EVERYTHING WILL BE ALL RIGHT.

This is a story I’ve been wanting to tell since it happened, but it almost doesn’t sound real.  This really did happen, though, and it was an important encouragement just when I needed one, and now I’m at a point where I really need encouragement again.  I’m kind of writing this for myself to read, but I also hope that it will help other people to see a glimmer of hope in desperate times.

In November 2014, I was in my fourth month of pregnancy and finally starting to get past the nausea when I had a nightmare.  I dreamed that I was walking in the jungle, admiring the exotic plants, having a pleasant hike until I noticed a glimmering spot in my vision.  Then, gradually, I understood that a migraine was coming, but I was in the jungle with no medicine and no help and–and I woke up, and in fact my vision really was disrupted.  This is the only time in my life that this ever started while I was asleep and I was able to perceive it.  I quickly got up and took my prescription migraine medication, which the midwife had told me was safer for my baby than allowing the migraine to proceed because migraines disrupt blood circulation.  I did not get much of a headache and was able to go back to sleep and then get through a normal workday.

The next time, I had no warning.  I just suddenly got a bad headache, and when I took my medicine it came right back up again.  But I had to go to work I had to I had to, because I was working toward a deadline but also because if I missed one more day, I wouldn’t be able to travel for Thanksgiving.

By then I’d worked out a morning survival strategy that involved having a bagel with butter at work every morning, except on the day when I was out of bagels and therefore would go to the bagel shop before work to buy a half-dozen bagels for later days, plus a bagel with cream cheese and a coffee to enjoy at the bagel shop.  This was my cream cheese day.  I told myself to look forward to the treat because I would feel better when I ate it, if not before.

Instead, I got worse.  A lot worse.  You know how doctors ask you to rank your pain on a scale of 1 to 10?  For years, I never ranked anything higher than 9, because it seemed to me that it would be possible for pain to be worse than what I had experienced.  I was right: In 2010, I had a migraine that went to Level 10 and stayed there until I went to the emergency room and was given an off-label schizophrenia drug that brought it down to a 3.

On this day in 2014, I hit Level 10 as I stepped off the bus into bright sunshine.  It only lasted one minute, maybe less, but that was too much.  My vision fragmented as if smashed by a rock, and that was about how my head felt.  I staggered across the sidewalk, crashed into the fence, and clung there, not thinking, barely breathing.  Then the pain dropped to Level 8, which for me is the clumsy, self-criticizing level where speech is difficult and vomiting is likely.  I ripped myself off the fence and stalked across the street toward the bank (because I needed cash for the bagels) as my brain yammered, Don’t you dare throw up; the baby needs every calorie; you are a terrible mother taking terrible care of your poor innocent baby; don’t even think about the hospital; they won’t give you any off-label schizophrenia drug when you’re pregnant; don’t be ridiculous; they can’t help you; stand up straight and look normal you freak; go to the bank like a grown-up and get your stupid bagel and go to work; nobody will help you; get yourself together and act like someone who can be trusted with a baby!!!

So I got to the bank machine, and I kept dropping my card, and then I must have pressed the wrong button because the machine was in Spanish, and it was my fault that I was doing it wrong and my fault that I don’t know Spanish, and although I muddled through well enough to get the cash, by then I was in tears.

I turned around, stupid and incompetent and crying in public, and in front of me was someone I had never seen before.  She was young, probably a student at the adjacent University of Pittsburgh.  She had a Chinese accent.

She smiled so gently at me and said, “Everything will be all right.”

I stared at her for a moment, and then, slowly, I repeated, “Everything will be all right.”

“Yes!” she said. “Everything will be all right.”  She hugged me.  My brain filled with different ideas: The headache will go away; I will feel better soon; I have money in my hand and more in the bank; I’m going to have a nice meal and several more meals today; I’m really quite lucky; I have what I need; I will have a healthy, beautiful baby, and all the struggles will be worth it worth it worth it.  Everything will be all right.  Maybe not this instant, but it will be.

She stepped back, gave me a radiant smile, then hurried on down the sidewalk as I called a bewildered “thank you…” after her.

Then I walked to the bagel place, and by the time I got there I was running; I ran straight to the back and into the bathroom and puked, but I hit the toilet perfectly, and after washing my face I looked into the mirror and said aloud, “Everything will be all right.”  That demonstrated that I could speak normally.  I went out and ordered my bagels and coffee.

