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Balancing Act

I cannot count how many times I have started and stopped projects. It’s inevitable. Being a parent of three sons – ages fifteen, nine, and sixteen months – is hard sometimes. Being married, having a full time job, launching a business, taking care of my health, maintaining my relationships, and keeping my marriage strong are not easy things. I met my husband four years ago and keeping our relationship strong, peaceful, satisfying, and joyful takes maximum effort. We all live in a balancing act. My goal for the last few years has been to figure out how to do it better.

Let’s start with the obvious – marriage is hard sometimes. It shouldn’t be too hard. It shouldn’t drain you of your energy. That’s a fact. But it is hard. Communication is my husband’s Achilles heel and it’s my forte; you can imagine how successful we are at conveying ideas on the first go round. Marriage should be the heartbeat of your world. Other things come up, responsibilities swirl all around, some take center stage, others take a back burner. But the marriage is the heartbeat, slowly, steadily, peacefully keeping pace in the background of your life, always.

“Oh hey, there’s the guy I married. I forgot all about him for a second.”

Is my marriage always like that? Nope! Sometimes I get so overloaded with a million other things, I forget I have a husband. Literally, I’ve walked into the living room and thought “Oh hey, there’s the guy I married. I forgot all about him for a second.” I’m serious. That’s how overwhelmed I get sometimes. My husband feels the same way too. We’re both hyper-focused people when we have a job to do. So when stress pops up, and it is always present, we lose sight of each other sometimes. Like swimmers in a lake, we distance, we dive under the water, and we lose sight of each other’s position. But inevitably, I will do one thing that corrects the disconnect.

Pause

When I am busy and tired and overwhelmed and stressed and, inevitably, hungry, thirsty, and under-slept, I lose sight of my marriage. It’s a combination of forgetting and taking for granted. It’s embarrassing to say and no one wants to admit it but we take each other for granted. Him less than I. But when the poop hits the fan, I sometimes just assume he’ll be there, he’ll catch the falling thing, he’ll whip together ramen, he’ll change the baby, he’ll hold me without being asked. It’s not ok. But it’s also human.

So what do I Do? I pause. Take the swimming analogy. Literally the only way to figure out where your swimming partner got to is to stop swimming and tread water for a second, scanning the horizon. We have to pause. We all do. We move so fast these days, running around at light speed, desperate to check things off our lists, but we. must. pause.

“Pausing implies that what you’re doing is important, but gaining your bearings is more important.”

Pausing implies that what you’re doing is important, but gaining your bearings is more important. Pausing means really stopping what you’re doing, stopping the train, and looking around for this life-partner you took on. You’re looking for them because they matter. You’re looking for them because you love them. You’re looking for them because they are the part of your life that gives you stability and calm. If your partner isn’t doing that for you, it’s time to figure out how to do better.

I pause when I’m that overwhelmed. I put down my phone. I close my eyes, wherever I am, and I take a breath. Yes, I take a deep breath and center myself. “You’re overwhelmed right now. You’re all over the place. Where is your husband?” I ask myself. Then I go find him. I text him. I call him. Whatever I need to do. Then I tell him I love him, straight away, right off the bat, no matter how much I want to mentally vomit all over him. Then I listen while he tells me about his day. Then, here’s the important bit – when he asks me how my day is going, which he inevitably will (hopefully yours does too) I ask him, point-blank: do you have the headspace to listen to me vent right now?

I need to be prepared for the possibility that he’ll say no. I need to accept that answer. I need to allow him the space to say no to me, thereby saying yes to himself, to his own mental health, to his own boundaries. It’s only right.

When I ask him if he can handle listening right now, he oftentimes says yes, even when I suspect he’s not up for it. It’s his nature and his love language. But, being the loving communicative wife I am, I am cognizant of how much he gives of himself and how occasionally, I need to protect his boundaries when he won’t. He appreciates it and often thanks me later on for doing precisely that. He knows when he’s exhausted and should really say no. He’s a people-pleaser. So the fact that I know this about him, the fact that I guard his boundaries and mental health, the fact that I ask for consent before dumping my day on him, these all mean the world to him.

