#157 Wear A Blindfold

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#157

Wear a blindfold

Ok… don’t get too excited just yet. This suggestion is geared toward highlighting all senses when sight is not available and not just during sex. If you have a ‘sleep mask’ – go ahead a grab it, otherwise, close your eyes and follow the honor system. Take a few minutes each day this week to experience the conditions outlined below – without sight – to notice elements of everyday life that you’ve never experienced before.

Suggestions:

  • Stand in the kitchen when someone is cooking – notice how you smell more or differently when you can’t see that is cooking.
  • Sit outside on your deck or porch – notice the sounds that you may not have heard before. What birds are singing? Do you hear traffic? Or people? What do you smell?
  • Shower with your blindfold on or your eyes closed. Notice how rotely you perform each maneuver and don’t really need sight to move through the task.
  • Try eating without sight. Do you notice a difference in how quickly you devour your food? Are you more in tune with the smell or texture?
  • Make love while wearing a blindfold. Do you notice a difference in the level of pleasure that you experience?

Brain Power

Eliminating your ability to see, heightens your other senses. Your brain automatically redirects its reliance to sound, smell, and touch in order to identify the experience. This one of the reasons that using a blindfold during sex intensifies the experience for women. Men, who are more dependent on sight for stimulation, may not enjoy the same benefit.

Caution

Wearing a blindfold for a prolonged period can induce hallucinations. Research is demonstrating that when a sighted person is denied the ability to see – the brain will create visions. We seem to develop an ability to ‘see’ through our ‘third’ eye. Indeed, there is a retreat that promotes this process for those who want to ‘destress’ by using blindfolds to open a path to your subconscious. I would encourage anyone moving in this direction to move with caution and with someone psychologically trained. Going that deep – if there are old wounds – can be more harmful than helpful.

In any event – for a SHORT duration – you can intensify your other senses and develop a stronger sense of being present by taking a few minutes each day to….

Wear a blindfold.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

Photo by Kirill Balobanov on Unsplash

#254 Go on a Date

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#254

Go on a Date

This advice is particularly focused on those of you in a relationship of some nature although I’ll mention single folks too. As a marriage counselor, perhaps the single most common reason that people end up in my office is because they loose connection with one another due to lack of energy directed to their relationship.

Dating is how many of us got to know one another. It is how we built emotional intimacy, how we discovered our interests and commonalities. After a few years, we assume that we have nothing left to say and our conversations center on work, bills, and perhaps kids. Novelty, excitement, and interest begins to wain.

I recently discussed self care and it’s importance to our mental and ultimately, physical health. It’s message pertains to relationships as well. What is starved – hungers; what is not watered – dies.

What is a good date?

First and foremost, do something you consider fun. If we’re not enjoying ourselves, it will be challenging to engage positively.

Consider also to do something active. Engaging body and mind doubles our personal interaction and creates a broader dimension for conversation. From bowling, kayaking, a ropes course, or rock climbing… an active date will offer opportunities for conversation that goes beyond your day to day life.

Don’t use this time together to resolve issues. Step back from the struggles or challenges in your life and allow the date to be a mental vacation.

Find time to physically connect. Some people use a date night for an exclusive opportunity to spend time connecting sexually. While this is definitely an important element in any solid relationship – it is not the end all. Sex without an emotional connection is available anywhere. To keep a connection with your partner, it is imperative that both the emotional and physical are combined. It doesn’t matter which element comes first as long as both are present. To clarify, physical connection doesn’t ‘have’ to be sex… holding hands while strolling through a festival and staring into one another’s eyes for a few minutes can intensify a couple’s connection nicely.

Are you single?

Most of the same advice applies. I’m hearing more and more from clients and family how single people are dating less and ‘hanging’ more. The ‘Netflix and chill’ mentality has infiltrated the tradition of getting to know one another by getting out and ‘doing’. I see people who developed a relationship over movies and sex but are now wondering what they actually have in common outside those parameters.

When you’ve moved past the ‘swipe right’ stage, step out and do something fun! Find common interests and activities that you can get passionate about together. There’s a lot of truth to the old adage… “the family that plays together, stays together.

Do your relationship a favor and make it a point to…

Go on a date.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

Photo by Spring Fed Images on Unsplash

#332 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#332

Make love (slow and deliberate)

What’s better than an hour of slow, deliberate, sensual, intimate time with someone you care deeply for? In this day and age of fitting in work, kids, activities, house stuff, and relationships… the time we allow for connecting intimately is significantly reduced.  The time an average couple spends engaged in the act of ‘sex’ ranges from 5.4 minutes to 19.2 minutes and that probably does not include the ‘quickies’ that exist in some relationships.

