The Space Between

So, I don’t want to get too wrapped up in trying to figure out my faith. A few years ago when I was blogging about it all the time, it was good in most ways, but it also kind of consumed me and stressed me. On top of that, I want to focus my life on the very most important things–things like making memories with the people that matter most to me and feeling joy seeing beautiful sights, helping people, listening to and participating in good music, and just loving people.

Having said that, there is some amount of importance in me continuing to sort out my thoughts regarding religion and my faith.

I hardly miss a Sunday at church. I’m often late. Occasionally I leave early. Sometimes we go as a family elsewhere. But, for the most part, I’m there each Sunday at the LDS church.

I like it. Sometimes I even love it. And at times I even want some more of it. In a lot of ways I have tried, so hard, but I can’t rise above it (hat tip to Mr. Time McGraw for anyone who caught on to that).

I digress.

I like it. I read this blog post by Josh Weed (his wife Lolly also has written some posts) the other day–Josh Weed is a gay, active, believing Mormon, who writes many posts that I like a lot because they get really personal and are very interesting–and in this post he talks about how after his mother died he wondered if that was it, if everything he had believed was all fake and that was the end, and then he mentions that he felt her presence, and that was enough for him to keep believing. The way he talked about it, I felt some amount of confidence that he has read the vast majority of what I have read as far as the things that have caused me to doubt, and yet, there he is, a married, active, gay, Mormon man.

People exist that read it all, and still believe.

It’s a path some people choose because they really still believe it despite all the contradictions and convolutions.

And that is still a possible path for me.

I just needed a minute to meditate on that. I’m back now. Okay, so here’s what goes on in my brain (feel free to stop at any point if you don’t want to hear about the varied points of view that host almighty War-Chapters-of-the-Book-of-Mormon-style-bloody battles on the stage of my mind regularly.

There are no less than 200 serious doubts that I have about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. If you want a brief (and slightly-irreverent but also entertaining) introduction, see Brother Jake’s take in the musical clip below). This video only covers some, maybe even most, of the things that have given me doubts about Joseph Smith, which is only the tip of the iceberg.

By the time I had deconstructed Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, temple rituals and clothing, the Books of Mormon and Abraham, the Bible, about 40 other things of key importance, and finally the whole idea of God himself…like, the damage was pretty comprehensive.

But then, that’s not what I feel. That’s not what I’ve experienced. I can honestly say 5 years post apocalypse of my faith, I still go to church every week because it moves me, it sometimes inspires me to be better and do better, and quite honestly, I still sometimes believe, or at least want to believe it.

Sounds kinda like a hot mess, yeah?

Yeah, I’m still a bit confused.

I’m stuck struggling between perspectives. If you read what I’ve read, the foundation of the church sounds like a joke–and probably not even a very well crafted joke at that. And yet, if you’ve experienced what I experienced–in the temple, reading the BoM, reading the BoA, praying, going to girl’s camp every summer, sitting through testimony meetings–you’d want it too. And even a third “yet”–if you had lived through the last few years of my life, you’d also realize that life lived away from church teachings is not the black abyss. There’s a lot of good in a lot of ways of living. And I have to confess that there are parts of me, parts of me that I sometimes really like, that like things the church says are evil, sinful, or not worth my time. At a very minimum I have come to truly value the ideas of thinking and choosing for yourself–not in some pretended way, where the correct answer is predisposed to you and your only real choice is to accept the correct answer–to choose for oneself and take all the time, experiencing of life, and living that one needs to really know what you choose. To choose on every issue and decide your thinking on every thought, rather than having to accept the whole of it, or none of it at all. That is something I value. The church does not.

So, I don’t know. Maybe I wish it was easier to be a do-it-on-your-own-terms Mormon. I certainly have considered just putting aside the long list of hang ups with the church, my own contradicting thoughts, tastes, and desires, and just diving head first again so that I can again experience the sweet light of the gospel radiating in my life again. I have thought about that so many times. But I’ve also wondered whether staying is damaging–damaging to me, to Andrew–but then, I want him to feel what I felt growing up. I want him to experience the good, light, beauty. But I also want him to see the legitimate love of two married men, to experience life’s sweetest, most powerful moments that will come into his own life at times I can’t predict for him and not be hung up on whether his church will punish him for living those moments.