After this brief dialogue, I feel calmer. He feels lighter. We both feel renewed in our connection, whether in the same room or different cities. Then we go about our day. It’s that simple.

This pause is how we keep the marriage strong. It’s a wonderful tool for my tool box to better myself, my partnership, my life. This is how I get better. This is betterment.

Starting Over (Again)

I knew that I would move to Grand Rapids one day. I knew it as we drove away in 2018, returning to the Detroit airport, after spending our one-year anniversary with his family on a long weekend. The car bounced along, glorious green trees stretching to the sky, long luscious branches extending so I high I had to look straight up to see them. The air was clear, the sky was blue, the water was clean, and the people were utterly kind. I cried and moaned and said “I don’t wanna go!”

It was that weekend that my husband decided to change his PhD focus so he could begin to work with data sets in the medical field. It was that weekend that my mind was made up. I was moving. I was taking my kids. That was that.

Obviously, it wasn’t that simple. That was three years, two bar mitzvahs, a destination wedding, a totaled car, a parent death, a pregnancy and birth, a Supreme Court Justice, and a Pandemic ago. It sure felt like forty years had passed. But I kept the faith; I kept focusing on my dream.

We moved up in March of 2021. We had driven across the country in three days with three cats and our infant son. To say it was challenging is an understatement. I had to leave my two older sons behind; the court rules said so. I told myself I was just paving the way for them, that they would join me shortly. I knew I had an uphill battle but I was up for it. I needed this; we needed this. Our mental health depended on it.

We arrived and slowly began to establish our lives. It was daunting. Even after filling a whole storage container, we still had to leave 90% of our furniture behind. We purged so many things. So we had to start over.

That’s when I fell in love with Wayfair. It was my go-to app for everything I needed to build a better

The scary part is leaving it all behind and stepping into a whole new world with no parachute. It’s terrifying.

As you can tell, it took time to better our home. We slept on our mattress on the floor of our empty bedroom for weeks. Nothing felt real. Everything was new and different and uncomfortable. As Brené Brown puts it: it was a real FFT moment (Fucking First Time). Nothing felt right but I forced myself to hold onto the joy and freedom instead of the shear terror.

As we pieced together our new life, we had a lot to learn. Lawn care is a necessary thing in Michigan. Plumbing is not supposed to knock loudly like a poltergeist coming through the kitchen sink. Windows that open should have screens. Windows that don’t open should not. Why don’t these window open? Old houses in our town typically only have one bathroom upstairs and that means sharing with gross teenagers (BLEH)! Rule number one for our house: Nothing is level. Rule number two: see rule number one. Our new catch phrase these days is “Just add it to the list, honey.” We’ve found so many things we want to repair, adjust, or correct, it’s like that book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” I’m laugh-crying right now.

Did I mention our center beam in the basement is split and cracked all the way down the middle? That’s normal, right??

The point is, starting over is bananas. There is no right way to do it. Truly. Anyone who tells you THIS is the right way or THAT is the wrong things is full of shit. Yes there are articles out there with tips and tricks. I may write one myself. But that’s not the scary part. The scary part is leaving it all behind and stepping into a whole new world with no parachute. It’s terrifying.

The good news, the blessing in all this, was that I wasn’t alone. My husband, the most incredible human I know, was with me every single step along the way. Through the three day car trip, searching for hotels, tuning out our whining cats, coaxing a crying baby, cracking the windows after a bad truck stop meal, listening to the entire audio book “It’s Never Too Late To Sleep Train” (Thank God for Dr. Craig Canapari) to walking through our first home together, jumping all night long with every new creak and crack in this 101 year old house, learning new street names, new gas stations, new grocery stores, and WEATHER! We never had weather in Arizona. Now, we check it daily. I am so grateful to have gone on this wild adventure.

It’s getting better everyday. No matter what happens, in the great scheme of things, compared to where I started, I know this is true: Life. Is. Good.