Take time to listen to the tales…

cowboy hatI’m an East Coast girl. I’m always on the go and always somewhat in a hurry. Even when I am not actually in a hurry, I have this looming feeling that I SHOULD be in a hurry. Get the information and go; do the task and move on; Go Go GO!

You can imagine that sitting still and listening is not always a strength of mine. When I am in the mood to get to know someone, I can sit with them for hours, but if I am in GO mode, I often feel like a tightly wound spring that needs to release and move onto the next thing.

This fact became especially apparent to me the other day. I was scheduled to have coffee with an older gentleman about a project we are working on together. When we planned the meeting he told me, “Let’s meet at 4 p.m. I’ll be wearing a cowboy hat, so you can recognize me; either straw or felt, depending on the weather.” I probably should have known at that moment that this meeting might be different from what I was planning. I thought we would meet, get a hot beverage, I’d get some answers to the questions on my list, and get home.

I arrived at the coffee shop before him, got my drink (a chai latte), and prepared my notebook and pen. When he arrived, I realized he was definitely not in GO mode and that, yes, he definitely must have envisioned the afternoon going a bit differently than I. He moseyed in, wandered to our table, and immediately started discussing the options the coffee bar had added to the menu recently. Then he told me a story (the first of many) about his experiences back east when he lived in Massachusetts.  Eventually, I managed to direct the conversation to the project we will be working on together. But nearly every question I asked was answered in a roundabout way with a story or two that were indirectly (or not at all) related to the topic we were discussing.

I found myself getting warm and frustrated. The time was ticking away and there were (what felt like) a million other things I could or needed to be doing rather than spending all this time on his stories. However, as I sat there, watching his mouth move yet hearing little because my own thoughts were swirling around in my head, I realized he just wanted an audience for his stories.  He meant no ill, but only to share a few of the treasures he has collected on his life journey.

Our lives are that; a collection of memories and stories. Good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, our stories make up who we are and as we age, I imagine we have fewer and fewer people with whom to share these pieces of ourselves.

So, sitting there, I took a deep breath and started to try to listen because I realized that someday I will be older and I feel pretty certain I will want the same thing; someone who will just take a few minutes so that I can share a part of me. Don’t get me wrong…it was still difficult. The competing GO mode was still there, but I became aware of the fact that sometimes I need to shut that off. I need to work on giving people a little more of myself by taking time to just sit and listen to their tales.

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Sometimes we drive each other nutty, but this guy really loves me…

me and chris 3

Our anniversary is coming up this Saturday. It will be 17 years. That’s a pretty long time. I like to think of myself as young-ish, but 17 years married starts to make that a less convincing argument. I think about the Hubs and where we have been. It hasn’t been a dream, full of wonderment. Marriage is not a fairy tale. Let me say that again…Marriage is NOT a fairy tale.  Our marriage is NOT a fairy tale. Sometimes I don’t know how any marriages last. It’s often a bit of a Gong Show, but we are still here, hanging on,  and experiencing an upswing right now, which is nice.

Here’s the thing:  he still  loves me, after all this time. I am still first. Not even his comic books have surpassed me…yet. I never wonder if he still loves me, I just know it. I am not an easy one to love. I know you must find that difficult to believe, Reader, but it is true 🙂 I am strong-willed and opinionated. I have a really horrid temper and mornings make me grumpy. I am wildly jealous and territorial. And yet, this guy loves me. Not only does he love me, he likes me. He really, really likes me. He thinks I am funny and cute. He sees my wild swings of emotion as side effects of my passion. He finds my jealousy and territoriality (is that a word?) charming. I have never, ever felt like I had to apologize for being me. He accepts me just as I am.

Hubs is steady. Level. Calm. Content. Loyal. He is everything I need in a life partner. And he makes me laugh til I need my inhaler (I have asthma). That is a most excellent quality. He is better than me and he loves me better than I love. I am not sure what I ever did to deserve to be loved in such a way.  My conclusion is that I did nothing. Not everyone finds someone who loves them in  this way, or who doesn’t get bored with them. I got lucky. I picked a Really. Good. Egg.

He tells me often that he hopes our kids turn out like me, but Hubs, I think we make a pretty fine combination. My Mallard Duck, or My Golden Eagle (did I tell you they pick a life partner too?) I am so very glad to be going through this journey with you. I hope you can tolerate me for a really long time, but if not, I’ll just kick your butt.

I am finally free…

I find myself in a curious situation of late. The situation will likely not make sense to those who don’t really know our story. The story, as it were, is long and drawn out so I will offer you the 25 cent version.

Basically, we moved to Minnesota for a job in a friend’s church. Hubs was trained as a pastor but was hired as an administrator at this church. Shortly upon arriving here we realized we were in way over our heads. The church was much more conservative than we had realized and their opinions on gender roles, marriage, etc. were far to the right of where we would ever have placed ourselves, but our friend had gone through a bit of trouble to get us to Minnesota and give Hubs this opportunity, so we felt a little stuck.

Over time and through many unpleasant experiences with the people in the church and the leadership, I realized I couldn’t fake it anymore. I was not, nor will I ever be, a woman who would fit their mold. I am forthright, strong-willed, goal-driven. I don’t submit easily and our marriage is quite egalitarian. These points were all points of contention and it became a constant battle of me trying to make myself look the way they wanted me to look and behave the way women “should” behave. In the end, we decided we needed to leave. I remember a conversation I had with a Deacon at the very end where I gave him a piece of my mind. He said, “You have no right to speak to me so boldly,” and I said, “Well, actually, we are both humans and I most certainly do.” He was speechless.

Upon leaving, we didn’t want to cause any trouble for our friend, so we left quietly. However, I always felt in some way controlled by them. I think, looking back, there was definite psychological damage done, all in the name of Jesus. Ironic. After we left, I blocked everyone I could think of who attended the church from all my social media. Whenever we would see one of them when we were out and about, we’d say, “Alert, alert!,” and go off in another direction. It’s like we were living scared.

However, we recently found out that our friend is no longer the pastor there and suddenly my world has opened up. For whatever reason, I now feel completely free of that place. I think, despite my feelings about the church, I felt some sort of loyalty to our friend. With him no longer working there, I feel free of those people and the power they once had over my life. I have realized, I hate that place. I hate what it does to lives. I hate the teachings and the way it made me view God and people outside of Christianity. And realizing all this, the healing can begin. I don’t need to have hate but pity, as I have realized their theology leaves those who can’t measure up feeling stranded and hopeless. Thank goodness, we are never really stranded or hopeless.

I have unblocked all those people from my social media. I am not afraid of them anymore. I am not afraid to see them out and about. I feel like I can stand up straight knowing I make mistakes and so do they. Their judgment, which will always be there, doesn’t matter to me anymore. It suddenly feels like a distant, unpleasant memory. The only artifact of the whole thing is that we live here in Minnesota, where we moved to for a job in a place that essentially no longer exists as we knew it. I am free, and while I have always been free, now I actually feel it.