Let’s face it… wake up sex is generally a good way to start the day but it’s typically not romantic, soft, & slow. We tend to get right to the tasks at hand. Copulation that takes place at bedtime during work weeks can be somewhat perfunctory; meeting the most basic of needs. Can you remember the last time you took an hour or more to savor the experience of sensual pleasure with your partner?

Research indicates that having sex once a week with a caring partner will increase happiness. Imagine the happy boost if that once-a-week interaction is fully engaging and completely satisfying. Imagine if you were to make time for titillating foreplay and afterglow snuggling on a regular basis. Can you fathom the cohesion that develops between you and your partner?

Take the initiative and the time to engage with your mate the way that you did in the beginning of your relationship. Get to know one another again in an intimate way… double check assumptions about pleasures and preferences; introduce something sexy and new. Demonstrate your affection, desire, and dedication by…

Making love (slow & deliberate).

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

Brewing Storm

“…I don’t just wish you rain, Beloved – I wish you the beauty of storms…”             ~John Geddes

Hubby and I never did fall into a comfortable sexual pattern; it was a constant challenge for me… our libidos were simply mismatched. No matter what I gave, how I performed, or how many boundary barriers I broke through, it didn’t seem to satisfy his needs. He wanted more. Always. The stories and ideas that I had read about in Forum magazine or the movies that we had watched became tame in comparison to the things that he asked of me. I gave, he asked for more. I stretched, it wasn’t far enough. I struggled constantly to meet what I interpreted as sexual demands – they weren’t but I always felt that if I didn’t conform to his desires then he would just get them filled elsewhere – and so I breached every value boundary I knew to have. I was once again, trying to raise children, run a household, work, and satisfy a husband who had no limit where sexual satisfaction was concerned.

The core problem here wasn’t that he was in some way sexually deviant – I try not to experience judgment in this regard. First, because I admittedly enjoy physical pleasure but secondly because human sexuality is a complex and non-linear aspect of our existence. What was essentially problematic for me is that I felt complete and total disregard for MY comfort level, my limitations or values. It wasn’t ‘what’ he wanted to do per se – as I was willing to try almost anything – it was a lack of respect for my wishes when my interest clashed with his. On many occasions, I felt belittled and bullied with comments of “you’re a prude”, “get over it”, or “grow up”.  I was led to believe that there was something wrong with my sexuality because it didn’t match his. Sadly, there were few people I could talk to about this – you don’t exactly (or at least I didn’t) sit down for coffee with a friend and say “does your husband want you to …. ? Most of the time we ladies ‘dance’ around the subject and I definitely did that but it was typically limited to the most outer circle of the things I really wanted to know.

I was having some female plumbing issues during these years which, precluded me from enjoying a fully active sex life ALL the time. Frankly, it was somewhat of a relief for me. I felt justified to ‘take a break’ or gather myself when my body wasn’t compromising with his needs. In my mind, it was a respite of sorts. Well, kind of. Life was just easier when he was a happy guy so, HIS basic needs were met as much as I could help it. When the doctors suggested I get a partial hysterectomy as a final solution to my matters – all I could think of was “Shit – that makes my body available 24/7/365.” Because “no” didn’t really go in my house. While I was never physically forced to perform sexually, I do feel (seeing it in retrospect) that I was bullied, emotionally pressured, and quasi-badgered until I caved – to keep the peace; to be a good wife.

Slowly, I opened up to Abee, I figured a sister-girlfriend was probably as close to a non-judgmental person as I would find and when I shared my frustrations and fears with her I experienced some emotional relief. It probably sounded like I was bitching and complaining and perhaps I was. I was at my wit’s end with finding a way to compromise with and feel respected by Hubby. She and I talked often, sometimes several times a day. Depending on what was happening at home we would close our office door and fail to get any work done. She became my confidant and I no longer felt alone with this problem. Our lives became enmeshed. She was engaged but was only able to see her fiancé on weekends. During the week, our relationship was so symbiotic that life was just easy. There were two of us doing practically every job, not just at work but taking care of mom, caring for my kids, cooking, shopping, etc…  When her fiancé came on the weekends, we all got along well so our ‘downtime’ became shared time as well.

Abee’s twin lived across a couple of states and sometimes I wondered if this was what it was like for them – a sister so ‘in sync’ that it was as if there was only one of you. Maybe that’s why it was so easy – Abee already knew how to merge. I don’t really know, but after a while, it felt like the lines got blurred but by then I was dependent on the help and on the emotional support. I ignored the discomfort and kept going.

Mom and Abee were fixtures in our home – or us in theirs. I loved having family members so close by, not just because I was sharing life with my mom but because my girls were sharing theirs. She would come to chorus concerts, girl scout events, and help with school projects. Abee was always there to help us with birthday parties, coordinating outfits, or making dinner. She was becoming quite the teen advisor / mentor our daughters, many times overriding the need for ‘mom’ because she was so much younger and ‘cooler’. I was glad that the girls had someone like that in their lives. Every young girl needs someone besides a mom, to model.

