Monday, 14 December 2009
I come from a line of incredibly strong independent women; women whose backbone shatters the tenacity of the acrylic nails our generation adorn themselves with. Naturally, I have become a product of what I have seen; fiercely ambitious, aggressively focused and determined to often the point of stubbornness. I am surrounded by women who have refused to see the absence of a man (husband or father) as a handicap, excuse or limitation but who have used it as motivation instead. But this incredible strength that I so greatly admire has become a double edged sword. It has gradually formed the backdrop of my worst nightmare. For as many strong women I have seen, I have seen the men around them slowly shrinking to ‘yes’ men. These are men who have retreated to their wives shadows, whose ambitions have been ignored. Their opinions are the last their wives consult, their thoughts and feelings totally irrelevant to their beloved. I would hate for my husband to fall into this category, to hear whispers of ‘how does he cope with her?’ after I leave a room. I have all this in the forefront of my mind. I know that I am not supposed to wear the trousers in my marriage yet; there is a constant internal struggle with the spirit of independence. It’s like a drug that my mind has been hooked on and marriage is the process that is weaning me off it and onto co-dependency. It’s almost as if some issues in our marriage that came to light were a demonstration of my independence withdrawal symptoms.
It’s not easy making the transition from making decisions independently to co-dependently, especially when you have been in the driving seat for your whole life. Having to share your plans, dreams, ideas and decisions with someone else, can be challenging. It’s as though you acquire a back seat driver overnight, who you are happy to have as company but not as the navigator. Your plans, dreams, ideas and decisions can be quite personal and sharing them can make you feel extremely vulnerable. The fear of rejection plays on your mind and when you should open up, you close yourself down. There have been many times during our marriage when I would embark on projects without informing my hubby or asking for his opinion. I understand now, that this is wrong and if care is not taken we could very easily become intimate strangers. I don’t want us to be in a position where my colleagues at work and friends know more about my life than my beloved. I had formed a selfish habit and fear of rejection had totally consumed me. Alarm bells rang clearly when the sentence ‘you didn’t tell me that’ became my hubby’s mantra. Please understand that it is not that I need his permission to do anything, I am not under an oppressive regime as I live in a co-dependency state. I share my dreams and plans with my beloved because I respect him and want him to be part of them.
Submission in this day and age is a swear word, a phenomena. So much so that during wedding vows brides have said the words ‘obey’ and ‘submit’ through clenched teeth. I don’t blame them; they are merely a product of the environment they live in. It’s just a shame that we choose to see submission as an infringement of our human rights rather than a blessing. I understood the theory of submission sometime ago but the practical realisation of it eluded me until now. In theory it seems an unfair advantage to submit to another. If we look at it logically (yes, Miss Sometimes Emotional is daring to be logical), to submit can mean that you are willingly allow someone else to lead you and have absolute responsibility for the consequences of their actions. I know it is not always that easy or straightforward but surely there is a blessing in that. Miss Independent enjoyed having responsibility but sometimes felt weighed down with the number of decisions that needed to be made and things that needed to be done. Surely in a life where co-dependency and submission exists, there would be another set of capable shoulders to place responsibility onto.
This drought of submissive wives is not helped when we have seen the definition of submission distorted over time, its meaning has been abused and stretched. Submission in marriage is not simply ‘do what I say’. True submission is when a woman makes the choice to fulfil what her husband has asked or desired, above her own thoughts and opinions. It is a conscious decision and not the passive door mat mentally, some would lead us to think it is. It’s like when my hubby wants to watch an hour long documentary on the habitat of ‘South American Spotted Owl’ and I want to watch re runs of ‘Dragons Den’. I could argue that watching the daily activities of the spotted owl is not going to help me build my empire or just simply hand over the remote control. (Don’t let my hubby know but more often than not I do gain from the programmes, even if it just to be in wonder of the awesomeness of nature.) Some may see this as a trivial problem but it’s the small things that can build animosity. All of a sudden, my not allowing him to watch the owl picking up sticks in the Amazon can become ‘you always have to have things your way’. It can gradually build up a mindset in him that will be disruptive and ruin the balance of our marriage. That is not to say that we are permanently watching the discovery channel as, he also has a responsibility to not to abuse my gift of submission and demonstrate love (as that would be absolute punishment for me)! The test of real submission is not when you are not bothered with the outcome of an issue; it is when you have a real opinion concerning the outcome. Your ability to submit is proved when you believe wholeheartedly in your decision or opinion, when you are convinced that you are correct. If in those times you can submit, then you are truly exemplifying the character of the kind of co-dependency that exists in a wife of old.
There may be some women who read this that are raging, annoyed that I have abandoned the Destiny Childs ‘I bought it’ attitude. The truth is, I have many dreams and I have not put them on hold. I am only changing my focus. It’s time that I am just as driven and focused on his dreams as my own. It is not say that I won’t achieve them, I will. I just want my husband my side rather than in my shadows. It’s time that as Mary J Blige put ‘Share my world’. RIP Miss Independent, we had good times while they lasted.
