Adventures in Marriage - Poking the Bear Part 2

So in early May I wrote to you about that time I called a marriage and family counselor looking for something to grasp on to as I prepared for my wedding day (Check it out here if you didn’t read it yet).  I wasn't looking for help with our relationship - I was looking for a way to step into my marriage with intention and care.I wasn’t sure what I was looking for exactly, but I knew I wanted some guidance and help to explore this whole marriage thing.

We ended up going to two sessions and then summer kicked in and everyone was away on holiday. We didn’t wade too deeply into the pool really, but we certainly poked the bear. It’s been a month since our last session, and we are getting married in six days. EEP!

So what did I learn from pre-marital counseling?  

To start - it’s hard to feel satisfied when you didn’t quite know what you were looking for in the first place.

I live in a pretty secular world and I think I was really craving some kind of spiritual or intentional practice as a way to prepare for the wedding (which is, of course, in and of itself, that ceremony). I wanted a way to reflect on the pieces of me that I am shedding as I leave one phase of my life behind and enter another. I wanted a way to carefully consider those pieces of me that I will carry forward, as gifts to my marriage. I wanted a way to ground into and solidify those pieces of myself that are foundational to me, to my identity, to my strength and resilience. I didn’t get that. But I got clarity that this is what I was looking for and I've been reflecting a lot on these things. 

We did poke the bear and we did wake it up: and it made things somewhat uncomfortable for a short while. It got me thinking, and it got us talking. We got real with ourselves and each other about values, priorities, and expectations. And that’s the whole point.

Esther Perel shared a video that really hit home for me the other day. In it she says…

Typically, people come to a therapy session and then say here, I am an expert on my partner, I’ve studied this person, let me tell you about him or her, fix them and I’ll just sit here and watch. What really changes a relationship, is when you come in and you are actually capable of saying, I came to see what it is I do, I came to examine my own contribution to this story, I came to take responsibility.
— Esther Perel

My biggest take away is that my shit is still there. The things I have been working on in myself FOREVER are still haranguing me. "GOD DAMNIT"! I want to yell. "Have I not got this shit figured out yet?" I felt anger, frustration, disappointment, and sadness as I realized I STILL need to learn to let go, chill out, quit thinking I can control everything and go with the flow. I can worry myself to death with future problems and right now my life is smack dab in the middle of future planning – with another human – in a way I have never done before. CAUSE I AM GETTING MARRIED. Sure I’ve been in long-term relationships, but I have never shared a bank account, I have never been financially dependent on another human in the way that being a mom can make you, I’ve never had to give this much consideration to the different values, perspectives, and expectations of a partner.

I’m not sure our shit ever really goes away. I think we get better at dealing with it, and I think we call certain partners in to help us really dig into it. If that is the case, then I’ve definitely got what I need in my man.

Life can have a lot of stresses in it. Especially when you are merging families, planning kids, a new home, and careers that support your passions. As someone who likes to process and analyze and daydream and scheme I can easily get lost in the soup of it.  I learned that conversations about these things are good and that taking it all too seriously can kill the joy. I learned that just admitting that there's lots going on and it’s kinda stressful – just allowing myself to see the stress for what it is - is freeing. I learned my man manages stress differently than me. I learned that tickle fights, teasing each other playfully, and quality couch time NOT talking about all the heavy things is crucial fuel for my relationship. I learned that problems will solve themselves in time with intention and a little faith. 

I was talking to my friend Ruth the other day and she summed it up so nicely.  “Marriage is a long thing,” she gently nudged. “Don’t try to do it all at once! You never get ahead of yourself. I’ve been married for 21 years and every year can be like a different relationship. Embrace the flow of change even while making something solid.”

When we poke the bear, we may indeed stir it from its slumber. It may rise up slow and groggy, or startle awake angry and irritated. It is in this moment, when together we stare it down, comfort it with love, or run screaming at the top of our lungs, that we grow, separate and together, and build the bonds that make our marriage last.

I am getting married in six days, to a wonderful human, who loves me even when I’m kind of a jerk, calls me on my shit, tickles the angry out of me, listens to my heart when I ask him to, teaches me things, and is willing to hold my hand, walk into the bear den with me and deal with the consequences no matter what. I could not be more grateful and excited.  