Abee’s engagement broke off when the long-distance thing just couldn’t keep up. It wasn’t that simplistic of course and it was hard on her. By then, Mom was physically healthier and they relied on one another for just about everything. They became partners – in their combined ‘singleness’, they became dependent on one another for comradery, daily living, and financial support. They protected one another from the outside world. We were right there with them in what we believed to be the essence of family.

At work, Hubby and I continued to offer Abee more responsibility as she consistently demonstrated tremendous competence. Hubby and Abee traveled more together and they became a powerhouse team, propelling us into even more success. Our dreams were coming true. We had been outsourcing our HR needs and our ‘rep’ was a brilliant kid (relatively speaking) who I eventually convinced to work for us full time. We began to groom him to take over for me – managing the administrative duties of our office so that I could be more involved with the girls. Financial freedom was just around the corner and our vision was almost fully realized.

As good as everything looked on the outside, there was trouble brewing at home. The sexual tension that existed between Hubby and I was at an all-time high. Our fighting about it was me attempting to find a mid-point – a center where I could feel comfortable but it just wasn’t close enough to meet him. We didn’t know how to fight well and our fights were often verbally abusive – although I couldn’t give back as much as I got; I just didn’t have the vocabulary. I gave up time after time, in a mass of tears, once – huddled in a corner, on the floor, as I wrapped my arms around my legs and felt my spirit drift away.

Spiritual Seeds

“Loving and energizing others is the best possible thing we can do for ourselves.”      ― James Redfield

There were some genuinely good times in the next couple of years. I loved being a mother and watching my children grow. Francis started swimming for the high school and I would drag all three girls to each meet let them run around as I watched the few minutes (seconds really) each hour that he would be in the water. I remember being at a swim meet where people were cheering for some kid named Frank and I asked which boy that was. They looked back at me with a strange face, “um, yours?” I felt dumb. My little Francis had grown into a Frank. Today, when any of us talk about him, the time frame is clearly referenced by our use of Frank or Francis. In the context of this writing – they are one in the same. He grew tall (standing at 6’8” today) and would intimidate all the other swimmers on the block. As a freshman, he would come in last every. single. time. By his senior year, he would place first in every event. It was an amazing transition and I was a proud mama.

They all grew too fast as any parent knows and I attempted to enjoy every minute. Some of my fondest memories come from this time period as I experienced their perfect inquisitiveness and joyful exploration of the world. Each one of them occupied a special part of my heart and there were times I thought it would explode with love. There were times too – being perfectly honest – that I thought I would go crazy with the noise and occasional chaos that four children can generate in one household.

Hubby and I were on cruise control. In an effort to meet people and make local friends, I used my entrepreneurial energy to begin a chapter of MOMS Club in the area. It’s a national organization but there wasn’t anything like it regionally. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who needed friends; over 75 women showed up to that first meeting (with their kids) – it was mayhem!! It turned out to be a wonderful venue for many of the things that were important to me. We organized play groups, mom’s night out, a book club, and outings for our kiddos. Some of the best friends I’ve had were people I met through my affiliation there. As the girls started school, I became active in the PTA and coupled with continued church responsibilities, I was a busy gal. I was unmindful of the demands pulling my attention away from Hubby. He was better at gently prodding me back into awareness most of the time but I was still challenged at how to balance my life in a way that satisfied both of our needs.

It seemed to me that whenever something took my attention away from him as a direct focus, he would become very needy sexually. It was as if that was the only way he could communicate with me and I was unaware. All I experienced was another requirement, another ‘thing’ on my list that had to be completed before I could end my day. I never felt there was a consideration for me or of me, sexually speaking – not in the context of pleasure – but of desire or need. It didn’t matter what I wanted in this regard. I developed the understanding that if I wanted to do what satisfied my needs ‘outside’ of home (i.e., Mom’s Club, friendships, etc.), then I first had to satisfy HIS needs in the bedroom. It became a negotiation for me. If I came home after a book club meeting or a girls’ night out I knew he would be waiting and wanting – expecting. It was easier for me to simply accommodate him; he got what he wanted and I got what I wanted. Cruise Control.

Someone introduced me to a new book, a novel that presented an existential tenet that reminded me of the teachings of SAGE two decades prior. There was something there that I empirically understood as truth somewhere in my soul. It was The Celestine Prophecy, a novel by James Redfield. It’s a story – a work of fiction based on Eastern & New Age philosophies that highlight ideas about coincidence, energy, and love in ways that make complete sense in my mind and fill gaps of my traditional religious teaching. Its spiritual ideology spoke to me in such a way that I became aware of a profound hunger for a richer understanding of the nontraditional.