‘As Miss Independent was lowered to the ground, a wife arose.’
Monday, 2 November 2009
Hubby and I sat in the bustling church, watching the groomsmen scoot by. They pointed frantically at the spare seats in the congregation of suited gentlemen and glamorous ladies. We’d arrived from our weekend getaway, ready to play our part in our family friends’ magical wedding. It was like watching our wedding video, the characters had been replaced but the scenes remained more or less the same. It came close to feeling like a déjà vu; we were watching what had been our life changing moment on 364 days ago.
The groom stood at the front of the church, watching his glowing bride enter the church. She was welcomed by a sea of twinkling cameras and glorious singing. Through a few happy tears and nervous giggles, vows and rings were exchanged. With the couple recovering in their seats, the Pastor mounted the stage and said
‘Being married is all about being the right person’.
I glanced across the stage at the couple. Their smiles were beaming. It was clear they had brushed their pearly whites ready for the paparazzi. The glow from their mouths flooded the front of the church, yet their eyes told the story of preoccupation. Who could blame them?! I remember what it felt to be on that stage, my bridal thoughts were on pause waiting to be triggered by the words ‘you may kiss the bride’. I was concerned that those words, those powerful words that the learned Pastor spoke had gone amiss.
‘Being married is all about being the right person’. The sentenced echoed through my mind. I tried desperately to absorb it and pinched myself for opting for my make-up bag instead of my trusted notebook to occupy space in my moderately sized handbag. On this our 364th day of marriage seated in this unique juxtaposition, the light switched on. All of a sudden, it became clear to me how the miracle of marriage could work.
I am first to admit that I have been no angelic wife and I have made some very serious mistakes. I ought to win an Oscar for some of the performances I have staged to family, friends, colleagues, bank managers, employers; the world has truly been my stage. I have been known to switch from a publicly sensible wife putting her points across in a well mannered and highly eloquent manner, to the kind of wife that can only be described as a raging Spanish bull complete with African wrapper, scarecrow hair and hand movements expressive enough to land a Boeing 747. These Dr Jekyll and Mrs Hyde moments have been heavily medicated by my hubby’s’ patience, for this I am eternally grateful. The new literary discovery uttered by the Pastor, forced me to look at things differently. Upon careful analysis, I now realise that most arguments occur because of a deep desire to change another person’s opinion, thoughts, behaviours and attitudes.
Most enter into marriage with such optimism; glorifying the strengths of their beloved and sweeping weaknesses underneath the wedding preparation carpet. It’s natural and perfectly normal, no matter how much premarital counselling you have. We all want to and ought to think of our beloveds in the best light however, the problem is that when we get our brooms to tidy the weaknesses away you do so with the expectation that ‘they will change’. What we are really saying is ‘I will make them change’.
I have had friends who have been in relationships with some real characters, hoping and praying that one day that person will change. Perhaps she doesn’t cook; do you think that spending extra time with your mum in the kitchen would force her to take an interest in developing her culinary skills? Maybe, he is quite controlling; do you think that he’ll soon give up after he sees how independent you are? These expectations can be the source of serious discontentment in the home, creating a toxic environment where just saying hello becomes a civil war.
My hubby loves computing and the laptop has soon become part of our family. It comes with us to most places and if it doesn’t, he has miraculously hooked up his phone to be able to operate the computer when it is at home. This was a huge problem for me before we got married and we had tried to discuss it. Apologies were made and it was swept away very quickly away. It soon became clear to me that though the issue had been ‘dealt’ with and the argument resolved prior to marriage, the change that I had desired had not occurred. The laptop still has a reserved seat at some dinner times.
I have come to realise that I cannot expect my hubby to change, just because I make an excellent argument for change. No matter how articulately I put my point across, the power to change rests in his hands. I can hint, I can encourage, I can drag him to counselling, I can pray, I can scream, I can stage tantrums and I could even go on strike BUT the power to change rests in his hands. The question is…
…what do I do in the meantime?
I can deal with me.
I can change myself.
I can make sure that my actions are fair even if I think that his are unfair, illogical, irrational or just plain weird. I can be the right person. I can speak his love language even if he doesn’t understand or know mine. The sad thing is there are many who are focused on the process of making their beloved the right person that they fail to become the right person. Some may say that this philosophy is flawed and too idealistic but, if both parties are focused on being the right person and speaking their beloveds love language wouldn’t it produce a good marriage. Change will be natural and will be by choice rather than in a pressurised environment ruled by a dictator. Even if a beloved is a complete ogre, I am yet to see someone who can resist the power of love.
