The Twists of Time

I have been told that as a human, I am a social creature with social needs. In awe I looked at those around me as I grew older. How could they do this, and how could they say that? I vaguely remember thriving off the love and attention of others, but I can’t seem to remember when in my life that was. I watched and observed, quietly staying out of the limelight, gaging when and how people would act and respond so that I could choose to make their gazes and thoughts pass over me and move on. From an early time it all seemed rather meaningless and mundane, the ordinary interactions. I never spoke surface level, it greatly bored me. I questioned the deeper meanings and pondered the in-depth philosophies. I engaged people’s brains in surprising ways and found that some unexpectedly found it addictive. “Refreshing, invigorating, thought-provoking, I never thought of that!”, they said. People would sometimes seek me out to hear stories, some would listen time after time…”How do you do that! You never tell any story the same way twice!” I then realized that I always tailored my words to the audience based off of their interest level, age, gender, my knowledge of them (an early version of social media and Internet marketing perhaps). It seemed I could control people’s view of me in surprising ways to the point it became awkward…friends and acquaintances would meet and say, “I love her, she is so outgoing, fun, loud, quiet, reflective, giggly, boisterous, sweet, serious, honest, straight-laced, a prankster, always up to something, reserved, bubbly, so level-headed, flighty,…”. As they spoke about their impressions of me, they would begin giving each other really weird looks, and some even argued what they knew and what I would or wouldn’t do. I found it made them doubt me, though I had not been deceitful or dishonest.

I quit trying after some years. Settled into mundanity. Running and hiding at times from others, avoiding interactions. Refused to spark that light, or cast my pearls out there due to all the rather unexpected and often unforeseen results combined with the hardships life and time accord to us all in various attributes.

Fast forward a decade or so…I have been living to survive rather than thrive. I’ve become so used to not speaking or relating to others on an other than surface level where I meet them and just respond rather than initiate, react rather than create. My speech has dulled, I’ve grown accustomed to not being heard.

I am not satisfied with this. So now I must work at it, find new ways to interact, develop friendships that last. I listen and try to apply current events. I text or make phone calls, tell others what is going on in my life for the first time in years, listen to what is going on in theirs. I help people whenever I can, smile and make small-talk. I talk about the weather, kids and families, recipes and restaurants. But yet…I keep missing the mark. I am not connecting. Is it me? Or is it society?

Burrs That Rankle

Sometimes being married to somebody is similar to walking through a patch of burrs. As you walk, the seeds of the plant or fruit attach themselves physically with little sharp hooks, teeth, or thorn-like projections. They build up so easily and quickly. The adherence may not even be noticeable at first, nor may the magnitude of the attachments be. The irritation can be mild or grievous depending on the type of burr…the type of interaction, or the species of such.

The interaction resulting in a thorn-like attachment may be a daily event….or something that is verbalized that is bothersome…or when expectations aren’t met, or feelings are hurt, or when disrespect occurs. This is comparable to picking up an additional burr per occurrence. Some days the whole day is “a walk in a burr patch” and, other days, the little leftover hooks sting residually.

The only way to remove burrs is “one-by-one.” Deal with them individually. Uproot them. There is not a fool-proof way of mass removal. If clothing is washed, the burrs will now be “clean” burrs, but intact burrs they will be. If there is burr-free clothing together with the burdened clothing, the formerly free will now be stickered. Every irritation must be picked off one by one, individually. That is the only way to ensure that all the thorny projections have been removed. If each one is not removed, the reminder will chime at the most inconvenient time. That’s a promise. 

 I have been called to this marriage, not to happiness. It is not my duty to seek to be happy all the time or to feel good. It is my job to acccept my lot in life while using my talents and skills to the best of my abilities.  This means that I have to pick off “every single burr every single time” it occurs.  It may take days to pick them off. I might get as many on me in that time as the many I just removed. So be it. 

Marriage is not easy. No one ever said it would be, unless they were lying or truly had no idea how things work or possibly were just out of touch with reality. Marriage is still worth it. It is consistency and help for the long run of life.

How many people stay in relationships or jump into a new one because of lack of companionship? Many people engage in one-night stands or jump from person to person because of that need. Marriage fulfills that need and it was designed to fulfill that need. Jumping from relationship to relationship can only cause more pain, mourning, and additional need. All too often, after so much jumping, the heart and soul become immune to true relationship and companionship. Real heart connections and soul connections become harder and harder, then near inaccessible. It becomes impossible to just relax and enjoy the other person. Both know that it might not last; it will likely be temporary.  