Half an hour later, I had no headache at all.  I went on to a happy and productive day at work.

Of course, not everything was all right forever from then on.  I hit more really low spots before that pregnancy was over, and I’ve hit many more since then.  Life sucks sometimes!

But the odds are that everything will be all right, pretty soon.  Hang in there!  Try to notice the things that are okay, as well as the bad things that are so much more noticeable.  Try to look forward to the future.  It’s hard.  The past several weeks have made it obvious to me, again, that I’m not good at this.  I tell myself awful things and wish I could just give up.  I can tell that my brain is upside-down, but I don’t know how to fix it.  I just have to try to get along until things pick up.

This is Advent, the season of waiting, the darkest time of year.  Even if you are not a Christian or not religious at all, try for a few weeks to pray when you find yourself waiting.  It may not seem to accomplish much, but it is better than doing nothing.  If you’re too upset for specific prayers, just focus on this one idea: Everything will be all right.  It will.  It will.

Standing in the Waves with Grandma

Learn all you can now so you’ll have time when you’re old to learn the things that haven’t been invented yet.
—Louise Kirn Oguss

Louise Kirn Oguss was my maternal grandmother, and that’s what she said to me when I was thirteen and resisting the idea that I soon ought to learn to drive.  I didn’t like the idea of piloting a two-ton machine that could kill people, and I wanted to leave my small town as soon as anyone would let me and live in New York City, where I wouldn’t need a car to get around.  Grandma explained that, although it was fine to avoid driving in my day-to-day life, having that skill in my repertoire could be useful in many situations–in fact, I might even save a life by driving someone to a hospital, and if I were ever called upon for emergency driving, everyone would be safer if I knew what I was doing.  I admitted that she had a point, and although I dawdled a little bit in learning to drive, I did get my license before I finished high school.

But by then, Grandma was gone.  She died of cancer just after my fifteenth birthday.  If she were still alive, today would be her one hundredth birthday.

I wish she’d stayed longer.  I never got enough time with her, even in the summers when I went without my parents to stay with Grandma in her wonderful old house in Far Rockaway, in the southeastern corner of Queens at the very end of the A train subway line, and we had adventures together all over New York City and at Silver Point Beach just outside the city.  I wished I could live there all the time!  Grandma and I enjoyed museums and people-watching and eating exotic foods and exploring buildings and neighborhoods and parks, and we never ran out of things to talk about.  She told me stories from all eras of her life, she told me things she’d picked up from her wildly varied reading, and she truly listened to me and made me feel fascinating and fully appreciated.  She knew how to listen to other people, too, and what questions to ask, so that we got to hear the stories of pizza chefs and cab drivers and a very old lady in the supermarket who had once been the pianist for the Rockettes.  Grandma had a gift for drawing out each person’s special traits and valuing them.  I wish I were better at that!

But I feel guilty complaining that I didn’t get more time with her, because I’m her oldest grandchild–one of my cousins wasn’t even born yet when Grandma died, and some were too young to remember her well.  I’m lucky to have known her as well as I did and to have so many memories of doing things with her.

I wanted to write a tribute to Grandma on her centennial, like I did for my other grandmother but better, explaining how very special she was to me and how profound an influence she has had on my life.  Three months ago I started turning over ideas, hoping to come up with some kind of structure so I wouldn’t just ramble on but could really convey her wonderfulness.  But then I was in an accident, and too much of my time and energy went into just getting by, and I’m still not fully recovered, and then in these last few days I’ve had big mood crashes and headaches just when I thought I was going to write . . . and I know Grandma would understand; I know she would say that the specific date is not important, that the most important thing for me to do is heal, that I don’t owe her a tribute anyway . . . but still, I felt that I was letting her down and letting myself down and that I’ve spent far too much of the past twenty-seven years regretting that Grandma isn’t with me instead of taking a positive approach like hers and being a better person.

Thinking about it this morning, suddenly I not-quite-heard Grandma’s voice in my mind: “But honey.  You’ve already written so many interesting things.”

She’s right.  I learned to do one of those things that hadn’t been invented yet: I write for the Internet.  I’ve published more than 600 articles!  Grandma would appreciate every one of them.  (Who knows–maybe she does?  Would it be heaven without wi-fi?)  It’s true that I’ve written almost nothing about Grandma herself, but my mission to tell people about Earth and all the great things we can do here is something Grandma would totally get behind.  She’d be thrilled to see how I can link my own articles together and link them to reference materials and other interesting stuff, and minutes later people in Australia and India and Holland are reading my words.  And in the process, I have learned to be braver about what I say and to decide when it’s good enough without calling someone else to read it for me.