I was reminded of a conversation that I had with my one of my brothers’ years back… an esoteric discussion of ‘what if’. What if our conventional understanding of biblical teachings is too literal? What if customary beliefs about God are actually too restrictive and confining? What if science and faith can truly coexist without contradiction? I became curious and began questioning everything I had been taught. I partitioned off other parts of my heart where things didn’t make sense and focused my mental energy on thinking about my faith and how it manifested in my worldview.

I began to look at and understand coincidences – those things that seem happenstance but may indeed offer clues or knowledge about our lives, our future. I recognized a series of experiences that I had interpreted as serendipity or randomness but when I looked closer, I could see purpose, and even perhaps – glances into my future. Of course, those were in retrospect but it was impressive when considered across a broad spectrum. It spoke to the -then new- science which is immensely intriguing to me. In fact, I once decided I could teach myself quantum physics, at least enough so that I could hold an intelligent conversation. After all – isn’t that part of the beauty of the internet??  I researched a good place to start and began to read. After the introduction, the only words I could comprehend were … of, than, why, and how.  My academic inquiry into particle theory lasted all of five minutes. Regardless, I was piqued and captivated with these alternative spiritual avenues and continued to pursue my curiosities.

I began to look at my life in new ways – seeking to honor and accept all the challenges I faced. I embraced the people in my world, including Hubby. I tried to merge my religious teachings with the broader spiritual information that I was being introduced to. I conceded that he was in my life for a reason and that I needed to make the best of it. I vowed again, to be my best self, a better wife and mother, a more conscientious friend, sibling, and daughter.

Crippling Questions

One thing you can’t hide – is when you’re crippled inside.” — John Lennon

The moment of Dee’s admission is burned into my memory as clearly as if it happened yesterday, almost as brilliantly as my memory of watching Rocky fall backward after electricity conducted in his hands. I remember what I was wearing and I recall the short walk back to my van. I vaguely recollect the phone conversations I made between her house and mine. I remember sitting in the rocking chair and holding my new baby, only two weeks old, wondering how the hell I was going to take care of her.

There is a compassionate numbness that engulfs our consciousness during times of extreme pain as if to protect our hearts from literally exploding and poisoning our bloodstream with heartbreak. It serves a distinct purpose as it allows us to function mechanically, doing what needs to be done, bearing our responsibilities. I was a mother with four children, three of them under five years of age. I had obligations and I felt unable to crumble in the way that I wanted. I would have preferred to melt into my bed and merge into selfish dreams of an easier life.

I don’t remember details of that day after I returned home. I have no recollection of where Hubby was or where he went, only that I could not or would not look at him. I don’t recall where the children were or who exactly was caring for them. It could have been Francis, maybe I mustered through it. I know it was a summer afternoon and I can see – in my mind’s eye – where I was sitting when my mother came in that day. She came back for me, to take me away, or to help me, or to save me… she was there, and as I did so many years prior when my world fell apart the first time, I again buried my head in her lap and sobbed until every tear had fallen.

It’s such a cliché to say that I was heartbroken but when you are physically aware of an ache there, in your chest where your life force exists, what else is there to say? My heart hurt. I had allowed myself to love again and even though I had been warned, sign after sign, I was unprepared for the reality of deceit. I had been in such deep denial regarding both the man I married and the friend I thought I had made. Pictures flooded my brain, over and over of the times we were all together. I saw things in my remembering that I had missed the first time around. Oh how stupid I felt! I went through it all again and again, trying to decipher when and where there was time and opportunity. It was right there in front of me – daring me to notice and their intentionality of it made me sick – physically ill. My body ached; my stomach was nauseous, the muscles around my ribs hurt from sobbing, and my throat was sore from extended bouts of crying. These feelings of loss were so familiar, different factors but excruciatingly similar.

I’m not sure where the experience of this affair ended and memories of Rocky’s death began. The pain I was feeling now punctured old wounds of loss from a decade earlier and I was reminded of feelings that had been buried as hope for a new life grew. This time, it was much more complicated. Instead of one child – I had four. I was eleven years older and still having not finished college, my employability was wrapped completely in a business that WE operated. I had allowed myself to love and dream and hope and plan…

I wondered where, when, how, and why… the ‘why’ just wouldn’t leave me alone. I could almost understand why Dee was attracted to my man, he was handsome enough, charming, and always helpful. Her husband was gone so often and she felt alone but why ‘my’ guy?? I wondered how she could have sex with him and then look me in the eye the next day, smile with me, laugh with me, or pretend with me. Was it the same kind of denial that I had operated under? Was it a disassociation, a disconnect from reality that merely offered her an opportunity to survive? How did she reconcile her heart? Was she ashamed, guilty, or sorry? I didn’t even know if she was sorry. After I realized she was affirming my fear I stopped paying attention to her words… was she sorry? Does she have any idea of what I was going through? Isn’t there some kind of honor code that women are supposed to adhere to? Or friends at least?