I still live in No Man’s Land.

I’m still seeking my answer.

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1000 to 1 and 10 Times Too

imageWe watched the movie “1000 to 1” tonight (thanks Missy for the recommendation). This movie was particularly interesting because it’s about someone who suffers a stroke from an AVM. I’m glad I saw it. Each of the movies we have seen about brain injuries has had us reliving our past (and present). It’s always both painful and enlightening to watch (and even more painful for Ricardo than for me).

I found myself relating to several of the characters. The mom in the movie stays up nights devouring material trying to help her son–I was there at one point with Ricardo. She’s there relentlessly cheering him on through his toughest days and believing in him always. I’ve been that mother to him too.

I also related to both his girlfriends in the movie. I’ve been the girl who cheered him on from the sidelines, the loving, sweet person who sees how hard he has worked and wants nothing more than to see him succeed. I’ve been that wife.

And I’ve been the girl who says, “I can’t do this anymore,” and runs away–at least at some level.

So much of the movie touched me–the way I related to each of the female characters, the protagonist’s determination that was so much like Ricardo’s, the whole recovery process this poor young man goes through that was so very much like Ricardo’s–it just touched me because you realize what a hard thing your spouse has done, what a hard thing you have done too. It touched me because it reminds you that your husband, your family, and you made it through something that they make inspirational movies about. And it touched me because 1000 to 1 could be a great title for Ricardo’s movie–not because of his basketball statistics, but because that’s about what his odds of dying were, and that’s probably being optimistic.

1000 to 1. His odds probably were even worse than that and yet here he is. When I say that out loud I feel all sorts of things. I feel guilt that I get to say that when 999 family members don’t. I feel grateful, so profoundly grateful because I know how close I came to completely losing him. I feel proud of how far Ricardo has come and  proud of us as a couple for surviving that. But there’s something else…I guess it’s this reminder that we have a story that’s worth telling, maybe even a story that will inspire someone else. Part of me doesn’t want to come across as pretentious and another part of me knows that I like to overshare about my life and maybe people are tired of hearing about me…but then, maybe someone would really be inspired by Ricardo’s story. Maybe it would give hope to someone struggling with their own dark paths, which unfortunately come in so many shapes and sizes all throughout life. Or maybe it would help someone who is a stroke or brain injury survivor, or help a caretaker like me, to have that ah-hah moment that helps you find that direction or peace you needed in your life at that moment. So, maybe I’ll keep telling it for now.

This year has been about acceptance.

There is a point in the story when Cory goes to his therapist. He tells his therapist about how he had always been the person who they tell it will take 6-9 months to recover from an injury and he’s starting and staring 3 months later. He talks about how he has always believed that with enough determination and hard work, anything was possible–that he has posters plastered all over his walls that say just that. And that he rushed back to school as fast as he could, and enrolled in a full course load of hard classes, and was working out hours each day to get back to being the star basketball player because that’s who he was supposed to be. But he was tired, so tired. He couldn’t understand his classes, and he couldn’t study…

Then two years later he goes back to his same therapist. He had been working that whole time to get back to the old Cory who he was supposed to be. And then he hits a wall. So he walks into this therapy session completely beaten down after being told he STILL would not be able to play on the basketball team at his college. The therapist looks at how defeated Cory looks and says, “So this is all about basketball?” And Cory screams at his therapist that it’s not about basketball at all. That it’s about everything he’s supposed to be that he’s not. He screams the old Cory is gone, he’s dead, and he’s never coming back. There’s a long pause. Then the therapist says, “That’s right. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a new Cory. And that new Cory is 10 times the person old Cory was.”

And then Cory starts to come to terms with that new reality and what it means for him. He considers quitting basketball, but ends up deciding to keep trying because he realizes how many people he has inspired through trying.

