This post is day 15. New to the series? Start here. Thanks to all of you who have shared these posts and commented. I really appreciate it. Do say hello if you’ve been reading or are new. It would be lovely to meet you. If you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.

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The list of things to get done is long before a move, the tasks are tremendous and time consuming.

I know this because my Husband tells me so.

We were flying from Geneva to Australia with our six-month-old on Christmas Day in 2011. Imagine Husband’s surprise when he walked into the kitchen an hour before we had to be at the airport and found me rolling out dough on the kitchen counter tops. I don’t have words for the expression on his face, What are you doing? he asked in disbelief.

MAKINGBISCUITS, I replied, and I’m sure my face said, WHATDOESITLOOKLIKE? Because it was our first Christmas with a baby! We had to have a good breakfast together! We have to make memories! To his everlasting credit, we sat down and had a mostly unhurried brunch together, and he was very kind about it all even though the biscuits were flat.

Someone has to be the one in charge of fun, memory-making activities when it’s moving time, and that is my territory. My Husband is the bearer of news that usually sounds like, We have to pack. Our bags are too heavy. Your [insert crazy gift or purchase idea here] will not fit. But what that means as we get close to the moving date is that I am increasingly focused on what fun things we can do together – and deeply disappointed when these things don’t happen –and he is increasingly stressed out about the things that have to get done. Like emptying the refrigerator.

We are not there yet, but somehow in this move, we had moments when we managed to meet in the middle. Emphasis on the word MOMENTS. He relaxed on some things that had to be finished, and chose a quick drive to the café on the water so we could have ice creams together. I cleaned our outdoor toys and got them ready to be packed. But this only happened because we had those honest, awkward conversations.

It’s really hard for me when you can’t see that there is so much work to be done. I need your help.

I feel sad when we can’t do some of these things together. I wish you were more present.

The communication of expectations and desires is perhaps the most underrated and dull part of marriage, but it has made ours so much better.  I made my list of things to do before leaving Sweden (see last Monday’s post on bucket lists). It was full of important details like, Hang something in our garden and Have a pizza party.

Husband’s list, in contrast, had things like Visa. Sell car. Pack.

But he took note. He checked with me periodically about how my list was going, and he did what he could to make sure white lanterns were hung up in our garden for our going away party. I did what I could to make sure he had time alone to work through his tasks, to help him out when I could and to ask others for help to ease both of our loads.

Now it’s your turn: If you are married and going through a transition right now, I am guessing you and your spouse have some differences in how you want to work through your move. How can you meet in the middle? What needs do you have that you can communicate honestly and sensitively to your spouse? What needs does your spouse have and how can you take the time to listen and attend to them?

transition

This post is day 7. New to the series? Start here. And if you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.
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G[/ba-dropcap]rief and loss over time give way to a stronger emotion: Anger. I want to give a disclaimer here, I am no counselor or psychologist, so I am writing here more out of my experience rather than anything else. I can see very clearly with every one of my moves weeks and months where anger was easily and quickly triggered by the most random of things.

After we moved to Sweden, we tried to find a large rubbish bin, and couldn’t. We ended up with a small rectangular box under our sink. I had an eight-week-old baby and a two-year-old in diapers, we probably filled that bin once a day if not more in the first months. Having to throw out the trash regularly made me angry, not every now and then, but very, very frequently. It wasn’t about the rubbish necessarily, it was about being in a new place where I couldn’t figure out a solution to a problem that would have been easily solved in a country where I was more familiar with stores.

Moving to a new country or place is a study in being out of control, and this can and will often lead to strong feelings of anger.

For me the anger was directed toward my husband and kids, and this manifested itself in different ways, very regularly in careless, angry words and other times in worse behaviors. I don’t have a lot of advice on how to deal with this, believe me I’m still dealing with this in our current move. Here are a few things I try to practice that help.

Expect it. As crazy as this sounds, when a move is on the horizon, it helps me to expect to be angry about little things and big things. I have to expect it so that I create some margins and help structures in my life.

Time to myself. I need it every day to recharge, to journal my feelings out, to pray and ask God for strength, and to speak words of truth over myself.

