My marriage has spent the last 4 months in a fog of eye rolls, waves of tight-lipped over-exasperated exhales, and a never ending (but not quite hurricane status) storm of miscommunication and misunderstanding. Together, we have been trapped on a ship simultaneously named, “Annoyed” and “Resentful” and have been chasing our very spirited 2 year old son around a slippery deck with no traction, direction or plan. I’m exaggerating but I will say this; it hasn’t been good. I had no idea that the hard part of our parenting would have very little to do with Sam and would instead have everything to do with Mike and I being aligned with each other. We have opposing approaches, actions, views, words and opinions. And, in addition to trying to navigate our parenting seas, the usual relationship issues of time spent together, money, stress from work, and intimacy have been like persistent seagulls flying over us just to repeatedly shit on our heads. It’s been neat.
Last Friday, Mike and I flew to LA for my friend, Petey’s wedding and piggybacked a mini vacation onto it by adding “Monday” to our itinerary. It was our first weekend away by ourselves since Sam was born. And my God, it came at the right time. My original plan was to talk through all of our problems as soon as we got on the plane. Instead, I surrendered to a neck straining nap, two bags of blue potato chips and headphones that were full of Bravo tv. I’m so glad I kept my big, fat, micromanaging mouth shut. On that first day, we just needed to sit next to each other and breathe. We literally needed to be carried away from everything at home.
One of the reasons I fell in love with Mike is because he (as my friend Joe says) has “Little Boy Energy.” He lightens me up from all of my seriousness because he’s constantly playing, laughing, joking, and being silly. His cheerfulness and funniness make him the best dad to Sam. But it took the full travel day on Friday and well into the night for that spark to come back on in Mike (towards me) and for my shoulders to drop away from my ears and my jaw to loosen its grip on my molars. I had no idea how badly we had started to sink away from who we are at our simplest and happiest.
The 6 hour flight across the country into a different time zone, drive up the Pacific Coast into Malibu and through the canyons to find our Airbnb nestled in between horse ranches and vineyards was like a life raft coming to save us. Because time, space, the ocean, the mountains, and the all-encompassing energy of love, kindness and fun from an intimate, deeply emotional, rich-in-spirit wedding celebration was exactly what we needed.
At Petey’s wedding, I reconnected with a friend from college. We hadn’t seen or talked to each other in over 10 years because life. Neither one of us knew that the other would be there. In our initial embrace, with his beautiful wife by his side, my dear friend picked me up so that my feet were no longer touching the ground. From that point on, and with our spouses, we did not stop talking, laughing, dancing, drinking, story sharing, and reminiscing. It was the best. When I say laugh, I mean; warm hearts, side eye grins, bellies full of giggles, knowing nods of the head and uncontrollable shrugs of the shoulders kind of laughter. At one point in the night, he was telling Mike and I an intense story about his life, when suddenly he stopped and said, “I’m not the same person that I used to be, I’ve changed a lot,” and I shook my head “yes,” and said, “I’m glad, me too, you can keep telling the story, you are safe.” And for some reason, it felt like coming home. Like a deep weighted blanket of time, respect, and soulful strength had been wrapped around us to preserve our friendship. We were our new old selves and we were ok.
The next day, Mike and I rode the emotional high from the night before and continued to ride it through the rest of the trip. WE had rekindled something. By physically removing our bodies from everything that has happened In the last 2 years; our baby, cancer and never ending doctor visits, our new house, my old job, and our new ventures, we were able to take the first steps to starting over with our new old selves. Together as a couple, we look nothing like the Jaime & Mike we were before everything happened. We started to get reacquainted and began wiping the slate clean to begin again. The morning of the wedding, we went for a hike – JUST THE TWO OF US – and Mike was finally able to add another picture of me squatting to pee to his collection of “Jaime peeing in the woods” shots. He hasn’t had a new one in over 2 years.
What I want and what I need is to relax and play more. Sure, I need to be a responsible adult, but I’m already good at that. I’m good at getting shit done, making things happen, crossing words off my to-do list just to add more words to it, analyzing, evaluating, and taking control. I’ve even mastered feeling my sad, angry and hurt emotions and have learned to cry freely whenever I feel moved to do so. I now well-up for people I’ve never even met, about circumstances I know very little about! But I want to start melting my glacier even more. I’m not an Ice Queen, and I DEFINITELY laugh, tell jokes and smile, but I have somehow misplaced the JOYFUL SPIRIT that Mike helped me uncover when we first got together. I have to loosen up. There are more walls to break down. I need to toss my head back and giggle freely just as I did with my old friend when we were talking so much shit back at Pete’s wedding. I need to feel the excitement and love that I felt for Mike as I waved my hand really fast in front of his face to give him a mock sensation of strobe lights while the music escalated on the wedding dance floor. I need to be more affectionate. Not just with Mike, but with the people around me. That me is a better version of Jaime, a better wife to Mike, mom to Sam, and friend to those I love. I have got to chill the fuck out. And when I do, I know I’ll have more to give. And more to receive.
When we got home, we had an emotional talk (that started as a heated argument) about the shift that happened in California and the fears we had about what was going to happen now that we are back in Massachusetts with all of our real life problems. When Mike said, “You are a kinder version of yourself to everyone but me,” it shook me wide awake. We paused. And then we EACH said, “I’m not the same person that I used to be, I’ve changed a lot.” But we are ok. We are safe. There is a strong, unwavering acceptance between the two of us because we are both willing to do the work. We want to reintroduce ourselves to our marriage, for our marriage. We want to toss the weight of our collective life stress overboard and reevaluate what we want and what we need and use a mutual compass so that our love can remain simple and afloat, but our lives rich with intention.
Back in September, on our last day of Soulcation Maine, my co-leader Jen said something so deeply profound during our morning meditation. She said, “It is beautiful to see the natural light and joy in a child, but it is truly marvelous to see the light in someone who has been through the darkness.” Mike and I are planning weekly nights out starting next Monday. Hashtagdatenight.