At the end of the movie, Cory Weissman says something to the effect of, “everyone says now, ‘Cory, you’re back to who you were. It’s amazing.’ But I’m not who I was. I’ll never be. And I’m glad.”

And that has been Ricardo’s 2016. The year of accepting what you aren’t. And the year of accepting what you now are.

And that’s what I’m still missing–acceptance. There are still moments, and parts of our lives, where I say, “But it used to be like this, and work like this, and I liked it like that, and maybe if we tried X, and then Y, and maybe resorted to Z, then we could have that aspect of old you back. What do you say?” And Ricardo looks at me and says, “I’m not that person anymore. I’m sorry.” And I get frustrated.

And maybe he just has wisdom that I don’t have yet. Maybe he gets what I still need a movie to show me–that it’s okay, new Ricardo is 10 times what old Ricardo was.

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My Life

What would My Life–in capitals–look like? The life that is most me, the life I would most choose, the life I’d want engraved in a gravestone or splashed on the pages of a journal passed down to coming generations?

My Life would have family, mountains, fingers in the rivers as the water trickles over them, barefoot walks in sand and soft grass, My life would have nursing babies, exploring every tree, rock, and flower with toddlers, late night, emotional talks with teenagers, and hugs and kisses from grown kids. It would be rocking in the rocking chair next to my chosen companion. It would be thousands of Sunsets stitched together with hikes, cuddles, and laughs. It would gazing in awe at the scenes around me.

My Life would be burning red-hot passionate nights where the world around you ceases to exist as you are consumed by That One person. It would be love so intense and stable that life would seem to stop without it. It would be romance, long walks on the beach, sunset over the city, the ocean, the mountains in the arms of the person you hold dearest to your heart.

My Life would be days and years spent next to loved ones. It would be a deep inner calm from knowing there is something bigger than you and something better still ahead. It would be embracing the every moment all at the same time and not missing the red wings of a jay as it flies merrily on it’s way.

I’d let go of busy.

I’d let go of stressed.

I’d let go of getting by and hurrying by, and passing by, and I’d stop, and see, and touch, and love.

My life would be making a difference in other lives. My life would be leaving this life knowing my loved ones, my parents, siblings, husband, children, and closest friends knew undoubtedly their value to me.

Purpose. To live with purpose, not random wandering about a strange land. Connectedness, not isolation. Real-ness, not put-on. To be me. To see me when I look in the mirror.

To experience, to live, not in fear, but centered, open, honest, in-touch–with myself, with the earth, with the pulse of the people around me.

My life would be to be in touch with the people I would instantly give up my life for. To actually touch them, and to make a difference to them and for them, and to let them change the coarseness of me into soft smoothness again.

After all, My Life is best lived in the arms of those who make it worth living.

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Our Vow

 image

We just finished watching “The Vow.” The image above is from the movie. Plot summary if you haven’t seen it goes something like this: boy meets girl, boy and girl fall rapidly and madly in love, boy and girl get married, girl suffers brain hemorrhage after car accident, girl forgets she ever knew boy, boy and girl get to decide how they’d like to handle that small detail…all tied and twisted up into the most romantic story you’ve ever witnessed unfold before your eyes. And let’s be straight, true love like that is exceptionally romantic…I drool over it.

I also, sort of, you know, lived it, not to, you know, brag or anything (brushes some invisible lint from her shoulders, smugly).

I’d like to go grab hot chocolate with the couple this movie is about. I bet we could have a great conversation🙂

So what sort of movie would you make out of our story? The truth is there are a lot of movies you could make of our story. Not all of them are pretty. Our uncut, full feature, documentary would probably leave us looking exceptionally flawed and broken, vangeful, angry, depressed, overwhelmed, and yet loyally by each other’s side through thick and thin, truly in love, angry, vengeful, depressed, or not.

But watching “The Vow” tonight, I got to realize all over again, that our life is the best of romance movies:

Start the movie with a Disney worthy swirl of butterflies, songs, and snuggled-on-a-bench-while-snow-fell-kisses that lasted only 3 weeks before we decided we just couldn’t bear to ever be without each other and we got engaged.

