Recipe for a long-lasting marriage?

10502291_10100411439159813_3426369108432998954_n

This past weekend we left the hot side of the state and headed over the mountains to the HOT! side of the state for a little family reunion of sorts. Normally these family reunions are held in campground in Wenatchee, where my cousins spent every summer as kids, but this year it was a different occasion, so we held it at my parent’s/grandparent’s house, which happen to be next door to each other. We were celebrating my grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary, which should be a carefree time of celebration, but instead, emotions and tensions ran high…at least in my own mind and heart.

My relationship to my family is complicated for sure, but the thing that is hardest for me is the very black/white nature of their discussions on things, which is heavily influenced by their brand of evangelical Christianity. And I am not the kind of person that believes things I’m told without putting up a pretty good fight. I might be considered skeptical at best, cynical at worst. And I have the mouth of  a sailor and runaway facial expressions that let people know just exactly how much they’re annoying me without me even having to open my mouth. Maybe I sound like I’m bragging, but it’s not something I’m proud of, really. My sister’s laid back go-with-the-flow personality is one that I covet.

At any rate, this lovely celebration to highlight the fact that my grandparent’s have stayed married for 60 years was quite triggering for me. Not because I don’t think they’ve done an amazing job of staying married, but because in the daily life my family members seem to idolize this couple as the BE ALL END ALL of how relationships should be. And truthfully, on the actually 60th wedding anniversary day, I think it’s great to highlight the beautiful, the good, the inspiring. It’s in all the moments before and after that I wish my family could live in a little more of the grey. Because…honestly…my grandparents aren’t saints.

So when my aunt is giving her speech about how wonderful they are, I can’t help but sputter in my mind” BUT MY GRANDPA BEAT MY MOM WHEN SHE WAS A KID! BUT MY GRANDPA STRANGLED ME WHEN I WAS A KID AND MY DAD HAD TO PULL HIM OFF MY 3 YEAR OLD BODY! HE IS NOT A SAINT!” Of course I didn’t shout that out at the dinner table. But I wanted to. Because I think the celebration of 60 years should show that 60 years is not some fairytale. That it’s two very human people who hurt others, hurt themselves, loved others, made mistakes, tried hard, cried a lot, burned a lot of toast, spent a lot of time feeling depressed, maybe had some benign neglect, worked too hard, didn’t work hard enough…the list could go on and on and on (probably for 60 years, ya know?). They are not perfect. They are examples of a value of sticking with it when maybe they could have (or should have?) broken up years ago. I can celebrate with them that they have made it, that they chose a life and have lived in it, but I can’t pretend that their choice, that their personalities and struggles, have not also negatively affected people, you know? My grandma did pipe up with some of the more difficult things, saying stuff like “it was really hard for many years,” and that they are more softer now, more in love than ever before, so it was nice to have some acknowledgment of the imperfections on her part, but I wish that the others could really acknowledge that, too.

But the kicker was, my other aunt giving a speech, that said, “the only marriages that last 60 years are ones that are built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.” and I stopped listening at that point. Because, really? REALLY? I can give my aunt that my grandparent’s marriage is ‘built on Christ,’ because I have seen them actively use prayer and Bible study and going to church to inform their values and ways of relating to each other. But to dismiss the couples ALL AROUND THE WORLD who stay married for years and years and years and Jesus Christ has nothing to do with it.

Sigh.

I kept all of this mostly to myself, though I did make some snide remarks to my sister and her boyfriend under my breath. And spent a few hours late into the night processing my emotions with Boof about the whole thing. Because maybe I’m feeling unconsciously judged by their rules for how to make a marriage last. Certainly it has worked for my grandparents, but my marriage with Boof feels incredibly strong, even though the way we are operating within the context of what is even defined as marriage is so different than my grandparents. And even, maybe, our definition of what a good marriage is, does not include 60 years, if it is going to hurt one or the other or cause more conflict than splitting up. But here were are, only a mere 6 years into the whole matrimony thing, and I feel like we can make it to 60 without trampling on other people in the process. Openness. Acceptance. Encouragement of the individual. Playfulness. Protection. Listening. Sharing. Working through Jealousy. Celebrating the differences. Laughter.

1907382_10100411439469193_7877490012179442799_n

Thoughts dear bloggy readers: what is your recipe for a long lasting marriage?

What Runs in Biological Families? An Adoptee Explores…

As a child I was obsessed with Mt. Rainier. OBSESSED. As in, I wanted to live there permanently. Whenever we would camp I would eagerly go to the visitor center, join the junior ranger program, and read books about wildflowers and animal tracks. By the time I was in highschool I had 42 of 84 wildflowers of the North Cascades memorized by sight. I mean, I said I was obsessed.

Because I loved being outdoors so much, I decided (at the tender age of 9) that I wanted to be a park or forest ranger. And I knew that my dream was to be a park ranger in the Ohanaepcosh campground of Mt. Rainier. Or worse, down the road at the La Wis Wis campground (which was always our backup campground). It wasn’t until 11th grade that I gave up that dream, after meeting a gal at an environmental camp that casually mentioned the regulation changes for park rangers, that they had to attend police academy and carry a firearm. That sealed it for me, being a park ranger was out…I would NOT carry a gun for work. Not because I was opposed to guns in the backcountry (Grizzlies and mountain lions aren’t to be messed with people!), but because I didn’t want to be a law enforcement officer in a national park. I didn’t want to have to shoot someone. Nope. No thanks.