Our first year of marriage has been more of an action movie than a cute romantic comedy. Those closest to us have seen us try to dodge criticisms like bullets and nursing the wounds caused by the stray word that penetrates our psyche. They have seen us resolve divisions in the camp by calling in the marriage heavyweights. It’s been an amazing journey. Our marriage has made me a better person. Being married has made me act and think right. As we walked down the aisle of the church on the 364th day of our marriage, I felt renewed. I knew that I wanted to spend my 365th of marriage and next 18,250 days*, focusing not on making my hubby the right person but being the right person, a better person. Now on our 394th day of marriage my prayer is no longer ‘Change him Lord’, it is ‘Change me Lord’.
The five worded sentence blasted a hole through any valid points I had made. I was rendered powerless and in need of a good come back, I retaliated with a few measly tears. This was far from a substantial response for a succinct summary of the state of affairs delivered by my hubby. The stark reality of what my behaviour had caused was revealed and I could do nothing to stop the torrent of flashbacks. I was forced to trace my steps from when we walked the honeymoon shores to the present day, only to discover that I had been the instigator of each argument that we had. This is not to say that I had not had valid points however, I had become a chartered accountant of wrongs.
A record of wrongs; a complete, unadulterated, uncensored account of things that have been done incorrectly and unjustly towards you. It is a mental list which exists to be used as a point of reference during arguments or as an excuse not to act in a loving way towards your beloved.
I spent so much time keeping an account of what has gone wrong in my marriage that it became a full time job. It consumed me totally. Who would have guessed that keeping a log of your husband’s should have, could have, would have’s would have been a full time job. I didn’t constantly nag but whenever I had a point to make it was accompanied with an account of wrong doings. If you become a real professional you will extend this beyond your beloved and extend it to friends, family and if you really want to go for it, LIFE itself will have wronged you.
It must have started with little things like noticing how often he would leave empty bottles of water decorating the bedroom or his shoes in the middle of the floor. I would over look those issues, opting to ‘keep quiet’ rather than starting a heated debate. Unknown to me, my conscious acted as a bank teller. It would transfer the incident to the bank of wrongs and later be used as evidence for something or even worse as a trigger to fly off the handle about a completely unrelated topic. I still believe that some things are not worth conducting a boardroom meeting over but if I have learnt that if I am opting out of the meeting, I must also opt out of writing a memo.
It’s hard work loving someone who keeps a record of wrongs, no one wants to be constantly measured against what they did in the past. Who wants to be married to a measuring tape wife or husband? It is condescending and robs that person of their confidence to love you. Arguments become increasingly difficult as the record of wrongs is pulled out to act as justification, explanation and illustration. The worst thing about it, is that your spouse becomes powerless as all that you are reiterating to them is true. You have succeeded in backing them up into a corner and they have nowhere to run to. No matter how valid their point was, presenting an evidence of bad decisions reduces their point to nothing.
As a chartered account of wrongs you naturally become an ungrateful person, so busy keeping an accurate account of what is wrong that you don’t look at what is right. Your beloved’s efforts go unnoticed no matter how far they go to please you. Every ‘how are you’ is followed by a list of ‘not rights’. No effort is ever enough as you are constantly comparing them to your expectation and adding every failed attempt to your collection. Learning to manage your expectations is tricky business, as it’s never good not to expect anything but to expect too much is to put unnecessary pressure on your beloved. I am making serious attempts to live a life that counts my blessings and not my unmet expectations. Yes, I don’t have the mansion or the Buggatti Veyron that I desire and sometimes I do wander how and when we will get there BUT RIGHT NOW , we have a lovely roof over our heads, food in the fridge and an economical car that gets us from A to B. Yes, my hubby is Mr Logical and I am Mrs Emotional but we are rubbing off on each other to make the perfect team.
My vivid imagination has created a restart button which I choose to press daily as it erases my emotional hard drive of the wrongs against me and the wrongs I made. I understand that this sounds idealistic but keeping a record of wrongs illustrates immaturity and an inability to construct convincing arguments, independent of diminishing another’s confidence. Slowly but surely, I am adopting some of the logic my husband has to make sense of what it is that I truly want to say. It’s not easy to stop your mind from searching your hard drive for past viruses but you can make a choice. The choice to forgive and forget will appear like a rainbow after a storm, with a pot of freedom to love freely at the end of it.
I realise that I am putting my head on the line here. I know that this could be used as evidence later in the argument arena BUTI am so convicted about this nasty habit that I need it to be carved into the hall of blogging fame. Let this entry be an official letter of withdrawal from the Royal Bank of Wrongs and an investment in Alliance and Loving.
Friday, 24 July 2009
Our first argument was my fault. We had just got from honeymoon and were just finishing our thank you cards. Miss Organised had written a list of people that I wanted to thank, paying little attention to my husband’s family and friends. He had shown very little interest in the cards so I made the assumption that he didn’t want any. When it came down to the last few cards, he made a request!! I could feel the anger well up inside me.
‘Why had he waited for me to almost finish the cards, after I had carefully calculated who and who was getting what! And he hadn’t been bothered to me with them anyway!’ The angry green goblin in me had come out to play.