Flash through rapid scenes of burning, passionate romance, sweet, tender affection, and Twilight-worthy eye gazing that was the first years we were married.

Jump forward to joyful tears at the birth of a perfect baby boy. Squeals of the purest laughter as daddy and mommy tickle him and smile at each other, absolutely amazed at what they have created together.

Pause just after that baby smears chocolate cake all over his face at his first birthday party.

Rewind.

Go back to that moment, that moment we held hands at the altar, that moment we said our vows. Let the scene fade away as the music plays, “Come what may, I will love you, until my dying day. Oh come what may,” from Moulin Rouge. Our wedding song.

Flash forward to the hospital. To his mother’s worried face and my wailing. See the tubes, hear the machines, see his pale, swollen body. See his blank stares. Hear the doctors say they have no idea if or how much he’ll recover but that recovery is very unlikely.

Show his recovery. Show how shocked and amazed even the doctors are.

Show the miracle.

Then stop and drag out the scene where he talks to his parents and doesn’t have a clue who they are. Drag out the scene where I show him picture after picture of lifelong family and friends and he shakes his head “no” when asked if he knows who they are. Focus on our faces as I ask him if he remembers me from before the hospital, and he shakes his head “no,” pure confusion on his face. Show me sneaking away to call my sisters, me bawling–the ugly, gut wrenching sort of cry that comes from both unbelievable sadness and absolute terror.

And as the audience is tearing up, cut forward in time.

Let the audience watch his family tell him story after story of his life. Listen to me tell him the stories of our life together, our romance, our marriage, our child he had forgotten existed.

Show him starting to remember–first the people, then the important events.

Show so many joyful moments of recovery that the audience is unconsciously grinning ear to ear, laughing, and sighing in relief.

Let the audience take a sneak peak into the bedroom as a virgin father takes his wife of  six years in his arms for the first time. Show just enough of the awkwardness to make the story believable and skip the other 90 percent of it to keep it equal parts fairytale.

Let the audience watch them struggle, watch her care for him, watch him learn eventually to care for them back again.

And as the story nearly wraps up, let everyone see that these two lovers, turned star-crossed lovers, do, despite both changing so very much, once again find true partnership in each other. Let the audience see that they have truly loved each other, “Come what may.”

 

I was talking to Ricardo after the movie tonight, telling him that people could make two very opposite movies of our experience since his brain hemorrhage–one a romance for the ages and the other a dramatic story of betrayal, pain, and anger, and yet both movies could be absolutely true. He looked at me and said, “You know, that’s the beauty of it, that one doesn’t necessarily take from the other.”

I like that. If he can say that, you can believe it. Believe the love story you have seen glimpses of in us, it’s true, even if it’s really so much more complicated than that.

 

 

 

 

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Catholic in a Former Life

We have started a new tradition of going once a month to a different church, so we can attend church together as a family. Usually we go to the Unitarian Church, but occasionally we make the trek down to Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Today we attended their Divine Mercy choir Mass. Best. Decision. Ever.

So, as the heading suggests, I discovered I must have been in a Catholic Choir in a Cathedral in a former life because I adore chanting. The music was absolutely, powerfully moving. I could have stayed there and listened to that all day long and just soaked it in. I read this article once that said that some people get a certain rippling sensation that goes through your whole body when you are moved by music, they called it a musicgasm or something; There was definitely a lot of that going on today.

To be honest, I found the whole experience to be quite moving. The robes, the ritualistic aspect, the high, arched ceilings, covered in gold, the candles, and the incense. Seriously, there’s a decent chance I was Catholic in a previous life. All jokes aside, I Just really loved it, and it was nice to share a beautiful spiritual experience with my family.

Ricardo is still right at home there as well. There is a room dedicated to La Virgen de Guadalupe. It tells the story of Mexico’s very own Saint and the story of how Mexico converted to Catholicism. Ricardo commented to Andrew, “La Virgen de Guadalupe means a lot to Daddy, Andrew.” The Catholic runs strong in this agnostic, ex-Mormon lover of mine😉

I hope to have many more spiritual celebrations in beautiful Catholic cathedrals.