Grandma meant so much to me that I can’t cram it all into one article.  Here is just one story that I hope will show you a little bit of what she was like and how she shaped me.

The first summer I went to Grandma’s alone, I was just six years old and not only shy but nervous and cautious by nature.  I didn’t know how to swim and hadn’t been near the ocean for two years.  On our first visit to the beach, I must have looked anxious as we approached the pounding surf.  Grandma said, “Now, here is what I like to do: We’ll go into the water up to our knees and stand, holding hands, and as the waves go in and out they’ll pull sand from under our feet, but we’ll stay put and see who can stand the longest without taking a step.”  We did this.  The water buffeting my legs was daunting, so much deeper when a wave came in and then sucking at me as it went out, and it was full of slimy seaweed and scratchy bits of shell–but I was safe holding Grandma’s hand.  I felt the sand being pulled out from under the edges of my feet, then more and more until I was standing on tiny narrow piles, and then one foot dropped and I was falling forward, face-first into the salty froth–and Grandma pulled me up and laughed and said, “Let’s go in two steps farther!”  Pretty soon I was in up to my shoulders and loving every minute of it.  I played exactly the same game with my son when he was six and made his first visit to the ocean.  Yes, it’s weird and wet and powerful–isn’t it great?!

Being cautious has its advantages.  Grandma never tried to talk me out of my essential nature.  She showed me how to feel just safe enough to have fun and, by broadening the range of things I felt safe doing, to work up the courage to try new things more easily.  That combined with fifteen years of her belief in my ability to do great things, and with the example of her own life, to support me in feeling able to do what I yearned to do: I left the small town for the big city (not New York, it turned out, but Pittsburgh), got a great education, had a lot of fun with some fascinating men, worked out a career and a home and a family that suit me, and found ways to help make the world a better place.  I’d still like to be kinder and more positive and better at asking people about themselves, like her–but I feel that if Grandma dropped in on me now, she’d be very glad to see what my life is like.

And she’d tell me to get off the computer when it’s giving me a headache.  Happy birthday, Grandma!  Good night!

One Brave Girl

This article from The New York Times was reprinted in my local newspaper.  In Afghanistan, a mullah who raped a 10-year-old girl in the mosque was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Most Americans would agree that anybody who rapes a child is a horrific criminal for whom 20 years is a light sentence, would be especially disgusted by such behavior from a religious leader, and would rally around the girl as an innocent victim.

This girl’s family considered murdering her to protect the family honor.  This girl has been raised in a culture in which that is traditional.

But when the mullah spoke in his own defense and claimed she had seduced him, the girl stopped sobbing and pulled aside her veil enough to speak directly to him. “Hey liar, hey liar,” she said. “God hate you, you are dirt, you are dirt, you are a vampire.”

Can you imagine the courage that took?

I used to be a Girl Scout leader.  When one of my girls was ten, her dad took her to an all-ages concert in a bar, where, she said, “a man, or maybe like a really old teenager, like in college” leaned over her saying she was pretty and asking for her phone number.  She did not know what to do.  Her father grabbed the guy by the collar and said, “Hey, leave my daughter alone!  She’s only TEN! YEARS! OLD!  Idiot.”  That is the kind of treatment men who hit on preteen girls deserve, and men who rape preteen girls…  Dirt.  Vampires.  It breaks my heart that this girl had to speak up for herself, but I am so very glad that she did.

This girl’s courage, and the courage of all those who are helping to bring the rapist to justice, will help to make Afghanistan a safer place for girls and women, who have been treated so badly for so long. That’s something that is working in our world. Visit Works-for-Me Wednesday to read about many other things that are working.

Gradually Expanding Range for a Child Walking Alone

Welcome to the September 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting:
Staying Safe

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and tips about protecting our families. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

***

“It’s a different world than when we were kids.” I often hear parents say this when they are talking about how they don’t allow their children–or even teenagers–to go anywhere alone, to walk anywhere, even to play in their own front yard.

Yes, this is a different world, the America of 2013 compared with the America of 1981, when I was 8 years old like my son is now–AMERICA IS A SAFER PLACE THAN IT WAS WHEN I WAS A CHILD. Every type of violent crime is significantly less common now than it was then. The thing many parents are most afraid will happen to a child let out of their sight is kidnapping, although abductions of children by strangers are extremely rare.