I finished writing the cards as I had planned, choosing to side with the ‘Miss I will show him’ voice inside of me. When my hubby realised just what his honeymoon wife had just done, he uttered these simple words.
‘So I don’t even get one card.’
It wasn’t much but it was enough. His tone and body language said it all; frosty, little eye contact and keeping his distance. He didn’t need to say much more, though he did. Though I protested his sentences blew my selfish behaviour to pieces. ‘Miss I will show him’ and ‘Miss Organised’ disintegrated like ghostbusters had just hit them with their lasers. Immerging in their absence was a very remorseful wife, who dropped to her knees like the wives of old and said.
Arguments: silent treatment following a series of door slams and dirty looks, it might even be complimented by a few kissings of the dentures. Perhaps that’s not your arguing style, you may choose to stare your loved one in the face and isolate their weaknesses for a tirade of insults. You may even be the kind that raises their voice beyond human decibels, giving your neighbours a surround sound experience. Maybe you are sensible and decide to go for a walk, using that time for reflection and storage of your loved ones comments for future reference. You may not even argue at all, which I may add is a bone face lie. The truth is everyone argues; whether your hair is sprouted with grey or if your skin is baby soft, whether you are single living triumphantly or tied together with gold bands.
In marriage, there are arguments.
As obvious as that is, it comes as a surprise to many. Some seem to think that the signing of the marriage contract removes all sense of disagreement and mysteriously you become one in thought and mind. I believe strongly that leading up to the wedding day; brides and grooms are on their best behaviour. Arguments tend to be few and far between; the ones that do occur are easily resolved and tend not to be as intense. I didn’t fully understand when I signed on the dotted line, that I was enlisting to spend the rest of my life with a man that had had a whole life before me. A life that had shaped him into what he is today. Despite our many obvious commonalities (faith, ethnicity, spiritual principles) there were many differences. We were two different people. We had different families, habits, mindsets, attitudes and standards; the list simply goes on and on.
I was mortified when we started arguing in our marriage. I think I had pictured a picture perfect storybook marriage; we were supposed to be high on love dancing on the clouds of euphoria. Yet there were times when I questioned whether my hubby’s interest in sci-fi had attracted the beams of aliens and he had been replaced by their prime minister.
I understand now that it makes sense for us to argue. The scripture that says ‘two become one’ can be quite misleading as it is not instant. It does not happen when you exchange rings, sign the marriage contract, share your first kiss or even when the marriage is consummated. It is a gradual process which has a lot of bumps and knocks along the way. Knocks and bumps that the marriages of people I respected had overcome not in a microwave minute but with the slow cooking effect of time.
You may have noticed that I haven’t written in quite a while, that’s because I have had to fly my white flag quite a few times recently. Arguments are never pretty even the most eloquent poet becomes verbally incoherent and hot headed when the right buttons are pushed.
I struggle with the mindset that each argument is a battle for me to win. I dislike coming out of the trenches of my stubborn mind to apologise, it feels as though I have lost. I am slowly realising that I have to make a choice not to prolong an argument and make peace my ultimate goal. I must never lose sight of the end goal which is to have loving and fulfilling marriage. If waving a white flag of surrender produces that, then I will wave the flag high. A continuum of door slams and snide comments in the hope that my hubby will back down is not as effective. My pursuit of winning the argument only produces tension and unease in the home. I have also naughtily indulged in ‘told you so’ expressions when I am finally proven to be right.
It’s not the fact that you argue that is the problem; but you must choose to resolve it.
Resolving conflict is a choice.
Friday, 19 June 2009
My hubby is a gifted java developer. He spends a lot of his time developing websites and applications. This requires an astounding amount of logic as the work is quite methodical. His attempts to educate me on SQL, JAVA, POM have been returned with squirms of boredom and many 'what was that' facial expressions. He is Mr Logic and I am Mrs Emotional. I work from home and struggle to remain focused as I tend to do the work I only 'feel' like doing. My hubby has threatened many times to block my laptop from accessing a certain social networking site but it has not deterred me. He struggles to understand how I have such a fluid approach to work and I struggle to understand how he can be so structured. We have had many arguments as my fluid approach can be both gentle and volatile. My emotions are on the surface whereas his seem to be buried near to the core of the earth.
'You're just being emotional'.
A familiar sentence, rolled off the tongues of husbands universally. That phrase is used by my hubby when I have turned into the emotional hulk. His words would be like pouring petrol on a blazing fire. He'd be as cool and collected whilst he watched me spin into a burning tornado. Found it difficult to understand why he couldn't just meet me where I was. Sure his answers or suggestions were usually right (annoyingly) but couldn't he have approached with more care? Couldn't he have met me where I was emotionally first; agreeing and empathising with me BEFORE hurling logic at me!
My hubby is not alone in his approach. The majority of men are logical. It's as if they are given a logic handbook whilst in the comfort of their mother's womb to study. They get from A to B in a straight line whereas women seem to take a more scenic route, discovering the shoe outlet along the way. I have seen men roll their eyes at the site of women crying or completely confused as per what brought the outburst.