Ask for help. If I can tell that I am getting angry with the kids, I try to tell Husband, so he knows and can pray for me, and can give me some time away from the kids in the evening or weekend. I try to get a babysitter.

Ask for forgiveness. There have been months when I’ve asked one of my kids for forgiveness almost daily because of mistakes I’ve made, and I’m not talking about just saying, Sorry. It’s, Mommy is sorry for _______ and the way it made you feel disrespected, sad, ______. I can see that this hurt you deeply, and I am so sorry about this. Please will you forgive me? As painful as it is to make the mistakes, to say these words, to look into the eyes of people I love whose trust I have broken, the practice of asking my husband and children for forgiveness is also deeply humbling and renewing. It keeps – I hope – our hearts connected to each other, when anger tries to separate us. I also ask God for forgiveness, and often I do this on the spot in front of my children.

See a counselor. In a season when I was more seriously concerned about the consequences of my anger, I started seeing a counselor who helped me face some of the pain in my own life that was leading to the mistakes I was making. There are no easy fixes for the anger and its consequences, but professional help with someone who is qualified can be a good place to start especially if you think that you can no longer manage your own self, and if the people around you express the same concerns.

Now it’s your turn: What tips do you have for dealing with anger?
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confessions graphic FINALTP

This is the inevitable post about marriage, or the inevitable post about toilet paper in marriage. I report you, decide, but either way, We Are Going There.

Husband and I have different bathroom habits. We side-stepped the how-to-squeeze-a-tube-of-toothpaste debacle, and for a while I thought we were superior to every other married couple for it, but in the end the toilet paper was my downfall.

I put the toilet paper where it should go: on the silver toilet holder, located to the right of the toilet slightly behind the seat, but if he started a roll, it always went on top of the washing machine directly to the left of the toilet seat. For some reason this misplaced roll began to drive me crazy.

I don’t know what the first real negative thought was, but somewhere along the way it morphed from a minor annoyance into a full-fledged source of resentment.

I assumed he was doing it on purpose (assumptions are usually fueled by accusations).

He knows I want the toilet paper on the roll. Why does he want to frustrate me on purpose by putting it on the washing machine?

I made more assumptions.

He is probably trying to play a game with me, like he wants me to put the toilet paper on the roll instead of doing it himself, he thinks his will is stronger than mine and that I will cave first. He has no idea how strong-willed I am. I will never cave. 

There were times when the toilet paper was left on the washing machine for weeks, and every time I looked at it, the roll was the silent reminder that Husband and I were locked in a power struggle: Who was going to win? Who was going to move the toilet paper to its proper place? 

A few times when I started a roll,  I put it on the washing machine on purpose. (Warning: Extreme Neurotic Thinking Ahead.)

That will show him! I’m above needing to follow even my own rules! I’m going to try to drive him crazy by putting him in the position of having a roll on the washing machine that I put there and now he’ll have the pressure to put it on the holder!!!! I beat him at his own game!!!

On days when I was already mad about something else, the toilet paper on the washing machine taunted me- He doesn’t care about you, he is not interested in your marriage, he doesn’t love you. 

I didn’t say anything about the toilet paper for a year-and-a-half. Finally we were in Australia in January 2012, eating lunch with my sister and her fiancee and having conversations about marriage. I decided to volunteer the story about the toilet paper roll as an example of not talking about things, but I was going to do it in a “ha ha, so funny” way so that Husband would realize how much it bothered me without having to talk to him about it.

(I believe counselors refer to this as passive aggressive behavior.)

After I told the story, Husband looked at me like I was strange, and said, I put the toilet paper on the washing machine because it’s easier to reach. I thought I was making life easier for both of us. 

Just to recap in case some of the details got lost:

For a year-and-a-half, I saw toilet paper on the washing machine and felt like I was having a marriage crisis, resented my husband and thought badly of him.

For-a-yar-and-a-half, Husband put toilet paper on the washing machine because he thought he was making our lives easier.

I wasted a lot of time on toilet paper.

It’s no secret that marriage is tough after kids, and there are plenty of studies out indicating that marital satisfaction plummets post first baby. Believe me, this little blog post is not going to tell you anything you don’t already know, and I certainly have no great secrets about how to make marriage work after kids (only that you have to make it work, you’re welcome).

