Thursday, February 28, 2013

valuing what's important

Man, what a life.

Based on the rest of the content of this blog since August, you probably think I mean I'm bursting with gratitude and in a state of disbelief of just how awesome my day-to-day existence is. Well, you're right.


You see, over the last little while, I have somehow turned into this ferocious person! Overly sensitive, easily offended, often critical, teary, angry, blah blah blah blah. For weeks. Maybe months, even.

I'm sure it's a combination of factors. Getting used to marriage as a life instead of an idea. Spending so much time with Chris, who, while wonderful, just operates differently than I do. Needing to learn more communication skills. Having someone who I know loves me know matter what and trying not to let that make me lazy. Learning, very slowly, how to give up perfectionism. Wishing desperately for spring and sunshine and warmth!

Regardless of why, we had a really silly bout of conflict this morning. It wouldn't even have been a "conflict" if I would just figure out how to explain myself calmly already. Instead it's exasperated sighs and rolled eyes and raised blood pressure and "to me, that feels an awful lot like an accusation, Chris," even when it's totally not. Ugh. I want to facepalm just thinking about it.

What brought me to tears though, was realizing I'd messed up, again. Once again, I'd gotten upset about something really stupid. "I used to never get mad at anybody," I told Chris tearfully. "I never wanted to be the wife or mom whose family was like 'you'd better to what you're supposed to, or she's gonna get ticked off!' ...And somehow, that's exactly what I've become."

You'd probably be crying too, saying things like that.

"What do I do, Chris?" I asked in the end, tilting my chin up to look up at him out of tear-filled eyes. My husband, the gentle, intrepid soul that he is, just held me for a few minutes. When he began to talk, his calmness and rationality formed an anchor beneath my stormy emotions.

Somehow, no matter how often I get annoyed with him over abominably stupid things, he always reassures me, "I just want you to be happy."

I feel the same way about him, of course. I wouldn't care if he earned minimum wage so long as he was a job he loved and he could spend time with our family. (Grad school be danged!) I love him. So I want to treat him well. I cook for him, even put it in cute containers so he can bring it for lunches. I (mostly) keep our house tidy instead of being knee-deep in chaos. That's something that I want to do for him -- even if it triggers every perfectionist tendency and makes me want to snarl, apparently.

But here's the kicker: that's not what he wants. We could eat cereal in a rowboat floating on a sea of clutter, and he'd be fine, so long as he had a cheerful wife. And if I give him something that he doesn't want at the expense of something he does want, then who exactly am I showing love to? Not him, though that's my goal. Just me.

In a way, I'm really just contributing to my image, not to the actual functionality of our home. "Wow, that Sara Hagmann, she sure keeps her house nice." "Yeah, and she cooks breakfast eeeeevery day." "And she is always so happy to volunteer!" "And dresses nicely every day, too." Yeah, well, maybe that's true, but she's also kind of a brat.

I prayed recently for help in valuing the things that are actually important. So really, this is just an answer to prayer -- and so is my husband. I don't know how he manages to reason through any anger he has at what I do, instead of needing to say it so it's not building bigger and bigger in his head. I don't know how he manages to be so nice to me every time I break down in tears. Which is, you know, every day.

All I know is that I'm grateful he gets it. That being patient with each other, as we learn to be like Christ, is exactly what we signed up for. So that's exactly what we (TRY TO) do every day.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

a quiet week

This morning, it's raining, hard and fast. I'd miss home if it wasn't so slushy, more like a mixed drink spilled on the ground than the unadulterated floods I'm accustomed to in the South.

I'm intentionally having a quiet week. Recent days have been very crowded, and it definitely shows in the accumulated clutter. But Chris had midterms last week, meaning that a lot of my time was spent trying to keep his chin up. Sometimes I'd get impatient with him, fed up with encouraging a change that I couldn't see right now. Then I'd be sad about how easy it is to get annoyed about little things, and suddenly he'd be the one comforting me. I'm sure grateful for that man.

Last week we also helped some of our friends move to a new apartment. It's in the same complex, but with another bedroom which they will set up as a nursery for the new baby. As we walked box after box across the parking lot, I couldn't help feeling grateful and sad. Ned and Amanda don't know anybody here but us. They would have asked more people to help, but there was no one else to ask.

When Chris and I move in August, to an apartment that will be more affordable and closer to campus, I anticipate we will have more help than we actually need. In part, that's because we're renting all of our furniture, except the bookshelves we assembled and our filing cabinet. (I always said the first items of furniture I would own would be for books and papers, so this makes me tremendously happy. I am such a nerd.) Everything else, like dishes and clothes, will just get tucked away in boxes. I unpacked it all by myself. I could probably move it by myself again.

But I won't have to, even with Chris still putting in a full day's work each day that week. I will be very surprised if we don't get an outpouring of help from the members of our congregation. We're a family, made up of a hundred or so families, each person looking for ways to look after the next. True, we're not always good about that (I'm sure not,) but in a "family" that size, someone is bound to be able to see and fill the need.

That's part of the reason that this week is a quiet week. I could keep giving and giving, while the dishes pile up and the dust bunnies proliferate, and I take less and less pride in my home. I've learned from experience, though, that I more joyfully contribute when I've worked on taming a little of my own chaos first. Not perfect, not pristine, but manageable.