Their logical thought process makes them natural problem solvers. Note to yourself, that if you go to a man with an issue or problem, he will have some form of solution for you. Of course there are the exceptions but most men sees an issue and automatically become bob the builder. It is an amazing quality, one that I appreciate.
I have found in my experience that most men only share their problems if they feel that you are going to solve it. This is where women get frustrated when their husbands withdraw or walk around as though everything is fine, even if they are residing in a nuclear war. Men withdraw most times to create a solution to a problem. If my hubby has an issue with a project that he is doing, he doesn't necessarily feel like chatting about who stole our parking space or which cat stared at me funny. Neither does he want to have a 'sharing' moment. He needs head space to work through all avenues so that he can come to discuss the problem as well as the solution. This takes ounces of patience and a paradigm shift. I had to realise that I did not married a male version of me, he does not reason the way I do. It is unlikely that he will set up an msn group chat with his buddies to reason his way through issues. That's not to say he does not value my input, he does. But I am learning not to go into any discussion with a canon full of emotional opinions as it is often not needed and totally misunderstood. It is better to wait for an invitation to share my thoughts. This way he doesn't feel disrespected or threatened. He will also feel as though I have thoroughly thought about his decision and that I am on his page.
I am also learning how to articulate and communicate my feelings as thoughts rather than feelings. I tried for a little while to listen to conversations I had with some of friends and concluded that we had a unique way of communicating our thoughts and feelings. My best friend and I understand each other so well, it often surprises us. I always wondered why and have come to understand that it is because we have perfected our language. I know that when she says 'I am feeling like..' she is exposing her thought process. I know that I would need to acknowledge those feelings. Note that I did not say accept because not every feeling\emotion ought to be demonstrated. I made the mistake of trying to use the same language to my husband but it felt as though he would ignore the wounds that had penetrated my pulsating heart and simply solve the problem. He would get very frustrated that I did not accept his polished answer that he had proudly formed to make me feel better. I wouldn't feel any better after speaking to him and on occasion an argument would form based on his reaction rather than focusing on the issue. After a few repeats of this emotional and logical roller coaster, I realised something would have to change - me.
I am changing to catch up to my logical husband. I try to use words like 'I think' where I used to say 'I feel'. It's a very simple trick and it causes me to formulate more constructive and logical sentences. For instance 'I feel as though you are not spending enough time with me, you're neglecting me' becomes 'Honey, I think that we ought to spend more time together. We have both been working hard this week.' By using the word 'we' I am also accepting some responsibility which means I am not pointing fingers. Accusations don't go down very well as they tend to evoke a defensive response. My accusations have always had a boomerang effect which meant I always had to do the grovelling.
I am also trying to get a handle on my emotions by taking time out to reason through my feelings. I hold regular court hearing in the recesses of my mind to assess whether my feelings and thoughts are valid. These brief few moments have made me realise that I can be quite irrational and has forced me to starve my emotions from the air of expression.
In my newlywed voyage, I have come to accept that being emotional is not a bad thing. A world totally void of emotion is like watching TV in black and white. Sure you can bear it but imagine how much more interesting the program would be with greens and purples. I have warmly embraced my emotions but I am learning to work through them – 'logically'.
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
Enter MISS me, my afro head far too inflated with marriage theories to allow me through my single friends front doors. This time last year, I had read up on all I thought there was to know about courtship and marriage. I had a tower of books erected beside my bed that was my gateway to marital bliss. I had appointed myself the relationship counsellor to all those around me, my best friend called me the courtship cop! I would sit for hours understanding the mechanics of men and women, their purpose in each other's lives and would shake my head in disapproval at anyone who went against my courtship commandments. My behaviour and actions weren't as helpful as I had intended and I want to take this opportunity to apologise to everyone I may have offended. I have come to understand that true wisdom does not need a fanfare when it arrives. Wisdom needs no introduction or announcements. It is observed by those around you without a lecture, a breakdown of a scripture or the 10 key steps to courtship paradise. I knew little if anything at all then, it was a good foundation but since when did reading the driving test theory prepare you for changing gears or driving on the motorway. I have taken time to observe the lives of the wives around me and realised that they lived quite a different life according the chronicles of wifedom I had played in my mind. I took a deeper look at my character when I started my marriage and realised I had got a lot of things fundamentally wrong. I began to deconstruct the pillars of knowledge I had on the inside of me and decided to become an ambassador for love. This does not mean I put on a maxi dress, wore flowers in my hair and sang 'love and peace to all ', it became more of a personal journey within to speak love louder than any theory, latest revelation or scriptural dissection.