Over time, opening up to new love or different romantic relationships builds massive scar tissue. The heart never looks the same again, no matter how much Mederma is applied in hopes of soothing away the redness, the lines, the raised skin.  Each additional opening and resulting cut causes the scarring to get thicker and bigger and more fibrous. The heart becomes uglier and uglier. The heart looks and acts uglier and uglier.

My desire for my heart is that it will never be hardened. Hardened hearts and scarred hearts create more pain in this world than there should ever be. Observe males jumping from one woman to another. They can not cherish the person they are with. Their eyes keep looking to the next best thing, the next best “profit” or “trophy.” And the woman knows this. It is temporary and full of sharp stabs of pain to be in this relationship. Observe females jumping from one man to another. They become people who use others to assuage the hurt in their hearts. They use them for money, for status, for a temporary sexual fix, for a self-esteem booster. And more often than not, the man knows this.

I have a very strong feeling, a gut feeling…that this is not how life is intended to work. 

Yet when people jump from relationship to relationship, that is exactly how life becomes. That is what is modeled for children. That is what they will end up living. All of a sudden, it seems no one has their head screwed on straight. Who respects the other gender? Who respects other people? This is a sad state of affairs, indeed. So now I must dig those burrs out before they stick, dig those burrs out before they stick and cause big wedges and division…because I know the alternative. It is not worth it. Fighting for marriage is worth it. 

Special Times Must Be Made

Special times must be made. On the occasion of my oldest daughter’s eye checkup to possibly pursue contacts, we agreed to a date night following. After we made plans, she said joyously, “Everyone has been wanting to spend time with me!” Her inner happy visibly lit up as she spoke of this, and confidence climbed another rung. She wrote a list of ten possible things to do and we selected four; eat at Longhorns, go store wanderin’, go to a bookstore, go to Menchies. My daughter being a private, non-talkative sort, I was also hoping to open the lines of communication.

As we are driving, she talks lightly and smiles much. Conversation meanders gently but, mostly, each stop and the innocuous particulars of the stop are discussed. The moment I have been waiting for arrives, her mind covers a subject of friendships and pranking that she releases verbally. We laughed and talked, and she shared some more. We connected, not fully and completely (I still notice a reserve arising from personality and habit) but enough that I was included and aware…which is my desire for our relationship as we transition into the upcoming Teen Years. 

You see, I’ve noticed something. If I don’t allow for special times and special occasions, if I plan every minute or am too busy with schedules or preconceived ideas about how things should go or happen, or if I am uptight or controlling or closed off or non-communicative, or even unaware and disconnected, and especially if I try to force it, then I don’t “allow” unique moments of openness to occur. So then, these special moments in time are made when I make room for them. For special relationships I need to make the room so we have a place to dwell together. 

Disappointments and Hope

I sat there all alone … surrounded by couples, aunts, uncles, grandparents, care-givers, siblings. I knew only a few by sight. They were all nationalities and colors, many women bearing colors tattooed on their arms and necks, many dressed so nicely and smiling brightly as they gazed around at each other. The names were called out as each representative of respective teaching elements came and took the podium to share their pride at the end of yet another successful learning year.

That morning, my daughter asked me again, “Will you please come to the awards ceremony?” I replied with the truth, “You won’t be getting any awards.” “How do you know?” I let her know that I would have received a notice to come to get awards. She insisted that I come anyway.

As each name was called out, I noticed people who recognized me waiting to hear my daughter called out. They checked in on me here and there. I felt my face squinch up as, each time, someone else was elected. I tried not to make eye contact and shifted and adjusted, drank my coffee, glanced at my phone.

As things concluded, the room became lighter. I turned it over and chose to focus on the cuteness of those sweet little third-graders, their bright smiles, the words of encouragement and accolades that were given to both these happy children and their persevering parents.

My daughter found my eyes and waived me over as the room converged on the center, to the stars of the show. We went to each other and I pulled her close. “I love you and I am proud of you. You have been growing so much this year, you are so much more responsible. It’s been a hard year, but next year will be better. We will work harder and do better, and it will be better.” Her face lit up from within, helping to erase the disappointments in my heart and hers.