I sense this year will be a very busy one. In a couple of weeks, my in-laws will be visiting us. I'll spend a week and a half of May visiting a dear handful of women that I have known longest and loved most. A week later, we're anticipating a visit from my dad, and I couldn't be more excited. In July, Chris will be in Italy for a conference, where he'll present a paper to basically every expert in his field. Then we'll move in August.

With all of these exciting, wonderful, and demanding things piling up, it's nice to know that it really is okay for me to sit on my couch and write a blog post. It's okay for me to tell the sister missionaries that I won't be available until the end of the week, and spend the time cleaning my house instead. It's nice to know that my worth doesn't depend on how much I get done. And it's amazing to have a husband who knows just what scripture to suggest so the Spirit can remind me of that.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

my valentine

I've been doing a lot of thinking this week.

Not only because Chris and I have been married for six months (see, Hollywood? it IS possible! ;) ) Not only because Valentine's Day is tomorrow, and Chris will be my very first (and totally permanent!) Valentine.

But also because not so long ago, my life was so starkly different.

Since I was a teenager, I have been more excited -- and more anxious -- about getting married than most people I knew. I always had a crush on some boy or another, trying to envision what life would be like with him always around, or at very least trying to practice the kind of thinking and feeling that my future wonderful marriage would require. Cindy can tell you it was awfully naive, and downright unhealthy from time to time.

It only got worse as I settled into adulthood. The impatience I'd felt as a teenager to establish my own family and home stuck with me, even though I was a little embarrassed by it. Years went by without making the kind of connection I desperately wanted. I wondered if my urgent desires, no matter how I tried to surpress them, left other people overwhelmed or unsettled. The impatience deepened into anguish, and I felt very, very alone.

Everything changed a year and a half ago, though I had no idea at the time. I was soaring on this updraft of confidence and enthusiasm that the Lord and I had fought really hard to gain, and then this good-looking, mellow, intelligent guy casually introduced himself. I absolutely snatched him up. I knew what I wanted, and if he wasn't okay with that, he would darn well have to let me know.

And then he was okay with it. Sure, there was a brief time when he needed to figure some things out, especially about himself, but overall, Chris has always loved my passionate nature.

Marriage has made me try to rediscover that part of myself, in a way. The anguish associated with being single -- the hopeless sense of loneliness and inadequacy -- defined so much of me, and now, it's gone. I certainly still have to work to retain hope. I miss my friends often. I still don't feel good enough sometimes. But the depth of that emptiness and fear and frustration has been filled up. Instead, I get a seemingly endless supply of love and patience and simple companionship from a certain blue-eyed man. Instead of just being crazy, I get to be crazy about him.

Without the constant preoccupation of singleness blaring through my mind, I've realized a few new things about myself. I can be impatient, resentful, and proud. Sometimes I have a spirit of entitlement. And I really don't love cleaning my apartment every day. (I'm sure you're not surprised.)

My awareness of these shortcomings has definitely sharpened in the months since our wedding. However, my reservoir for dealing with them has deepened exponentially because of Chris. The flow of forgiveness and affection and understanding into my life is already changing me for the better. Chris' deep love for me helps me to wait, to have mercy, to be humble. Because of him, I can reallocate my passions to conjure hope rather than anxiety.

In short, just having Chris around teaches me about the joy inherent in the Atonement.

And while I'm excited to celebrate Valentine's Day with my husband, things like that give me cause to celebrate our love every day.

Friday, February 1, 2013

food poisoning

I made fajitas yesterday, in part because it's one of Chris' favorite meals of all time, and also because it sounded like the perfect opportunity to use up some homemade psuedo-refried beans that had been in the fridge for a bit. (Black beans, salsa, spices, blender. Yum.)

I heated up the batch in the microwave and put a generous spoonful on my plate. I took a bite, swallowed, and did it again. And then I stopped. There was something not quite right about them.

I sniffed the bowl. I looked at Chris. I sniffed the bowl again and with a sigh, scooped out the beans into the trashcan.

"What's up?" Chris asked.

I shook my head. "I just don't trust them."

Rightfully so, too. I went to bed with a stomach ache and an hour later was up again. While I could give you details so TMI that they'd make a Catholic cross herself, I'll just leave it at this - my insides really, really wanted to be my outsides. All. Night. Long.

But this blog post is not about how nasty I've felt since 10pm yesterday. The impact that food poisoning has on one's day pales in comparison to my super-hero husband, who got up and took care of me without having to be asked.

He held me as I gave him the full details on my night, poor guy. He talked me into trying to drink a little water. He went to the store to get Gatorade for me, and even thought to ask what flavor I wanted. He sympathetically endured the continued sounds of my heaving. He promised to come home early from school, and probably would have stayed with me all day if he hadn't already rescheduled his research meeting twice. He even dragged the couch across the apartment so I could lay down nearer to the bathroom and be in the same room with him. 

He's so often grateful for how well I take care of him, making dinner, keeping the apartment tidy, 101 random errands. That's sweet of him, but puh-lease:

I totally married up.