I had never really had much respect for patience; I needed answers last week, success yesterday and the future 60 minutes ago. The last 365 days have taught me something surprising – things don't always happen when I think they ought to. Wow, what a revelation! It seemed that my husband had been assigned as my own personal tutor for patience. I soon became tired of flying off the handle if he didn't reply to an urgent email regarding the wedding colours or if bridesmaids were reluctant to rehearse their all important entry. I admit I do like to have an element of control in my life but I am learning that I do not hold time. It seems so basic but, I realise now that is better to go with the natural flow of things than to force timing to match with your emotions. As cliché as it sounds, some things are worth the wait. I have not quite mastered this eight lettered phenomena, I still take a number of deep breaths and resist the urge to turn into the incredible hulk some times. It seems the more I pray for patience, the more opportunities that seem to come my way for me to exercise it. I believe patience not just to be the ability to wait whilst maintaining your composure and positive attitude irrespective of the timing of a particular event. It's extremely difficult at times especially if you have strong opinions like I often do, holding back can feel as though you are losing a part of who you are. It was important at those times to remind yourself of the end goal and it is not to win the argument but it is to resolve it so that both parties can continue in love. By listening to my internal thought process I can sort through my emotions and try to make my thoughts logical, if I can't make sense of what I am feeling then usually it means it's not worth fussing over. My hubby is not a mind reader so unless I speak logic and reason to him, we will both be intimate strangers. Now when he is in cyber world and I want him to look at the latest Jimmy Choo's I realise that it is not because he doesn't care but that he is in speaking with gigabytes, html, xml, POM and Choo's just don't fit in. I had an incredible knack of turning quite simple tiffs into mountainous arguments that would stretch the entire day. My repertoire of arguments range from heated discussions in oxford circus over the colour of grooms men's ties, whose turn it was to drive whilst on a winters day and a pair of newly acquired boots. Naturally the arguments would start over these little things but my mind had a wonderful way of connecting other completely unrelated issues to form a way of sticky issues. My sweet hubby with a bemused expression on his face, would wonder how we had escalated from the colour of ties to discussing his commitment to our pending wedding. Over the course of the year I have learnt to select my arguments well. It is not every matter that requires a board meeting with your subconscious taking minutes for later reference. Life is too short to argue over boots that's what receipts are there for; take them back or apologise and put them on!
This day last year I was seated opposite my hubby, then fiancé. He had been a little late to meet with me which just seemed to make my already disappointing birthday worse. I love birthdays; the cheesy cards and the copious amounts of cake. Last year, things were a little different. I had been at work all day so there were no cheesy cards until later on in the evening when I met with my hubby. The anger and upset welled up inside of me and no matter how I tried to resist it, the familiar warmth of my tears rolled against my cheek.
'What's wrong?' my hubby asked. Anxious that perhaps his present wasn't as great as I had insisted it was.
'Nothing.' I mumbled.
Wiser than I thought at the time, my hubby persisted. 'What's wrong?'
I threw a tantrum about my birthday, things hadn't gone the way I was used to. Where were the balloons, the excited faces and the birthday girl attention? How could I have a birthday without renditions of Steve Wonder 'happy birthday' recitals! I had spent the majority of the day with work colleagues who didn't understand my rich traditions. If this M.R.S. could see that M.I.S.S. she would slap that M.I.S.S into reality.
Thursday, 14 May 2009
Tears ruining the perfect make up on my face and every muscle aching from too many late nights, I looked at my ‘to do’ list. It seemed to stretch the entirety of womanhood, from mundane activities like doing the laundry through to developing my business empire. On the sheets of paper in front of me seemed to be the tasks for 5 different people, the business woman, the wife, the children’s ministry member, the daughter, the friend, the sister, it didn’t seem to end.
‘I’m soo tired’ A shriek of frustration that came from the depths of my soul. ‘I just can’t take this anymore!’
My mind started playing tricks on me. I jumped on the ‘I’m just not good enough’ emotional merry go round. It reeled off the mental record of things I should of, could of and would have done; like the unforgiving boss completing an internal appraisal of myself.
After I had bent the ear of everyone who cared to listen, I faced my internal mirror. I took a good look at my busyness and concluded that I was achieving very little. I came to the strange but very true conclusion that I am not Superwoman. I am not a fan of ‘I can’t’s but aren’t there only so many ‘I can’s one can have? I can try to relax my hair whilst making dinner and encouraging a sister on the phone. The reality is one of those tasks will suffer, that evening I could end up in A&E with blood pouring from my scalp, a cindered kitchen but a very encouraged sister. The realisation of my true identity as a forever newlywed and not superwoman threw up many issues.
We have been taught from the beginning of time that women are the greatest multi-taskers. We have been praised for our ability to juggle tasks like trained circus performers but, what if the learned psychologists were wrong? There are millions of women who can empathise with how I have been feeling; tired, worn out with a list of tasks long enough for the circumference of the earth. Of course, that idea does not settle too well with a busy body like me. I still agree with those learned people. It’s not that we cannot multitask; it’s that we grab at soo many tasks at one time. We snatch them as if they were the last pair of shoes at the Boxing Day sale. So quick to select the tasks that we don’t always weigh up the pros and cons of it. We don’t always ask questions like, what affect will this have on my time, is this time that I have to spare, how will this affect my resources? Surely a better understanding of each task will naturally lead to a better management of time, effort and energy. So instead of relaxing my hair whilst cooking, I could cook first whilst speaking to my sister and relax my hair on the weekend. Bad multitasking means that either little time is spent on each task or the attention given to each task is severely divided. Either way, the end result is an express trip to the Isle of Guilt.