Today reminded me of how Spiritual a person I am at my core. It may very well make the best sense not to believe. I have struggled through my shaken faith these last years so much because that truly does make sense to me. But my center, my core, thrives and flourishes listening to the choir sing in a gothic Cathedral on Divine Mercy Sunday. I feel like I am on fire, filled with light when I kneel on the altar in the LDS temple as I did so many times in my early married years. I have my struggles with faith now. I have my struggles with other things too. But honestly, I’m not a happy agnostic/atheist. I’m happier when I believe. I need spirituality as a central part of my life. And you know what, that matters a lot.

So next Sunday, and probably most the Sundays after that, you’ll find me at church. Doubting much of what is taught even, I’ll still be there, because I like the fire that often fills my being when I’m there. I’m a believer, even amidst my doubt it seems.

Do I believe? Yeah, I guess I do. What do I believe? Well, I guess I believe in a God, I probably believe in Christ, I probably even believe in prophets, Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon. Maybe I believe in Catholic Saints and Buddah too. I suppose my belief system is still a little…in the reformation stage, but I do think I believe. It feels good to say that. Why do I believe? Because it gives me purpose, happiness, and joy instead of depression, hopelessness, and stress. And you know what? I want to be happy.

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Marriage Therapy: Take 2

Armed with our last month of Ricardo’s disability money, and fueled by the flames of anger and frustration from poor choices on both sides of our marital fence, we started marriage therapy again this year (we gave it a shot about 15 months ago and it just wasn’t time yet…for a lot of reasons). Great decision! The new psychotherapist has been what we needed. He’s fair, balanced, and really does know what to say a lot of the time.

I’ve been feeling really ready to move forward. I have been angry with Ricardo since he left the church suddenly in August of 2011 and then more angry about  some things that have happened since. Then I got angry enough I did some things that hurt him and made him angry. Anyway, it’s time to start healing and moving forward and Ricardo and I are both on the same page in feeling that way.

So here are my 💡👂🏻📢 lightbulb moments–the moments I am learning and changing–as we have talked about our religious differences. This is the third therapy we have talked about religion.

Me: “Okay, I’ll start. I’ve resented Ricardo for so long. I’m ready for us both to do what we need to do to move forward.”

Therapist: “You say you resent Ricardo. Now, every action we make has a reason. For every thing we choose to do, there is a consequence and a pay off. Why are you choosing to resent him?”

Me: (Feeling caught off guard and a little defensive) “I don’t WANT to resent him, but I have been really unhappy because of the choices he made, and I want him to make restitution. If he tried to give me back some of what he has taken, or tried to make me happy in other parts of our life, then I’d feel like he really was trying to make good on his promises to me, and I think I’d be able to stop resenting him.”

Therpaist: (ignoring the second part of what I said) “There’s a payoff for everything we do. What is the payoff in you resenting your husband? What are you getting out of that?”

Me: “Ummm, I don’t know. I get frustrated and angry.” (The thought occurs to me that maybe, deep down, I hope that in resenting him and being unhappy, he will eventually realize how miserable this has made me, and try to change things and make it up to me.) While I’m still formulating this thought, the therapist responds,

Therapsit: “And how is that working for you?”

Me: “… … … Yeah, it doesn’t really work. I need to stop resenting him…I don’t know how to just let it go though. It’s not fair for me to just give up everything he promised me and I just have to be fine with it.”

Therapist: “You’re not going to get 100 percent of what you want. People have this fairytale image of what marriage will be, but a marriage is two different people, with different needs, who are both going to change. You aren’t going to get 100 percent of what you want.”

Ricardo: “Yeah, I have been trying to say this for a long time.”

Me: (obviously I’m not going to get 100 percent of what I want. I think I would have failed at marriage a long time ago if I expected to get 100 percent of what I want.) “I know I won’t get 100 percent of what I wanted in regards to religion. I know I won’t even get 50 percent of what I expected. But can’t I get everything that Ricardo feels he could possibly give me, since he isn’t going to be able to give me even close to what he promised?”

Therapist: “But all you are thinking about is you.”

