I keep waiting for the relief. Waiting for the day when I wake up and realize that this heart strain we're feeling isn't quite so straining; the glorious day when things are more sunny than not. I feel like we've been in a "hard season" for the better part of our last five years. I wonder if it's getting old to hear. We've been together for seven. So to have that kind of track record seems a bit unnerving.
Tonight is a familiar scene. I sit across from my husband and we dance through the same conversation we've had nearly every other weekend for the past two years. I'm exhausted from our kids and he's exhausted from work. Then there's always some random side struggle to add to the tango. I'm trying to speak up, to not be the martyr. He's trying to be a good listener. He's trying to be honest. I'm trying to be emotionally stable. We're both trying to figure out a solution. We're so tired. We just want to get needs met, laugh a good laugh, and get in a delightful romp for good measure.
The big question came tonight. The one we think about separately, but don't really want to say.
"What do we do for each other when neither one of us has anything left to give? How can we not be done with this, when we feel really done with it?" The Christian culture I've been drenched in tells me to just turn to Jesus. But sometimes, friends, he lets us sit in the ache. I've been praying. Don't worry.
It can be a scary thing, for both of us to be in the hardest seasons of our life with our work and family. If I heed what my other cultural influences, or even some of the dear friends around me are saying, I’d admit that the place we've reached is looking a bit bleak. It reeks of an impasse. There’s an unspoken suggestion in the air that, perhaps, this may be where we make a break for it. My heart whispers "maybe we aren't cut out for this after all?"
We choose a different option today. Clinging to the "for better" while living in the "for worse."
This mostly looks like keeping our feet in the room. Don't think we're so great as to have giddy hearts while we trudge. I don't think my marriage is any more bulletproof than the next. Other than grace, it doesn't have anything extra going for it.
Though, perhaps, because of grace it has everything going for it.
We remedy what we can. We pacify the ache. We remind ourselves how articles all over the internet say this age of kids is the hardest. We tell ourselves with certainty that it "does get better." We work to try and "see the good in every day" and we're very well aware of our blessings. Ultimately, we just resign ourselves to the fact that we're human, and life is hard right now. And there's grace enough for the both of us. And we might be saying all this stuff for a long while.
The past half-decade has been a series of dancing sequences. We danced the dramatic. We struggled. We celebrated. We added one baby; we lost two. We added one more. We sorted through marriage conflict, financial struggle, toddler tantrums, waited for a move, waded through depression, work issues, temptations in that workplace and more.
We danced the beautiful. We've been cheesy, laughed till we cried, blown up our blender, held our newborn babies, seen incredible sites, and we live overseas.
We're trying not to step on one another’s feet. We swear a bit under our breath when we do. We're trying to dance vulnerably, honestly, intentionally. I suppose it should be no real surprise when we mere amateurs trip on each other. I just wish it didn't have to hurt so much.
It can hurt so much.
I think one of the greatest struggles of this season (should I just start calling this season "life?") is the fact that there's so much that could be blamed. When we feel unhappy, there's just so many factors that can make someone unhappy. How do we pick which one to solve? Do I just need to go take a nap? Do we just need to have sex? Go see a counselor? Put the threenager in preschool? What do we do tomorrow when everything is back to not being alright? Are we just entitled? Are we just pessimists? Do we just need more money? Less money? Do we just need to have sex?
This particular conversation ends with no real solution. The baby is crying. He jokingly sighs "better get back to work." I lean against him. He says the sincere words that keep us moving, "There's no one else I'd rather go through this hard with." We make another pot of coffee.
Will we ever reach "the season" I dream of? The one where life feels a bit more breathable? I don't know. But I am learning that being in a hard season doesn't mean we're ungrateful, even if the problems keep changing. Fighting for better isn't an indication of entitlement. It's a sign of hope. We feel something is amiss, so we're leaning in and doing the hard work. Most days it feels like we are just unveiling more struggle. But numb living isn't an option, and leaving this life we built isn't either. So, we'll just keep shuffling these feet in tandem. Hopefully shuffling towards the season we're pining for. Hopefully falling into a beautiful step.
So, we stumble through. We're a bit bruised. We're not sure we like dancing. Yet, one thing is for sure: I know in my heart that he's giving this everything he's got. I am too. So I guess if we have any solution — any constant to hope in — it's that there will be four bruised and tired feet in that bed tonight. And tomorrow night, too.
Because what he says is true. There is no one else I'd rather go through this hard with, dance this dance with, fight this fight with.
I'm not leaving.