I hope you can, too.