Ricardo: “Yeah, I mean he’s right. There are two of us, and you’re only thinking about what you want and not getting what you want.”

Me: “But there are two of us, and he never compromised. There was never this conversation where we decided what would change and what wouldn’t. He just came to me and said, ‘I’m leaving the church, I can’t do it anymore, and there’s nothing you can do to change my mind.’ Then he started doing whatever he wanted, even things he had promised me he would never do, like drink alcohol.”

Ricardo: “Yeah, but it’s not like I became an alcoholic. I drink like a drink here and there, I do it occasionally, not all the time, which is okay.”

Me: “I mean I get that now, but in Mormonism, it’s black and white, and alcohol is black. Maybe drinking in moderation was morally okay in your mind, but to the Mormon I was when you suddenly and completely turned your back on the church, there was no acceptable amount of alcohol you could drink.”

Therapist: “Well maybe Ricardo never apologized for the pain he caused you in leaving the Mormon church.”

Ricardo: Apoloizes very sincerely.

Me: “Thank you. I do know you feel bad about hurting me when you left the church. You have always felt bad, and you have apologized before. And thank you,” (Turning to look at the therapist), “but I feel like it’s one thing to say you’re sorry and…it’s like they say in ‘Daniel Tiger‘ that my son watches, ‘Say you’re sorry, then, how can I help?’ Ricardo hasn’t ever really changed anything to make it better. Sorry is nice, but I want him to actually make changes.”

Therapist: “What is it you wish he would do?”

Me: (looking at Ricardo) After you left the church, you just changed so many of the rules of our marriage and expected that I should be fine with it, and I wasn’t. I wish you would have tried to keep more parts of our religious life in tact. You were breaking these huge promises you had made me and I wish you would have recognized that and tried to make it up to me and tried to leave as much in tact as you could have.”

Therapist: “What do you wish he had done?”

Me: “I don’t know. Maybe he could have kept doing some things that he wasn’t SO against. Maybe he could have come to church with me sometimes, even if he didn’t like it. Maybe he could have still had prayer with me and with the family, read scriptures with us, and had FHE even if he didn’t believe in those things.”

Therapist: “That’s what YOU want, what about what Ricardo wants?” (Ricardo nods his head in agreement.)

Me: (feeling a bit irritated…) I know he wants nothing to do with religion and Mormonism, but he promised me this life in the church and then he broke that promise. HE is the one that took everything, that changed all the rules, that refused to compromise, and now I want to go back and make the compromises, but HE’s the one who needs to give in the this case because he’s the one who took everything and broke his promises. I gave up too much. I want him to try to make it up to me. Maybe it can’t be even close to the same but he maybe he can try… …I don’t know, maybe we can live by my family and they can give me more religious and emotional support, and that’s something I want, that’s a way he could try to make my life better, things like that.”

Therapist: “That’s selfish though. Marriage is about two people, and you’re thinking only about yourself. That’s what YOU want. What does HE want?”

Me: (trying to understand what he’s suggesting, but mostly feeling irked that he sees me as selfish. How can I possibly be selfish when I gave up EVERYTHING when Ricardo left the church? I stayed by him when he broke hundreds of promises he had made? I stayed when he decided he was going to live life however he felt best, even if that wasn’t good for me at all! Isn’t it kind of okay to say enough is enough? I gave up too much and I’m not okay with it? Give me back whatever you can possibly give back and try to make the rest up to me in other ways?) “… Uuhhhh…he wants me to accept his decision to leave the church and he wants to be free to live his life religiously however he feels best. I get that, but…” (I go on to repeat what I had just said about fourteen times–HE broke the marriage contract, isn’t HE the one who makes amends on this one? Etc, etc.)

Therapist: “There are two valid viewpoints in a marriage, yours is only one” (looking directly at me).

Me: “I get that, but maybe I’m not understanding because I’m not convinced.”

Therapist: “Would you want your husband to do something that made him uncomfortable, something he feels is wrong, just because you want it?”