I couldn’t turn off my mind. It kept me awake with silent questioning; constant and unrelenting wondering thoughts and images that promoted more of the same. Hubby had tried talking with me but I wasn’t having it. Now, I felt ready to ask him about some of the details that were rolling around in my head. It’s extremely curious that people who have been injured by infidelity want particulars as if somehow knowing all of the pertinent information will make it sensible or easier to digest. I felt as if I needed answers – if there were any – to my questions; I called Hubby.

He had been trying to reach out to me but getting through my mother was no small feat. When I finally called him, he answered on the first ring. Essentially what I heard was that he didn’t have any answers as to ‘why’ – “it just happened”. He insisted that he hadn’t intended to hurt me, that it was a mistake, an accident (doesn’t really fit the description of accident but I was listening). He was apologetic, sad, and more humble than I had ever imagined he could be. ‘It’ happened a few times, blah… blah… blah…

I have no evidence for the details I heard and I wasn’t sure then if they were true anymore than I know for sure today. When people – anyone – breaches trust so violently, there is rarely a tale told that is fully, completely believed going forward. It might be the truth and then again – it may not.  It’s never again really clear if the individual is covering his or her ass or being openly vulnerable. At some point, the injured person simply acquiesces to what ‘feels’ like the truth or something that kind of resonates internally. You learn to live with ‘uncertainty’.

Hubby was full of remorse and wanted to see the children. He was gentle when he asked if he could come by the house to spend time with the kids and talk if I felt like it. We scheduled some time when mom – who was still there caring for us – could standby.

Photo credit: Ksayer1 via Foter.com / CC BY-SA      

Well That’s Awkward

“The most confused you will ever get is when you try to convince your heart and spirit of something your mind knows is a lie.”  – Shannon L. Alder

The only ‘complaint’ I had (I use this word deliberately with the definition of ‘expressing displeasure or unhappiness’) was my inability to satisfy Hubby’s libido. I found myself reaching way past my comfort zones in an effort to be creative and imaginative when it came to our sex life. I tried creating some outrageous fantasies that sounded at least a tiny bit believable to my brain… it was the only way that I could be convincing. My definition of fantasy is something that is ‘imaginary’ – it exists in a world outside the realm of reality – and belongs there. Fantasizing felt somewhat safe assuming it fit that definition and I allowed myself to wander the spectrum of sexuality. Some things were tantalizing…

It wasn’t yet a ‘thing’ to openly discuss casual girl on girl encounters and yet they were quite common in every porn flick we ever watched. I admit to some broad curiosity but I took the ‘fantasy’ to a new level and vocalized it in detail on an occasion or two. You would think that I had insisted on manifesting an experience by the enthusiastic response it spawned. For weeks, I fielded questions about how I would go about making it happen and/or did I know of someone that I was attracted to. I easily became frustrated with the questions as it was all imaginary in my mind and should have stayed that way. The frustration grew to disgust with the vigor of interest from Hubby and the relentless prodding for more details; it felt like an interrogation. I became sorry I ever went down that road.

It seemed that Hubby was particularly interested in creating encounters with ‘others’. One evening while entertaining at home, a gentleman approached me and made the comment [modified to reduce crudeness] “I’m told you have great body parts”. I almost dropped my drink and looked at him with a dumbstruck expression, unable to formulate sound. “I’d love to see for myself”, he smiled. I was nauseated. The room grew hot and black. I wanted to run but couldn’t see where to go, I didn’t know how to get away. I was pregnant for christ’s sake! So many thoughts were spinning around in my mind and nothing stopped long enough for me to have clarity. I turned away and left the room with nothing more than a grunted sigh.

I found Hubby and asked him what the F*** he had said to that man. He told me and laughed. He was drinking. He had been consuming a lot of alcohol lately. There was no reasoning or arguing with him as long as the beer was in control. I left everyone and everything and went to bed. I wanted to lock the door – part of me didn’t trust anything or anyone in that house that night. I didn’t sleep, rather I laid there and thought about all the times things that had gone down like this. All the times that I had failed to satisfy Hubby, his needs, his desires. It’s as if they were inexhaustible, limitless. How did I work with this? I was profoundly embarrassed to be approached by some random guy who had intimate knowledge about my body. It felt like an immense violation of my privacy, of our love, of respect. My nerves were on fire as I imagined the confrontation this was going to produce.

When I was finally able to address the situation, I was faced with comments that completely invalidated everything I was feeling. “What’s the big deal” he asked. “I was complimenting you”, he said. “I’m proud of my wife”, he boasted. I didn’t feel heard, or validated, or valued. I felt cheap and trashy. There was something about my feelings that implied they were small and inconsequential. The ‘proud’ and ‘compliment’ words were louder and more attention grabbing than my feelings. There was a shift in my spirit that adjusted Hubby’s words to have more value than my emotions. I didn’t notice it then – it just happened. His language unzipped some nefarious part of me that needed ‘proud’ and ‘compliment’ more than I needed self-respect and dignity. Those attributes became microscopic and cold in my soul. They could not cohabitate in the world in which I was living.