Marriage is hard work for every married person; it doesn’t matter what you believe, what kind of life you have, where you live or what your histories are.

So here’s my lone nugget of wisdom, maybe even truth, and God only knows my life would be better if I lived by it:

If you hear an accusation about your spouse in your head or from another person, you have only two options ever: 1. resolve it immediately in your head and heart so it does not come between the two of you or 2. talk about it with your spouse. 

Dismiss or talk. That’s it, no exceptions.  (And dismiss means do not think about it ever again.) 

Living this out is ridiculously difficult for me partly because I am easily prone to judgment; not everyone is, your character flaws are different from mine. But the few times when I’m able to pre-empt judgment, accusations and negativity by talking to Husband about whatever has been bothering shows me that it is worth talking and having those conversations I would rather avoid.

The seemingly worst talks – and after kids, the talks are also at the worst times – lead to a richness of friendship, and a depth of love that is better than anything I could have ever hoped for. Honesty and vulnerability with your spouse is worth it.

What is something you need to discuss with your spouse? Something he or she does that eats away at you and you can’t put it aside? Isn’t it time to sit down and have the conversation? Or can you find away to put it out of your head? 

This post is Day 22 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time.

(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.) 

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Dear Devi,

I see you there with your crumpled feeding chart on one side, black ink pen bleeding through the small boxes as you colour, check and cross. Mind spinning moment to moment as you wonder if he will eat, wake or sleep. You’re tired but so on top of things, you can’t sleep during the day. Your mind is busy, wandering from one thing to another, muscles pulled taught at all times, and in the moments you have to sit down and rest, your eyes are like a mirror into the world of Facebook, glazing over, one click at a time.

And I want to tell you, you don’t have to be so in control. 

Yes, I know everything changed and nothing in your life feels the same anymore. The people you want to be around right now are continents away, the body you depended on is doing some strange things, the time and space you had in marriage disappeared.

You feel like he’s the only thing you can control, be in charge of, the only one you can boss around, you want so badly to be in charge of anything because your own life feels like it is out of your hands.  It’s ok for you to tell someone you wish you were somewhere else, that you wish for sisters, friends, people who would just come over and bring you food, clean your kitchen.

You don’t have to be so in charge, you can let down your guard, let people in. Tell someone you’re tired, tell someone you’re juggling so many balls that you feel dizzy. 

I see you making complicated meals, rushing around chopping bread and parsley, moulding dumpling balls and wondering if it will cook properly all while feeding a baby, laying him down to look at animals, rocking him to sleep and repeat. You’re trying to live your old life and making your son fit around it.

I see you trying to be a good wife, always listening to your husband, trying to do the things that people told you a good wife does after a baby has been born.  He’s not like that, you know. He wants you to be well, when he asks, How are you? at dinner, it’s because he wants to know, not the edited version, but all of it, the tears, the fears, the questions, the frustrations. He wants to help you.

If you would just talk to him, he would tell you to stop doing everything, he would tell you not to have it all together, he would tell you to just rest, live in the season. If you let him in, he would have been grace and freedom to you. Vulnerability is a door that opens to grace, and grace is the door that opens to freedom. You need all of it right now.

You don’t have to be such a grown up. 

People tell you how “together” you seem, like everything is normal, like you just picked up from birth on and kept moving, You seem so natural at this, they say, and you smile back. But you’re wondering every day, Am I doing the right thing? Am I succeeding at this? Am I loving him enough, spending enough time with him? Learning to love your son is opening a new space in your heart, and you feel like a child again, desperately in need of parenting yourself.

You miss your parents, badly, even though they have changed, you have changed, you still want to go back to that  place where you have a pink, polka-dotted layer skirt and pig tails. You’re in Lipa City, wearing flip flops and dusty, walking to a sari sari store for Royal Tru Orange in a plastic bag with a straw. Someone else was taking care of you. Someone else was making all the decisions.

The early days are crazy days, kiddo. You feel at once a child and a mother, navigating heart changes and nappy changes. Slow down a bit. Drop a few balls or all of them. Put down the feeding chart.

Eat chocolate. Pray. Sleep. Take a shower. Repeat. 

Love,
Devi

This post is Day 7 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time. (New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)