Me: (I mean, you don’t force each other to do uncomfortable things, that doesn’t seem right, I guess, no. But then, you do do things for each other that are uncomfortable. I moved to Maryland for him even though it was uncomfortable for me…) “I don’t think he should do things he is really uncomfortable with, but being married does kind of seem like it requires both people to sacrifice and do things for each other that are a little bit uncomfortable. I want him to do the things he feels are LEAST uncomfortable” (and I launch into expressing my same opinion for the fifteenth time in just slightly a different way that he needs to make sacrifices to make things better since he was the one who left the church).

Therapist: “It’s true that someone has to take out the trash, and someone had to do dishes, and you both do a little and find a way to kind of share what’s uncomfortable. It’s give and take and compromise.

“Okay, let me tell you a story. My wife was Presbyterian, I was Jewish. When we decided to get married, my mom said to my wife, ‘I want Michael (name changed) to keep his faith,’ So my wife started attending my temple. When we moved here, far from family, my wife became really lonely. She loved me, but I wasn’t enough. She needed a community. My people weren’t her tribe. She had made a commitment to me and my family to attend my Jewish temple, and all of my sibling’s families were active in the Jewish faith, so I expected that’s how we’d be. Because I love her, I wanted her to be happy and I could see that she was miserable, so I said, ‘honey, why don’t you go find another church?’ The Methodist church close by didn’t work for her, but eventually she tried the Unitarian church and she found what she needed there. After a while, she asked if I would attend once with her. At first I went just for her. Each time I went I kept expecting something to be said that would really offend me, just like every other church I had been in, but that never happened. 30 years later, we still go to the Unitarian church.

“Was this what I expected when we got married? No. Was this what my wife agreed to when we got married? No. But people change, and needs people have change too. At some point my wife needed things that didn’t agree with what she had promised. The long term sustainability of a marriage is based on how much change a marriage can endure.

“So, Alicia, at some point being Mormon obviously stopped working for your husband and he decided he needed a change to be a happy person. Now it’s up to you to decide, is that problematic enough that you need to end this relationship? Maybe it is. Maybe this is just something you can never be okay with and you need to go look for the life you need elsewhere. Sometimes that’s what happens in a relationship. Is that the case for you?”

Me: Pausing, considering this very weighty question carefully, “…No, as far as I know, neither of us have ever truly wanted out of this relationship. I know I don’t. I just don’t want to keep doing what we’ve been doing. I don’t want to feel the way I have felt these last years. I want us to change, compromise, and move forward.”

Maybe the way I have been thinking about this all these years is wrong. I think the therapist is right, I mean, people do change, and for a marriage to last, you have to be able to endure those changes together.

Therapist: “That’s good. Why don’t you two try to come up with compromises and let’s talk about how you can do that next time we meet.”

 

After our therapy, I was lost in thought. I really have been thinking about this wrong all these years. I have seen it as, “you broke this promise, so it’s your job to fix it. And I broke that promise afterward, so I need to make that up to you.” Tit for tat. You break it, you make amends the best you can.

The therapist was right, retribution, resentment, it wasn’t working, it was only bringing pain, more anger, and not solving anything. We needed a new aproach. My battle to try to make things fair was digging us a bigger hole.

So what was he saying? What’s the right way to do things, since I had obviously been thinking about this wrong? There are TWO valid views, and mine was only one. You’re being selfish. Was I? People change, needs change. Then I thought about the story he told about his wife leaving Judaism. His response seemed right, but then why did it seem right? People have needs. People need certain things to be happy.

Needs. We both have needs and desires. We both have things that make us happy.

Ricardo needs certain things in life to be happy. He needs to live a life that is meaningful to him and not participate in religious practices that seem offensive. That’s something he needs. I have needs too. I need a spiritual life as a couple, as a family, and by myself. I need meaningful spiritual rituals. I need a spouse who is bringing morality into our home.

Then it sank in, it’s not about he took x amount, so he gives me x amount back, and if he won’t give x back, then I take x amount from him. That had been a disaster. It’s about both couples having equally valid needs and desires and trying to compromise in such a way that BOTH spouses are getting as much of what they need as is possible. And over time those needs might change. I drove away from therapy with this new realization.

