Hey friends. Take your shoes off. Grab a quilt. Pour yourself a cup of tea. We’re hiding out in the tent today because Monday. It’s okay though because our Bec is back. She’s baked some scones and lit some candles and she’ll be taking care of us today. Happy reading.
Silver and Gold, by Rebecca Schoepf.
So here I am. Shovel in hand. Trench half-dug. A few holes in my feet shot by my own weapon, but hopefully they won’t get gangrene. A few grazes on my partner’s cheek after I have clumsily struck out. We are weathered. We stink of our own body juices. But we are still together. And the kids are sleeping soundly in bed after another long exhausting day.
The kids, of course, are all that holds us together some days. At the same time, their instinctive neediness, their inability to give us two uninterrupted minutes alone, just for us, is also what’s prying us apart. When they are in the room, it’s all sun-drenched laughter and Kodak moments. But when they’re not in the room these days, it’s bone-tiredness. It’s little annoyances and lazy forgiveness and holding our tongues and picking our battles because it’s just too damned hard to squeeze more emotion out of this threadbare rag.
The priest at our wedding gave an unusual sermon. He said, “Talking is silver. Not talking is gold.” At the time, I thought he was crazy. I thought: no. I am gonna sit here in my pretty white dress and smile serenely because I know everyone is watching me and you are allegedly the Voice of God Made Human and what not, but no, Mr Priest Man. No. It might state Roman Catholic on my birth certificate and everything but in actual fact, sir, I belong to the Church of Talk. Discussion is my religion. In times of good and times of sorrow and times of anger and everything in between. Talking is always better than not talking. Always.
At least, that is what I thought then. But of course, in a marriage sense, I have come to see his point. Yes, picking your battles is wise. Choosing to just swipe up the four hundredth wet towel on the carpet and lob it at the laundry basket whilst humming Florence And The Machine is far better for one’s sanity and marital happiness than cursing under one’s breath and bottling up all that anger in anticipation of a Mount Vesuvius eruption later that day / week / month. But one cannot repeatedly hum Florence and The Machine without going a little crazy (believe me, I’ve been there). And if you constantly bite your tongue, it will start to bleed. I know, I know – confrontation is horrible. It feels uncomfortable and looks unattractive. And so we go to great lengths to avoid it. We deny it. We play it down. We go for a passive-aggressive approach. And we hope to heaven that these round-about ways of sending a message are getting received by our partner. And when they don’t, we suddenly skip points 4, 5, and 6 of the manual (“Talk”, “Say How You Feel”, “Express Discontentment in an Adult Manner”) and go straight to “Go Bat-Shit Crazy At Bewildered Partner”.
There has to be another way. We cannot expect our partners to telepathically know what we want. But nor should we have to frustratedly scream it after thinking it for weeks and wondering why they haven’t. got. it. yet. I’m talking about something between “to fight, or to bite one’s tongue”. Something I have decided to call Fighting Without Fighting. It’s something I am far from mastering – far from doing at all, in fact – but I have seen a glimpse of it on a distant horizon. On the surface it looks like normal talking, but its content is the stuff of fights. People are sharing their ugly wants, their brutally honest needs with each other, but in a way that doesn’t involve the slamming of doors or the pursing of lips and silent sulks that last for days.
This doesn’t just apply to our partners, of course. Positively confronting people and/or defending oneself is a talent possessed by few, but desired by many. It’s what makes that work colleague popular AND respected. It’s what you can teach your child, so they don’t get bullied – much less BE a bully – in the playground. It’s how you put those bitchy frenemies in their place without losing your cool. And I suspect it’s the secret behind those wrinkly smiley couples everyone aspires to be, who are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary.
I’m not going to claim I know how to do this. (If you wanted a ‘How To’ blog, sorry. Try one of those preachy home-schooling, extra-white-smiley mum blogs littering the Internet – they seem to have Life Worked Out.) But I am going to give this idea a half-decent shot. At the end of the next day in the trenches, I intend to put my shovel down and pick up two beers. And as we crack open those beers together, I am going to pick just one battle that is worth my breath. And then I am going to smile in advance, take a swig of my beer for Dutch courage, and open my mouth. Let’s see how it goes.
With a bit of persuading, Bec has started her own blog called Meet Me On A Mountaintop. She’s going to be contributing to this tent of ours from time to time (yay!), but if you want to read more of her work, go check her blog out and follow along. Love your work Bec. Thanks for giving us some time out today.