- The Happy V

Using Pleasure to Get More Done

What is a girl to do when the man and the kid are out of town for the weekend and you are housebound with a twisted ankle and sunburnt shoulders? Brunch with friends - they are all out camping. I found myself in this situation last weekend. And while every part of my being thought it would be a brilliant idea to become a machine of productivity - making the most of every moment to GET EVERYTHING ON MY TO DO LIST DONE. I decided to step outside my norm. 

I decided to run experiment.  Instead of writing out a to do list for the weekend of all the things I wanted to do and strategically thinking and planning out when I was going to do them I took a different approach. Listening to my body. Yup thats' right. I took on doing what my body wanted when it wanted over the weekend - I sent my brain on vacation.  

What happened next surprised me - and it always does when I do this experiment. 

I got everything done. 

I got everything done, and then some, AND I enjoyed doing all of it. WHAT!!!!!

I enjoyed 8 hours of accounting, sleeping in, a quick canoe around the lake and visit with my mom, a baby shower, a visit with my dad, hangouts with my teenage sister, a piano recital, reading, cleaning my home, a 90s throw back movie, more than a few self-love sessions, Ted talks videos, business advice for long-distance friends, planting my garden, cooking healthy and delicious meals, a hot bath, breast massage and restful sleep. 

I didn't do this all in a strategically planned order. I didn't make some big to do list and set a bunch of expectations for myself of what I was going to DO and ACHIEVE over the weekend to feel like a valuable human being. Instead I decided to just BE. I flitted and floated between tasks. I was going to clean the kitchen after a bunch of cooking and my body said "let's go to the office and hit the books". It was 8 pm on saturday night and I thought "Really?." "Yes!" she said emphatically. So off we went. I finished up by 11 pm - surprised at how quickly I completed the task and how fun it was. Accounting is RARELY fun for anyone.

I marvelled at how much I could DO when I decided to just BE. 

I speak often in my classes about how we need to embrace our pleasure as an inner guidance system. It's like another shape your intuition takes to speak to you. It knows the way to get things done, in ways that flow with ease, in ways that are filled with pleasure instead of dread and procrastination. It can be such a small voice though. That voice that says "I need some socks right now", or "I am thirsty", or "I don't want to eat this food", or "I think we should do this now instead." 

I'll give you a perfect example. After a weekend of following my pleasure I came home on Sunday night. It was about 9:00 PM. I wasn't ready for bed, didn't feel like putting it on a show, I was undecided. My feet were a bit cold as the weather had turned and the house was warm but I felt chilly. "Let's have a bath" my body said. I thought about it for a second. "But we have a sunburn and it's going to hurt," I thoughtI wrote it off, decided to pick up my book and lay down on the couch for a read. While I did take the time to put socks on, I was still a little chilly while I was lying there. I was comfortable but I wasn't IN HEAVEN. Each page of Pussy: A Reclamation was a continual reminder to listen to my body, ask her for what she wants, let her lead me to all the right places. I wasn't there 10 min before my body again whispered "we would be so much happier and more relaxed in a bath." I didn't hesitate this time. I got up, drew a bath, poured some epsom salts, lit a candle and let myself totally melt into the tub with my book.

"That's it." My body said.
"That's the sweet spot."
"Thank you." 

How many times a day do you hear that little voice and ignore it. How many times do you override that little voice with another little voice that says - "we are too busy for that, it's too much effort, we don't deserve it, who are we to ask for that, you are such a needy diva." 

Tuning into your pleasure isn't just about having a better day, looking on the bright side, or enjoying moments of pure joy an deliciousness. It's about turning on your internal guidance system. It's about lighting up from the inside to find more joy on outside. It's about how just being can get things done. So I challenge you. To NOTICE. What is your body asking for?  When have you followed that voice, when have you ignored it? 

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments on the Facebook page. Or if you want to jam on this in person join the Happy V Bookclub. This month we are reading Pussy: A Reclamation by Regena Thomashauer. Sign up to get all the details on what book we are reading and when we meet next.  You can read it ahead of time or just join some awesome ladies for inspiring conversation. 

See you soon. 

- The Happy V