This time last year, I had a notebook full of unruly notes and an awareness that the messes all around me weren’t all there is to life.
I had zero idea on how to form my unruly notebook into a book. My thoughts overflowed onto page after page without any boundaries or order. I turned to my friend, Sarah, and said, “Help me name this thing, this feeling, this truth—there are messes in life that I have very little control over. Some of it is caused by overt sin, mine, yours, everybody’s. But sometimes the mess just is. It looks like mental health challenges and other health problems, relationship struggles that have very few good answers, or earthquakes, floods, loss.”
When my husband eats chips, you likely can hear it in the outback of Australia. We live in Nebraska. And I have that fun condition called misophonia. The sound of chip-chewing is my worst enemy.
This time of year, you don’t have to walk too far into a store to find a plaque or pillow for sale with one of these words on it:
There are people in this world who are grammar nuts. It’s their “thing.” They have an uncanny ability to track down a misplaced preposition. They seem to understand the difference between “who” and “whom” with a shocking level of contextual clarity.
I am thankful for these people. I am not one of them.
But I do like words. Words pour out of me easily, whether on the page or in conversation. My husband is a man of much fewer words. I’m almost certain that he keeps his thoughts inside a little treasure box inside his mind. When you get to peek into the box, that’s something really special.
I thought motherhood would be different. I thought there would be snuggles and milestones and cheerleading. I thought I would meet new friends and nap when my children napped. I knew there would be sleepless nights, but I could make peace with sleep deprivation for all the wonderful trade-offs that were supposed to happen.
But it was hard—it is hard. And I don’t think we say how hard it is often enough. Motherhood is a complicated thing. I think we are afraid of offending our children, whom we value so highly. I think we all carry some pain around for those who long for children they do not get to hold. And I think we have traded in help and support for what we think is strength.
My husband and I have been married for 19.5 years. That .5 is worth noting, based on the shape of our last year.
The truth is, while the lyrics are terrible, Pat Benatar got pretty close—love (in marriage) is a battlefield.
Sometimes I’m not a nice person.
Sometimes I just need to say those words out loud and admit them.