I didn’t know what to do with this event. In my mind it spoke poorly of my husband so I didn’t want to tell anyone. On some level I was ashamed of my reaction – or complete lack of one – but it was predominately sub-conscious. I convinced myself that it was actually a complimentary incident and used it as evidence that the man I married really loved me. I may have told Michele and Dee some version of what had transpired but I’m pretty sure it was presented in a positive light, without disparaging commentary. I kept the rest to myself.

My mom had become one of my best friends. We talked almost daily for a minute or two and she spent extended time with us when she was able – mostly on the way to or from her parents’ home as they were aging and mom dedicated a ton of time to them – a whole summer at a time. It was mom who first brought to my attention the amount of beer Hubby consumed on a regular basis. She spent a week at a time with us and was known for her observational abilities. He had always been a drinker; we both were. I however, did not enjoy being drunk. Ever since my 25th birthday and the probable alcohol poisoning I experienced that week, I monitored myself pretty well. Not to say that I haven’t overindulged since then, it just wasn’t with any regularity. I guess I had become accustomed to Hubby’s consumption patterns. He was never loud or obnoxious when intoxicated, in fact he became loving and gentle; quite vulnerable actually – a trait I coveted with him. I started keeping tabs on how much beer disappeared and with what regularity.

Spring came and found us rearranging sleeping quarters to prepare a nursery for baby #4. We spent time with Dee, Tom and all the kids, picnicking, dinners, and game nights. We came home from an amusement park one day – all of us but in two cars – with plans to gather again for dinner. Hubby asked me to call Dee and tell her to “bring all the leftover beer” when they come over. He didn’t ask me to ASK her – I heard him say TELL her. It stirred my insides. I wasn’t comfortable ‘telling’ her to do us a favor. They came – she brought the beer. I was seven months pregnant so I wasn’t drinking but beer was flowing otherwise. The four of us sat outside on the patio, gathered around the table that I had spray painted green earlier in preparation for summer, and the kids played in the yard. We had eaten and we were now simply enjoying the great late spring twilight. It was a relaxed evening, one of hundreds we had experienced throughout the years and I was having fun. I was sitting in a chair against the house so that my vantage point was the whole patio and yard beyond. During a spirited string of conversation, I glanced down – below the surface of the table – and observed quite accidentally, Hubby’s foot rubbing the length of Dee’s leg.

*some names have been changed in the interest of privacy

Little Hurricane

“Don’t despair: despair suggests you are in total control and know what is coming. You don’t – surrender to events with hope.” – Alain de Botton

Our little family was running on auto-pilot. My twin sisters took turns spending the summer with us to care for baby Sara and Francis while I took my Series 7 licensing classes and exams. By then, they were turning 16 and ‘playing house’ was fun. It was great to have them around – what new mother doesn’t dream about having a built in mother’s helper? Hubby and I – always in unison while planning – were redesigning our business plan and imagining an environment that offered maximum flexibility while also maximized income potential. With me as an administrative principle, it left him available to optimally utilize his talents. It seemed like a match made in heaven – he got to be the brightest star in the constellation and I managed the sky.

I had given up trying to reconcile how I felt about our physical life. The only communication skills on that front existed in the form of lingerie, toys, and erotica. If our encounters went to a place that I wasn’t ‘comfortable’ with, I simply went out of my body. I became another person very much like my time in high school when I adopted a character in a play and presented that personality to the audience. She looked like me, talked like me, and laughed like me but she didn’t think like me. In fact, she didn’t think. She didn’t have emotional feelings, just the ability to experience physical things, most of which ‘felt’ good. She rather enjoyed the carnal reactions of those nightly encounters. That is unless ‘I’ was exhausted or menstruating, in which case there was a perceived expectation to ‘make it quick’ or provide pleasure, which ever was more appropriate. In those times it was harder for ‘me’ to escape and then the emotions would flood my psyche with feelings of disrespect, insensitiveness, and/or distrust.

If ever I attempted to communicate these feelings, I experienced rebuttal in the form of disparaging comments, criticism, or complete discredit for what I expressed. It seems that I ‘was naïve’ and unaware of what ‘most people did’. It was always pointed out that my body said one thing and my words said another. I didn’t know how to argue that point and it always ended with a passionate seduction that took the form of intense physical pleasure. I resigned myself to the understanding that ‘this’ was love.