A career or a business brings multitasking to a whole new dimension. Juggling a successful career or an expanding business whilst trying to build a happy home could prove challenging. Sometimes when I get home from the office (especially when I have programmed my mind to sleep upon arrival), the will to cook and the desire to pick up laundry that magically missed the basket, mysteriously disappears. The apron doesn’t look a good enough exchange for the supercareer cape woman I have so delicately wrapped round my shoulders.
In the workplace women now how have the pressure to perform just like superhero’s have to conquer their evil counterpart. Wives of old used to have ‘cook outs’ and ‘baking days’ but now with the world’s favourite kitchen appliance - the microwave - u can be ‘Miss Career’ and ‘Best Food Warmer’ all in one. I am by no means banishing us to a prison of nappies and Jamie Oliver re runs. The person writing this has dreams, aspirations, plans and objectives that are carefully conspiring for world domination. Believe it or not, there are women who place their businesses and careers far above their husband and their children. They love their family but continuously arrange their everyday tasks around their career and not around their family. Things like happily spending an extra hour in the office which means that you’re not able to spend that hour with your husband or children. We ought to strive for a life of balance.
Sometimes in the midst of our multitasking, we forget that we are part of a formidable team. We have husbands!! What an underestimated asset we have by our sides. I believe there are a number of tasks/projects we struggle with that we could work with our husbands to achieve. Granted not everyman might want to help your daughter make her costume for the ballet recital but he might be thrilled to give you direction for your business ideas. You might just discover untapped potential buried on the inside of him. I believe in every relationship there is a visionary and an implementer perhaps, you can see opportunities but lack the momentum to see that come to pass. Every superhero has some sort of side kick, someone that goes along with him on all his adventures. Batman has Robin and Superman has Lois Lane. As wives I think we are guilty at times of forgetting that we are the side kick. I say that not to cause offence but to make you realise, the superhero’s aren’t anything without their side kicks. If Clark Kent and Lois Lane really did exist in today’s society, Lois Lane would be the breadwinner in that household. Think about it! Clark Kent would forever be flying off to save the world from the many disasters, so what work would he achieve to bring money in?! I wonder if he would help her to cook and clean?! Every good prince needs a princess to save, imagine if Rapunzel decided to buy her freedom by creating lace wigs with her hair! They are no less a princess for needing rescuing, both characters make up the entire story.
I am getting my life in check. I have learnt that not every good idea needs to be executed now. The world will not end if I don’t send that email or arrange my clothes in colour and season order. I have come back to basics to even question what my purpose is on this earth. Sounds deep doesn’t it? The definition of that purpose ensures that I only do the tasks that are centred on that. My core purpose aside from being the female version of Richard Branson (in business style only as I don’t have an aspiration to set sail in a hot air balloon), is just to be a WIFE.
With the tissues and the tears packed away, my vision and focus returns to start a new to do list.
Number one: Pick up the forever newlywed apron and drop my flying solo superwoman cape.
Tuesday, 28 April 2009
My hubby is fascinated by nature, he loves watching the discovery channel. You can imagine how that went down with a science phobic person like me, oil meeting water. Gradually though, I have opened up my arms to the animal kingdom and I have also become marvelled at the little things you can learn from careful observation. I recently have made a discovery about what love is based on such David Attenborough type adventures into the world of nature. Countless times the question has been asked 'how can I tell if I am love?' and there have been many answers most of which have lined the pockets of love deprived actors and musicians. For many the litmus test for being under the influence of this great phenomenon has always been the fluttering of internal butterflies when your beloved is around. Those who believe in this extraordinary method of detection say that you feel light headed and your heartbeats form the loudest and deepest bass line for love songs worldwide. It is a wonder then that love could be likened unto the life of a butterfly when the average life span of an adult butterfly is approximately one month and the smallest butterflies live only a week or so? Surely this tragically short lifetime shouldn't be used to speak about what drives many to make long term commitments. If these butterfly feelings are what are being relied upon to form a basis for life changing decision, then this could explain why modern marriages expire so quickly. Clearly marriages of old used 'swan feelings' as their indicator, as these graceful creatures mate for life.
Butterfly feelings are like hurricanes sweeping you high into the sky where you spend every second by your beloved's side...until that one fateful day. And that day comes to all, where your rose tinted Gucci sunglasses fall off and you realise that you are attached to the world's worst chewing gum eater! There comes a point in every relationship when those butterfly feelings take flight and what you're left with is nothing that can inspire the shakespeare spirit that once consumed your beloved. Though the words 'I love you' are said, those butterfly feelings have crash landed and couples are stuck on the desert island that is their marriage, without a paddle and boat to get to the mainland. So, where did all the 'love' go? Now that you are safely landed in reality airport, summer wardrobe firmly packed away now what do you do?
