“Did you write today?” I asked half heartedly. “Yes, did you?” Kevin asked expectantly. We sat together for the first time in over a week. Just the two of us. Every time I sit in this chair by the window, my heart exhales. I love the way the chairs are turned toward one another which is the posture my heart most longs for. I want to see his face, to know his heart. I want him to listen to me. To really listen, tuning out all of the other pressures and distractions that vie for his attention. Today as I sit with so much swirling inside of me, my heart trembles. It feels guarded and scared. He is busy and distracted, he’s physically there but not really. Busy feels dangerous to me. I remember wanting so much more than I could ever get from my mom when I was small. She was busy. Though I know I am a priority to Kevin, that scared and broken part of my heart can’t tell the difference. His busy season triggers my deep wound and I get swirled up in the strong emotion and move into fight/flight/freeze. Though I want to run away and refuse him access to my tender heart, I choose to stay. With consistent practice, I am learning to keep showing up and turning toward him even when its hard.
Kevin and I have been writing together with some consistency for about 5 months. It has been some of the most holy work we have engaged together in our entire marriage. Something happens when you open up a blank page and just pour out the contents of your heart. Sometimes it is an awful rant that would be better left unshared. Often it contains truth that exposes and disrupts. Sometimes it is a beautiful prayer and a celebration of all that is right in our world. You never know what is going to come up when you open up and write without reservation. That’s the way I write, but it takes practice. I have been doing these daily dumps for over ten years and it has changed my life. I like to think of it as taking out the trash. Emptying so that the light can fill and flow freely through me. Sharing it with someone you love is another story. It takes tremendous courage. Vulnerability is scary as hell, but I am committed to it. What’s the alternative? Living a big lie? Covering it all up until you implode or explode or get sick because all the tension you hold? I prefer to shine the light of awareness and to find language and connection in the midst of the storms of life. If we wait to share our hearts til everything is packaged neatly with a big bow around it, it will never happen. The time is now!
The fact that we can sit turned toward one another and tell the truth about what is going on inside of us is such a testimony to God’s goodness and grace. I remember years of both of us being completely distracted and numbed out and cut off from the longings and whispers of our hearts. We were deadened in a way and going through the motions; doing life side by side or even back to back in opposition when things got bad. It was all we knew. We were survivors and just struggling to make it through the day. Over the past 15 years I have been on a spiritual journey and it has been some of the most challenging work I have known and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Healing and restoring the wounded heart is the only way to live the life we are called to live. As my heart started to heal, I began to realize that my needs and desires were not a burden but a good thing. My desire felt scary, but I had good friends around me affirming me and encouraging me to acknowledge and ask for what I needed. Every time I turned toward Kevin with a need, I felt weak and needy. His response vacillated from withdrawal to anger and very rarely did it seem like he heard me, understood, or had any ability to move toward my desire. This only reinforced the lie that I am “too much.” My need triggering his shame. His anger, triggering mine. So we dance, round and round in circles, stepping on toes and getting nowhere. In every moment we have the power to choose. What we do with our disappointment, pain, and desire really matters.
We continue to practice extending grace, asking for forgiveness, speaking the truth in love and turning toward one another, even when it hurts. The writing has helped establish pathways of trust and a growing intimacy which is what every heart needs and longs for. David Augsburger wrote “Being listened to is so close to being loved, we can seldom tell the difference.” Even if Kevin’s head is full and his heart is spent from the day, it really means the world to me that he would take the time to write with the hopes of connection. We are each works in progress and we get it wrong more often than we get it right, but when we write and share we are truly writing our relationship well. This is a sacred gift that the whole world needs. I challenge you to start with yourself. Make yourself a priority. Open a notebook and write for three pages without stopping, judging, editing or even thinking about what you wrote. Simply write! Allow your heart to speak and notice how liberating it feels. If you try this and want to begin to impact other around you, choose one person who you want to focus your love on. It could be a relationship that feels stuck, or even dead, like our marriage felt long ago. You can write about what hurts and what you really want. Try to find language for what is stored up in your heart. It might hurt, but I promise you, it will lead to healing, growth and better connection. Simply begin…