In October, my dad died. My rock, my foundation, the man who always had my back – died suddenly. He had called one morning to find me busily preparing for a conference trip to Florida. I chatted briefly but told him I’d call next week after we returned and I’d catch up. I never got the chance. We were only in Orlando for a few hours when we got the call and by the next afternoon, I was back home, repacking and flying out to Cincinnati. The second funeral I had ever attended. One – two. Two funerals in my life so far and they were the most important men in my world.

That year we spent Christmas in Virginia with my mom and step-dad. My brother was working down in Atlanta by then and came home as well. Our other sister lived in the area and of course, the twins were still at home, in high school. The whole family was there and it was good. It was baby Sara’s first Christmas and we all spoiled her with attention. I missed my family. Long distance telephone calls were still expensive and 250 miles is not a Sunday dinner distance. We drove down fairly often. We had a big ‘ole conversion van in those days with a five-inch television in the back. The only VHS movie we really had was Top Gun and Francis would watch it once on the way down and at least once on the way back. It got to the point that Hubby and I would sit in the front seat acting out the parts of Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis – having memorized the parts by osmosis.

On the way home after Christmas I was sitting in the front seat talking to Hubby about my emotional goodbye just hours earlier. I was still feeling rather funky and complaining about my body’s aches and pains although I was just 32 that summer. Quite suddenly, it occurred to me that I was late for my period and with some thought, realized I was three weeks overdue. Baby Sara was in the back seat only eight months old. Oh my goodness… holy cow… I think I’m pregnant.

…….

It was confirmed and I had an adjustment period. I was still changing several diapers a day and now there would be another little behind needing wiped, bathed, and patted. My body changed rapidly. Our wombs are like balloons, the doctor explained, after being blown up a few times, it just kind of remembers which shape to take. This new baby was due in September which meant all of my maternity clothes were going to be the wrong season. That felt like a minor inconvenience compared to the anxiety I felt about pregnancy in general since my last one was so full of marital discord. I was quick to remember the emotional turmoil that I experienced less than two years prior and I went ‘on guard’ to protect my heart.

It was rather unnecessary as it did not get repeated (which, flipped the switch on my wariness scale and left me feeling unsettled about the fears I had experienced then). This pregnancy, in fact, was completely different. I felt happy. Life at home took on a comfortable routine and I didn’t gain much weight; thankfully because I still had 25 pounds of baby Sara weight left over.  I only looked pregnant from the side for most of the term. I experienced a sense of contentment for the first time in a long while.

The twins again took turns staying with us that summer. They were 17 and turning into fantastic young women, looking at colleges and anticipating their future. They were each little mothers and delighted in making sure Sara was a baby fashion icon, adorned (as was insanely popular in the 1990’s) in matchy-matchy top, bottoms, socks, shoes, and headband. We have dozens of photographs from that summer documenting the current toddler styles as introduced by Gymboree and Baby Gap. I loved having them around and was eternally grateful for their help. As a two-year-old, Sara was talking up a storm, repeating her vocabulary on demand as we, very proud parents, put her on display for family. It was a personality trait that blossomed through the years as she always created some kind of dance or skit to be performed before bedtime.

Labor Day weekend was approaching and we would be losing our teen help because she had to go back to Virginia to start her Senior year of High School. On the Thursday morning before, I woke early to discover that my water had broken. I wasn’t exactly laying in a pool, but soaked enough that a shower was necessary when I noticed contractions had begun. I quickly cleaned up and we headed to the hospital where again, the doctor opted to induce my labor. I experienced a panicked memory of the last induction and the intensity of it so we agreed to take it slow. The Pitocin rate was reduced and I settled in for what turned out to be a manageable but long day of labor.

The pregnancy had been so completely different than the one I endured with Sara that we were convinced the baby would be a boy. So much so that we only had one name chosen; Phillip. By 4 pm, we had another daughter. A daughter with no name. We had thought about Erin Nicole or Alexandra Nicole but couldn’t decide. We decided to sleep on it and see what we thought after holding her for a few hours. Hurricane Emily had just decimated Cape Hatteras and many of the babies in the hospital were named Emily that year and while we didn’t name her Emily, she did somehow get nicknamed Little Hurricane. Finally, when they pressured us to choose, we dropped the Nicole and took our little Erin Alexandra home.

We were now five.

Loving Contradiction

“What women rightly long for is spiritual and moral initiative from a man, not spiritual and moral domination.”  ~ John Piper

We were members of a Lutheran church not far from our home that was undergoing a major transition, moving toward a more spiritually inclusive, contemporary practice. The pastor had returned from some mission work in Central America where he had experienced a transformative epiphany. He formed a men’s group and invited Hubby to join him. In addition, small home groups were established to encourage the personal development of the Holy Spirit within our congregation. We were traditional Lutherans – I was a traditional Catholic, practicing to become a Lutheran – and we were transforming into contemporary Christians. We were becoming comfortable with waving our arms in the air during melodic praise, vocalizing a random ‘amen’ when something poignant was spoken, and dictating prayers beyond those that had been written for us by saints.