Communicating our love for each other is an essential part of a loving relationship. It seems that in the first few moments of meeting our beloved we say what we mean and understand completely what they say. There are no misunderstanding that can't be sorted with a shower of 'but you know I love you so much', a lavish compliment or a Shakespearean love note. Somehow this magical togetherness of thought and speech slowly where love is felt goes away and an eruption of arguments and disagreements begin. Is it that your beloved has been traded in the middle of the night by an evil twin or are their true colours really shining through? Truth is...it's neither. You are simply speaking different languages and neither of you are trying hard enough to take the time out to translate.
One of favourite sitcoms is 'My Wife and Kids' and if you haven't watched it, you need to break out of your Eastenders and re runs of Sunset Beach routine! My most treasured episode is when Michael (husband and father) was zoned out watching a basketball game and Janet (his wife) came to make a request. Michael looked up from his reclining chair at his adoring wife, saw her mouth moving but heard only Japanese. He recognised the person in front of him but he couldn't understand a word of what she was saying, even though in reality she was speaking English. For fear that he would be verbally assaulted for not paying attention, he nodded in agreement. The rest of the episode is a collection of hilarious events that happened simply because Michael hadn't listened. It's a similar situation to when I go to the hairdressers and I explain my desired style with a pictorial reference but end up looking like an 8yr old flower girl. Quite clearly I was not speaking the hairdresser's lingo. Why is it that marriages, friendships and relationships with hairdressers that start out with such great flutters can end up swimming in confusion? I could be screaming I love you by spending all my credit crunch cash on you but you might not interpret this as love. Why is that you can do all that you know how to do to show someone that you love them yet they are convinced that you do not?
There are 6,900 living languages in this world, spread over just seven continents on this semi-green earth there are only five universal love languages. Thankfully, none of these languages can be attributed to our dear friend the butterfly. These languages do not depend on internal feelings and aren't affected by external circumstances. Everyone has a way in which they communicate and receive love. Usually the way you communicate love most frequently, is the way you best receive it. These love languages consist of Quality Time, Gifts, Acts of Service, Physical Touch and Words of Affirmation. I initially concluded that I must speak and receive all five!! After closer evaluation I have discovered that I have a primary love language. If my love language is absent from any marriage or relationship I have, it dies as quickly as a slug covered in salt.
The wisdom of Great Grandma Anita who has been married for 81 years said 'couples these days don't last long because they don't take enough time for each other.' Married in 1928 she currently holds the record for the longest marriage in Uk with her husband Frank. Time is indeed such an expensive commodity. It's that extra shift or another opportunity to force the hand of your boss towards a hefty pay rise. It is essential that we take time to notice our beloveds' responses to our actions. Do they seem less of a green goblin after spending an evening chatting about nothing? Then they are probably a native 'Quality Time' love language speaker. Are they much more responsive after you have inflated their ego with plenty of compliments? That will be a citizen of 'words of affirmation' kingdom. Become the radar for flutters in your home so that the next time you realise you're running on empty, do the things that send the butterflies into flight. Do your best to stay forever newlywed.
NB: For more information on The Five Love Languages, please visit www.fivelovelanguages.com
Friday, 10 April 2009
Recently, we have been entertained by other married couples who made what we had dealt with look like a slow motion stroll through Victoria Park. Sometimes in life, our emotions manage to create the wonderful illusion that we are the only one suffering. We send out invitations for our extravagant pity party and punish all those who don't attend. My hubby and I were really humbled when we heard their stories and admired their strength. I greatly admired the wives as I could not even try to understand how they had managed to keep their cool. How had they resisted sending out electronic pity party invitations? I was truly in awe. They demonstrated the kind of strength that I had only seen in wives of old.
In the class of wives, I feel that my mother's generation are at the top the game. They were and still are able to deal with the most difficult situations. Their emotions had structures of steel that refused to bend or break to the winds of life. They have spines made of titanium that refused to be corroded by the acidity of life. Wives of old absorbed every single pain and were literally the rock of their families. It somehow didn't seem to matter if their husbands had begun extracurricular activities with their secretary; they continued to hold the home together. They didn't seem to throw tantrums over matters like who should switch off the light or who was the last one to load the washing machine. Through adultery, domestic violence, money and poverty, these wives remained like Rosa Parks; unmoved.
Wives of old had aspirations and dreams, far beyond their one bedroom flat. True they may not have had the opportunity to go the university, but they had carefully mapped out the destiny for each of their doctors, I mean children. There was never a shift too long or a bank account too empty that would deter them from reaching that goal. Educating their children was of extreme importance, they may not have always understood what simultaneous equations were but God their princess, if they didn't score 100% in the end of year exam.