I’ve been working in crime research for 15 years, and that’s really given me some perspective on risk: The vast majority of violent crimes are perpetrated by someone the victim knows, not by a stranger who abruptly captures the victim in a public place–and this is especially true of child molestation. Yes, terrible things can happen to innocent people, and it is horrible when they do, but it is important not to get too freaked out about “risk”.  (I want you to see this cartoon that clearly illustrates the issue, but I can’t get it to display on my page!)

Of course, we do feel some concern about the safety of our beloved only child. Realistically, the highest risk he faces in walking around the neighborhood is being hit by a car. I’ve written before about how we taught him traffic safety skills and decided when he was ready to walk around the block alone. In second grade, he began walking home from school alone some days, and now in third grade he is doing it 4 days a week. This is a journey of 5 blocks, with a crossing guard posted at the only busy intersection. Nicholas always gets home safely and has had no problems.

This summer, he grew bored with his walks around the block and asked to walk farther, alone. We have not been letting him walk to his school alone when the crossing guard is not on duty, because of that busy street. But we thought we might allow him to walk as far as the nearest busy street in each direction from our house.  Read more…

What to Do When Your Child Witnesses Bad Discipline

If you have any opinions at all about the appropriate methods of disciplining children, and if you are ever anywhere near any families with different opinions, someday you will find yourself in this situation: Your child sees another parent respond to a child’s behavior in a way that your child recognizes as different, which may be shocking or upsetting to your child.  What can you say to help your child understand what’s going on?

My son Nicholas is eight years old now.  We’ve used a mostly gentle discipline approach that focuses on explaining, redirecting, and using these strategies:

We sometimes get fed up and start yelling or say things that aren’t so nice, but we do our best to avoid being really harsh and hurtful, and we don’t hit him.  That means that when he sees another parent using harsh or violent discipline, he expects an explanation. Read more…

I don’t wear makeup.

I used to wear makeup.  From age 12 to 16, I added more types of makeup to my daily routine each year, and I went through that daily routine even if I wasn’t planning to leave the house.  I continued for a while into college before I realized that the insanely stressful life I was leading there did not allow time for makeup and many other students did not wear it–but I felt that college was an exceptional situation, so I still wore makeup to church, to my summer jobs, and whenever I went back to visit the town where I grew up.  After college, I wore makeup to work and church and social events very consistently at first, but over time I began to wear less and less, until at age 31 I quit almost completely.  Why? Read more…

Bullying: an article I wrote, and three I don’t have to write

Although I am discussing my work here, the point of view is my own, and this is not an official statement of the Pittsburgh Youth Study.

As the data manager of a long-term research study, I recently helped to write this academic paper: Bullying Perpetration and Victimization as Predictors of Delinquency and Depression in the Pittsburgh Youth Study.  What we found, looking at data collected from the 503 men we’ve been interviewing repeatedly since they were in first grade, is that bullies are more likely than non-bullies to grow up to be criminals, and bullying victims are more likely than non-victims to grow up to be depressed.  That’s not really surprising, is it?  But it’s good to add to the hard scientific evidence that bullying is a serious problem with lifelong consequences.  This whole issue of the Journal of Aggression, Conflict, and Peace Research was a special issue on school bullying, with 7 more articles on the subject.

I had been kind of thinking I should write something about bullying that might be read by people who don’t read dull academic journals.  But I felt very shy about it and afraid to admit that, well, I know there’s a problem and can prove there’s a problem but can’t claim I ever solved this problem for myself or anybody and tried so many things that didn’t work and when I even think about it I get so scared and what if– Read more…

The Power of Moose

This is a strategy for crossing the street safely in situations where vehicular traffic is reluctant to yield to pedestrians.  A friend of my brother’s explained it to me years ago.

It is based on a simple principle: Nobody will risk crashing a car into a moose.  Hitting a moose obviously would damage the car and driver.  Many drivers are sadly less concerned about hitting a person, perhaps because they figure a person will dart out of their way–moose are not known for darting.  Therefore, if you want cars to let you cross the street, you need the mass of a moose. Read more…

7 Continuum Concept Experiences

For years now, I’ve been meaning to write something about how The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff relates to our parenting style and a lot of my life experiences.  It’s a big idea, and I have a lot of scattered notes stashed in a draft post, but so far I haven’t even gotten around to adding this book to my list of Books That Blew My Mind.  This is what 7 Quick Takes Friday is good for!  After giving a brief summary of this concept I’m talking about, I’ll tell you just 7 specific experiences we’ve had with applying it to our urban, non-tribal, high-tech lives. Read more…

How can I ask for what I need?