*no disrespect intended here, simply pointing out that this behavior was ‘non-traditional’ for both of us.

Something inside of me was stirring. Occasionally, I experienced a deeply intrinsic ‘knowing’- a sensation that I was encountering a sublimate and perfect truth. It was as if I was looking intently into the eyes of love and acknowledging its abyssal source. Those moments were few and far between but they were intense and they pierced me. I was hungry for more and began searching for ways to satisfy my appetite.

Something was happening in Hubby as well. I can’t speak as to what it actually was but I saw an awakening in him too. I’m not sure what actually woke up but I know he was experiencing challenges. In many ways, it appeared he was having a spiritual revolution, a burgeoning emotional war, but it seemed to be drawing him closer to family, to me. I was not complaining. In my mind, the closer he was to God, the closer he would be to me, to his commitment of marriage, and of our home.

It was, that the Pastor responsible for this metamorphosis evolved a bit too much for the comfort of more traditional congregants and he was encouraged to find another flock to lead. He gathered those of us who had made the deep water dive with him and we formed a new entity; a church attuned to Scripture and spiritual growth more fundamentally than any other religious experience I’d yet had. I loved much about this church. I really enjoyed the fellowship, the music, the intimacy within our community. Hubby and I were both on the new board, leading home groups, and on different worship/leadership committees. We were busy. It felt great to be a part of something new and growing, in many ways, as we were giving birth to our daughter, we were also giving birth to a renewed faith and commitment.

Consequently, my prayers – frankly, all of my spiritual energy was being directed into making my marriage reverent. The Pastor’s wife guided us ladies in the art of submission. “It was God’s will”, she said, “that we submit our desires to our man. That we trust him to provide for us, not only in the material dimension, but also in the emotional. She explained that submission was about TRUST”. I was already suspicious about trusting my man. He had lied to me about smoking, he had let me down about quitting, he was suspect about why things had changed so dramatically… I was not very open to the concept of trusting. In fact, I was downright stubborn about it. In every single prayer I prayed, I sought guidance to find, honor, and embody submissiveness in the way that we were being taught. I struggled and developed impatience, frustration, and ultimately anger that I was being led to trust someone that didn’t feel ‘trust worthy’. I felt as though I was failing.

In the interim, I was reading the bible. Peter, Colossians, Ephesians, Corinthians, Timothy, and Matthew. They all reinforced the idea that if I was Holy, my husband would follow suit. I ‘heard’ that it was my job – in my submissiveness – to honor my husband and my God, regardless. There was an incredible conflict in my heart over this proposition. I was experiencing God in a way that felt comforting and beautiful yet the idea that I was to submit myself completely to my man in all of the things he asked of me was contradicting my heart. Our pastor tried in vain to help me settle this internal dispute but it just wasn’t to be reconciled. Ultimately, the banter in my mind was too much and I resigned myself to how I understood the concept of submission – just do what he asks.

Frankly, I wasn’t very good at it. I have control issues and the concept of total surrender was unable to take root in my psyche at large. Instead, I opted to surrender in the bedroom. His desires became the focus of my attention. If he asked me to wear high heels, I wore high heels. If he wanted to watch porn, we watched porn. If he wanted to talk dirty, I talked dirty. (Well, actually that part I had to practice… I bought Forum magazines to learn the proper vocabulary.)

What became the most problematic for me was the discrepancy in my own mind about what constituted ‘sin’ in terms of sexual behavior. On one hand I recalled the Catholic teaching that Rocky and I had participated in that taught whatever happened between a husband and wife and was consensual, was honoring your love for one another and therefore, honoring God. Then there were the thoughts about respecting women and the line that separated disrespectful behavior. Where was that line? And more thoughts about what was inherently authentic for me – as a woman. I didn’t have a broad repertoire of sexual interests necessarily although I enjoyed physical pleasure to be sure. I was curious about many things but experienced a very blurred line between the limits of my personal desire and the need for me to submit to desires of my husband which encompassed a much larger, comprehensive, and broad set of variables.

I experienced a rather continuous flow of antagonistic chatter in my mind. Internal criticism and chiding coupled with self-talk that pushed for conformity and compliance so that my marriage could be free of conflict. In the end, I consciously moved myself into compliance via the least resistant avenue. I convinced myself that I was working to be a better wife even if it meant that I was not listening to my inner voice. I found myself focusing on meeting the needs of others over my own once again and persuaded my heart that it was in the name of my faith.

Day by day I was actively engaged in promoting the vision of myself, of us, and of our family as blooming Christians, moving closer to God in our tithing, being prayerful, and committed to building the Church. Night by Night I felt a contradiction tugging at my soul.