While drowning in the sea of life choked by your own hands around you own neck, what are the last words you try to utter? Could it be…..‘if only I had….?”
The rain and storms of life and marriage may at times erode the firm mental land we each stand on, the land we have dredged up from birth to adulthood in becoming who we are. This may happen little by little and go unnoticed until a strong storm arrives and the waters rise rapidly in a threatening manner.
On other hand slow rains may soften the soil too. Our spirit may sink into the muck of jobs responsibilities, a marriage’s envisioned commitments or trying to raise a child as your mom did, which takes all of the time, you have left after work, to fulfill. Inevitably you change sometimes for better sometimes for worse but you change from what you were. In a marriage, if you are like most, you are opposites in many ways. You each have your strengths and your weaknesses. It is easy to rely on each other, if the relationship is “good” and notice that your spouse is more efficient than you at some tasks and let them do it, why not? You also will avoid their criticism when you do less well than they would! By the same token you may take on new responsibilities you might not have done, were you not married and you may grow.
It is however frequent experience that one day you notice that, even though you have grown with challenges, in some ways you have lost some skills. You have lost some skills by giving up tasks you were less skilled at than your spouse. I have seen men who cannot fill out a check or balance a check book, even though they were very capable before their marriage. There are women who do not drive long trips because their husband is a better driver. This is the beginning of drowning but it is gentle subtle and unnoticed. It is much like putting a frog on a pot of cool water and heating it slowly on the stove. The frog gets used to the temperature bit by bit and slowly cooks to death without noticing it (or so they say in legend).
I recall many years ago being told by my first wife that she did not love me anymore and she was leaving. It was a surprise to me. When she was out of my life a few days later, I suddenly realized that I did not know what to do with my time (she took my daughter with her too). It was very quiet coming home and so I bought a shotgun to keep under the bed because all the noises I suddenly heard (pipes and heating systems creaking at night) were too spooky. In the coming days, I went out to a Chinese restaurant, rather than cook, which I was good at. Then I accidentally discovered that I had a personality and quickly made friends with the waiter and then people almost everywhere I went.
Though I had faded into the background in marriage, I was now becoming visible again! Having been married to a sanguine women who for 13 years at my side, elocuted dramatically in exciting humerus stories at the blink of an eye, I had vanished into the background of my surrounding intellectual fog. Now however I found bright people who actually saw me and chose to converse with me; I was amazed to discover that I was not invisible! Going to the gym I found new friends as I stayed long enough to make them rather than rush home, since my home was empty. My home was empty but my life became full as the strangling sea-vines of a marriage, I had not understood, fell off my body and gave me back the gift of life I had known before.
If you find yourself one day, sinking into the quick sand like muck of life or that which marriage can become, you may start to wonder what became of you? Where is that bright sparkling spirit that attracted your wife? Where is the dream that woke you up each morning with the excitement to explore each new day? Is it dead, did it die and are you just a body walking around without a life giving soul? If you feel any connection with my thoughts then consider that it is is all your own doing! The hands around your neck that are choking you are yours, it is always your own choice; however, it is subtle and unseen so it is not something to beat yourself up over. It is also something you can undo!
Consider this story as an example. I was told that many years later a man, married for a second time, learned that his wife had decided to take a 5 day trip without him. As it happened, for practical reasons, it turned out she selected a time that included his birthday. As her birthday was very important to her, he suddenly wondered why his appeared less important. He when told her he was not happy with her timing and she explained logically why she had chosen the time; but then added, I can go away if I wish, “after all we are not joined at the hip.” That made a big impression on him!
Of course she was right, he could easily live without her and his birthday, which meant much less to him, could easily be celebrated, if he wished, on another day. When she left, he spent 5 days as a bachelor and suddenly discovered how much he enjoyed his time alone. He began to wonder what exciting things would he would discover if he had more time to himself. In those 5 days he learned a lot about himself that he had forgotten and he began to find new exciting reasons to get up early.
He and his wife are good friends and as happily married as I expect people are after 30 years; but, he had now noted how he had sunk into the water of life without noticing it. She asked that he pick her up at the airport upon her arrival, which he did. In the past he had not driven at night long distances as she was the better one at remembering long routes. On his way down state to pick her up, he said he had a marvelous time driving on the highway and not threat of critique as he was on his own. He discovered that he had given up his power to her without recognizing it. He was re-appearing from the fog of dissolution that marriage can create and now standing higher above the waters. It made him think, that we who are in long standing relationships should all take separate vacations from each other at least yearly! If this small event make him happy, what else might he discover?
Should separate vacations not be a routine? Perhaps many men do take separate vacations but he had not done so. He liked being home and he had a lot to do there, he was a writer and an artist who enjoyed the use of his home for both. He had a TV room where he could watch all sorts of media; he was never bored. His work day was surrounded by people and constant social interaction, so he was never alone. Yet, he was drowning in the sea of life and marriage and not noticing it.
I am taking a 4 day vacation by myself soon. What about you?