This week, Works-for-Me Wednesday is a backwards edition: Contributors are asked to post a question about something that isn’t working, and readers can then comment on what works for them. Here’s an issue that’s been perplexing me:

Too often, especially when talking to my family (partner Daniel and five-year-old son Nicholas), I realize that a discussion has gone badly because I started out explaining what I don’t want and why, instead of explaining what I do want or need. It’s as if I assume that everyone else will want the thing I don’t want and try to force it on me. There’s also some kind of screwed-up idea of being humble about my own needs and offering to do everything for everybody yet inwardly hoping that they will save me by offering to do things for me and that will be so much more luxurious if it wasn’t my idea . . . but it rarely works out that way! Read more…

The Value of Eleven Cents

Find a penny, pick it up;
All the day you’ll have good luck.

I’ve enjoyed this superstition since I was a child and taught it to my child, but I never seriously believed it was true.  The real reason I pick up coins I find on the ground is that they’re money, and I figure every little bit adds up.  Still, the idea that finding a penny brings good luck gives me a little blip of optimism.

I think my son, who just turned five, sees it about the same way.  He’s very logical, and although he loves stories about magical adventures and talking animals, he doesn’t believe in the literal existence of things like Santa Claus.  He doesn’t quite understand how money works yet, but he likes coins and always wants to play with them and put them in his banks, so he picks up any that he finds and often remarks cheerfully, “It’s good luck!”

On our way home from church Sunday afternoon, we stopped into the supermarket for a few things, and we found not only a penny but also a dime on the floor.  I saw them first but let Nicholas pick them up.  We walked on toward home (down the steep hill of our neighborhood business district) singing about pennies and good luck and bagels and such, feeling lucky.

All of a sudden, Nicholas tripped and fell, smashing his face into the projecting corner of a store’s windowsill.

There followed one of those moments of shocked and dreadful silence in which time slows down and holds its breath before the screaming begins.  It was exactly long enough for me to drop into a crouch on the sidewalk and to think, “I am not afraid.” I actually felt kind of like Frog and Toad in the story where they dodge several hazards while shrieking hysterically, “We are not afraid!” and run home to hide in the closet “feeling very brave together”–but I hoped that this Jedi mind trick would help me to cope with what I would see when my beautiful baby boy turned around. Read more…

7 Neat Things My Kid Has Done

…in his last month as a four-year-old.

1. He packed his own bag. He did this for our Thanksgiving trip with some coaching, but even more impressive was in October when we were packing to go visit his grandparents.  While I was choosing my own clothes for the trip, Nicholas was hanging around saying, “Where is my suitcase?” so I handed him the duffle bag we usually use for him, thinking he’d probably fill it with toys and such.  He asked how many days we’d be there, and I told him four.  When I came into his room a few minutes later, the bag contained four shirts, four pairs of pants, four pairs of underpants, and four pairs of socks, and he was just putting in his pajamas! Read more…

Explaining the G-20 Protests to a Preschooler

It’s been one week since Pittsburgh hosted the G-20 economic summit.  The demonstrations against it and the police reactions to those demonstrations were a lot milder than they have been at previous summits in other cities, but there was some violent conflict and questionable conduct on both sides–check out the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette or Pittsburgh City Paper for detailed coverage.

My son is 4 years 9 months old.  Upon hearing that he went to school and I went to work last Thursday–when violent clashes came within blocks of his school and my office–several people have asked me how I explained the situation to Nicholas.  It really wasn’t difficult! Read more…

The Path at the End of the Road

I wanted to be an architect.

From the moment I first learned what architects do, when I was about ten years old, I knew that’s what I wanted to be: a person who designs buildings that make people comfortable and happy.  Right away, I started reading architecture books and magazines.  I was fascinated by floorplans (and other drawings too, but especially plans) and began drawing my own.