So I’m having dinner with my bio dad, and we were chatting about the crazy wildfires happening here in Washington…and he said, “Well, you know, my sister stopped being a forest ranger when she had to deploy her fire shelter on the fire line.”

And then I remembered that my bio aunt had been a forest ranger. Whoa. Uncanny, right? And where did she work? La Wis Wis campground. OF ALL PLACES, she worked right down the road, as a forest ranger, from where I wanted to work from 9-17. Whoa. And we got to talking, but he finally said, “But then the laws changed, and she stopped doing it because she didn’t want to carry a gun.”

He happened to say that at the EXACT same time that I said the reason that tipped me over the edge was when I didn’t want to carry a gun.

Whoa.

Whoa.

Right?

When researching your family history, any crazy “whoa, that’s just like me?” stories? Share away…

Be Nice

I’m trying out a new mantra, it goes like this: Be Nice.

I got an opportunity to practice this mantra over the weekend, when spending time with my family in Eastern Washington. I had started to dread the trip, getting about half way and thinking, “ugh, I hate making this trip,” which is true. Mostly my anxiety is before an event, and I’m okay when I get there, but there’s just something about going to the shithole I went to highschool in that brings up a lot of angst. Not to mention, knowing it was going to be a 24 hour trip and I’d probably end up spending time with my sister, who I’ve been in conflict with for awhile now.

When she walked in the door 45 minutes late, as we were packing up to go, and I had to realize that we were going to end up leaving later than anticipated, instead of making some flip comment about being on time, I bit my tongue and gritted my teeth into a smile. When my dad made some sarcastic comment about his career being ‘work’ and not a ‘job’ I just changed the subject. It did feel forced at times, and somewhat awkward, but overall it had a pretty pleasant vibe to the visit. I left feeling like nothing had been resolved, but nothing had been made worse.

So why is this Be Nice mantra so hard for me? Because it feels fake. It feels superficial, like we’re not addressing the deeper issues of conflict and just ‘pretending everything is okay.’ That’s not how I like to roll. Maybe it’s because of my own anxiety, but I prefer to voice when I’m frustrated, saying “I’m annoyed with this conversation,” or, “I’m upset that you’re late again,” rather than just sitting there feeling upset. I don’t like superficiality and the Ms. Suzy Sunshine role. But can I share my anxiety in a setting or time that works better, and in the meantime just let it go? I don’t know, I managed to do it this weekend, but I’m not sure how long I could just hang out ‘being nice,’ without also, ‘being honest.’ And I haven’t figured out how those two can go together well.

Thoughts? Have you ever told yourself to ‘be nice’? What was the result? How do you balance that with wanting to be emotionally honest with people?

How Hot Yoga Prepared Me to Meet My Great Aunties

Hot yoga is humbling. I’m there in the sweaty room, with limber (and not so limber) yoginis and yogis, all working hard in our own practice. And while, in other yoga classes, I have felt this internal dialogue of competition (mostly with myself, but sometimes this though ‘I don’t want them to see me quit or rest’) that has pushed me forward in my practice. A little competition is okay, in that it pushes me forward, seeing how a pose can be done in ‘full expression’ is thrilling if I let it be, discouraging if I let it be, too. I rarely let it be discouraging.

But here I am, in an abnormally hot room (their heaters were on overdrive from a weekend where they hadn’t been going at all), and the sweat was pouring off me. I wasn’t able to do many of the positions that I normally can do, and so I spent much of my time, as instructed at the beginning of class “focusing on the breath, taking breaks on the mat.” I sat in easy pose, breathing, watching my belly rise in the mirror, while all around me the yoginis bent into triangle and eagle and balancing stick or sugarcane. I was silencing my internal chatter, and then the instructions were to ‘turn a quarter turn to the left,” and suddenly I was there, in easy pose, with the rest of the class turned toward me. Wow. Talk about feeling vulnerable. I sat, and breathed and watched, but instead of disassociating, I stayed present…I stayed connected to the process of being in the room with these people.

I took this experience as I headed out for a family reunion. Because I had been invited, by my biological dad, to meet one of my grandma’s sisters. Since my grandmother has been dead for many years, it would be a treat for me to meet a sister. And then I got there, with Potamus and Boof, and I was actually meeting THREE sisters! Hot dang, these little old ladies were hilarious. Sitting around the table, drinking beer, telling stories from days gone by. I loved the oldest giving the youngest a ribbing for being a “hussy” as a teen, since she winked at her future-husband to get him to ask her to dance. Scandalous, right?

But there was this moment, when part of me took a step back (a mental step back?), where I saw myself sitting around the table interacting with these women. These women who are my blood. Three aunts, three great-aunts, and me. A part of them because of blood, apart from them because of adoption. They certainly welcomed me with open arms and I could see the ease in which I fit in…and the way in which I also do not belong. Living in this gray place is hard, but hot yoga helps. Because when the heat is turned up I have no choice but to be honest that I need to breathe, need to take a break, rather than try and push or force something that isn’t working, and can embrace it when it is.