We ended up going to Popeyes for lunch. For the first time I let myself start to think about real compromises. Thinking about what I needed, rather than how much I had lost helped me come up with some ideas of things that could actually work for both of us.

Me: As we sit down to eat, “Maybe we could spend time in nature. I know some people find nature to be very spiritual, and I definitely relate to that. I know you’re not big on outside activities though.”

Ricardo: “Yeah, we might could try that.” “What about you going two weeks with me to the Unitarian or Catholic Church and I got the other two weeks to your church?”

Me: “Would you actually do that for more than a week? Also, I think if I was only attending my ward half the time I would start to lose the consistency and the sense of community. Ever other Sunday might be too much for me. But maybe once a month we could go somewhere like the Unitarian church, and once a month we could all go to the Mormon church together, and then the other weeks we canto separate ways.”

Ricardo: “Yeah, maybe.”

Me: Suddenly having a burst of new ideas, “Or what about having Family Home Evening once a week, even having a lesson about some subject related to morality–like honesty, or service–whoever is teaching  could pull material from where they like, whether that’s scriptures or other inspiring words or TED take or whatever. We could still do the lesson, a treat, and then maybe a service activity or some family activity that is really wholesome. I think that would help me to feel like you are a spiritual leader in our home. I also think it would help to establish this sense of ‘this is what our family stands for and believes’ and I feel like we have lost that.”

Ricardo: “Yeah, I think that could work.”

Me: “We could do the same sort of thing with prayer. Maybe we don’t pray anymore, since you don’t necessarily believe in God, but maybe we can have some quiet, mediating, sort of time, followed by expressing our gratitude and desires.”

We went back and forth talking about different ideas we had. It was the first time in a very long time I felt hopeful that we could both actually be happy with relation to our religious life. I started to accept, just a little bit, that what I need religiously has also changed some.

I remembered the last thing the therapist said as we were walking out the door, “Find something that works for both of you. It will be different than what you originally wanted. It might not be what your family would have chosen, but they’ve never been you, and they’ve never lived your experiences. Find what works for your family.”

I kind of breathed that last thought in as Ricardo cleaned our table and we got up to leave. I hugged him tighter than I have in a long time, then I got in my car, and drove back to work.

 

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The 5 Best Things About Traumatic Brain Injury

 

  1. Sympathy. Ever have a day when you just don’t think you can live another second without pity? Your solutions is spelled TBI. Never again will you be one-upped for the “biggest sob story” contest. You hold the trump card, my friend. Use it wisely and often.
  2. A great excuse–for everything. Forgot your homework? Too weak to shovel your walk? Didn’t feel like having the same conversation with your spouse for the umpteenth time? No problem. You have a brain injury. Your days of needing a dog to blame for eating everything are gone.
  3. Money. You’ll never need a job again now that you get government disability! Your days of earning dollars by the sweat of your brow are happily over. Find your dream home and enjoy early retirement. Now your only decision left is, tent city or trailer park–just hope you have a rich relative that can spare you some money to buy a tent!
  4. More time at home. Are you tired of the go, go, go and ready for a little downtime at home? Traumatic brain injury may be the right choice for you! No more sixty hour work weeks, no more commuting, no more hustle. In fact, with a little luck you may hardly leave the house again!
  5. Attention. Have you been ignored too much for too long? Do you find yourself wishing you had a servant, or at least a maid? Look no further. With a TBI, you may never clean a again! In fact you may be free of many of those tasks that are mundane and downright ordinary. Being hand fed, bathed, wiped, and moved from place to place–life doesn’t get much better than that. Even the most spoiled baby will be green with envy from all the attention you will command.

Why wait? Demand a brain injury today! You’ll hardly be able to believe the dramatic change it will bring to your life in such a short time!

Humor is the best medicine🙂

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The innocent smile of someone who is unknowingly about to enter the world of traumatic brain injury.

*In full disclosure, my husband is the one with the Brian injury, not me.

Posted in Brain Hemorrhage, stroke, Traumatic brain injury | Leave a comment