This clear career goal motivated many of my decisions in junior high and high school: Read more…

Tips from The Lightbulb Ninja

When I was about 12 years old, I became quite a stickler about shutting off unnecessary lights. Suddenly all the adult nagging and public-service announcements I’d ever heard got through to me (I can’t recall why) and I began to see how amazingly wasteful it is to leave a bunch of extra lights on, just burning up energy for no reason, when it’s so easy to turn them off! After all, even if electricity is generated in a non-polluting way, it costs money!

For a while I was a bit too zealous. One day I ducked around a corner, flipped off a switch, and went swiftly on my way, drawing a yelp of annoyance from my mother, who was in that room (sitting very still) and using that light! I happened to be wearing a dark navy sweater and jeans that day, so my mom nicknamed me The Lightbulb Ninja for my swift and merciless killing of excess lights.

Since then, I’ve continued to strike lightswitches everywhere I go, and I’ve also come to embrace the darkness. Here are my strategies for minimizing lighting: Read more…

Show. No. Fear.

A few years ago, my mom and I saw a toddler having a tantrum about leaving an outdoor tourist attraction at closing time. She wanted to walk–NO she wanted to be carried–NO she wanted to ride in the wagon–NO she wanted to shriek and thrash in the gravel!!! This went on and on and on while her parents hovered over her, saying tentatively, “Honey? Wouldn’t you like to maybe ride in the wagon?” As we passed, my mom said to them, cheerfully but firmly, “Show. No. Fear.” She told me she knew it wouldn’t be helpful to get more involved than that, but she hoped that that phrase, which had been her mantra in dealing with toddlers, would help them take charge.

Now that I have a young child myself, I’m understanding better what she meant: Read more…

More about shyness

My mother just read my article on shyness and suggested a couple of additions.

One is an anecdote I’d never heard before:

At the last parent/teacher meeting of each elementary school year, your teachers confided how pleased they were that “Rebecca has finally started to come out of her shell.” Every year. They were so proud of their good influence. Knowing how calmly you could address a mass audience, I tried not to let my amazement show; and in later years as I kept hearing the same brag, I tried not to snort or contradict them. I knew you were okay, and blending into the wallpaper is a useful skill too. Read more…

To You, They ARE Underwear!

This article is part of my Tastes Like Somebody Loves You! series.  I wrote it in 2003, but it falls into that category of things I wasn’t allowed to say when I wasn’t a parent.

Toddlers learning to use the toilet used to wear cotton “training pants” that were just like underpants but made of thicker material. Now, nearly every supermarket sells synthetic disposable “pants” intended to give kids the ego boost of wearing a new type of undergarment, while still providing all the functionality of disposable diapers. These products brag about how much they resemble real cloth underwear, and the fact that they absorb far more liquid than underwear is presented as a selling point. Kids get to feel that they’re dressed just like grownups, without having to learn bladder and bowel control–what a great idea! Read more…

Nightmare Management

My own child so far has not had much trouble with scary dreams or bedtime anxiety, but here are two ideas–one from my own childhood experience, one from my brother’s–that I’ve never seen in professional advice on getting nightmare-prone children to sleep:

I had a tendency to imagine things lurking in the dark.  Sometimes I got so frightened I couldn’t sleep, and sometimes when I did sleep I dreamed about those things “getting” me.  My parents quite logically provided a night-light to make my room less dark.  Read more…

That’s all.

Just as I thought it was going all right,
I found out I’m wrong when I thought I was right.
It’s always the same.
It’s just a shame.
That’s all.

These are the opening lyrics to a Genesis song that comforts me when things go wrong between Daniel and me.  It’s about the frustration of hitting the same conflict again and again, of having to admit that you’ve screwed up, of being unable to see how to resolve the problem but knowing you have to resolve it because you can’t just walk away.  After almost twelve years of living together, we are painfully familiar with that situation.  We don’t disagree often, so when we do it feels as if everything is out of kilter.  How is it that the same dumb problem keeps popping up like a brick wall between us, and we just can’t resist banging our heads against it again in exactly the same way as last time??

I don’t have an answer to that question, but I have learned a few things through experience and reading.  One is that finding out I’m wrong when I thought I was right is an important moment which is easily lost if I’m too wrapped up in self-righteously casting myself as the victim.  Another is that just because we disagree doesn’t mean he’s my enemy–remembering that we love each other and have so much in common helps me find hope that we can work through our conflict together.  We’ve learned that sometimes it helps to face each other and hold hands while arguing: It’s harder to coil up inside your shell and yell at someone when you’re physically connected in a way that reminds you that you love each other. Read more…