This is my favorite time of year. All my natural inclinations to be a homebody-- to hunker down, beautify, bake and create suddenly become appropriate-- and even prized-- around the holidays.
I've been doing a lot of that this year-- hunkering down. Nesting. Keeping my world small and simple. I think I expected that when J moved back home last January that it would be the start of something easier. That we'd achieved an element of closure and healing, and that the only thing that could possibly follow would be... I don't know.... our reward?
Instead, while this year has been better by far than what we refer to as the 'worst year ever', it has not been easier. Just different. Hopeful... and yes, even rewarding. But certainly not easy. It's been the very real work of trying to heal and rebuild a marriage, which can be incredibly difficult to explain.
I know that when I was younger and heard that 'marriage is work', it brought to mind petty annoyances and making compromises-- things that could be dealt with easily by one with a good attitude and work ethic. Work, to me, has always meant something that you put your shoulder to, accomplish, and feel good about at the end of the day. Something temporarily uncomfortable, but in a way that you know is healthy and fills you with a sense of achievement.
I had absolutely no comprehension of the kind of work marriage actually entails. The kind that can leave you feeling bereft. The kind that drains you to the point of being unable to face another person. The kind that makes you question how someone you love can seem so absolutely foreign to you. The kind that requires you to have faith in all your past choices and impressions despite how really awful the present feels.
It's exactly like my pre-motherhood days. I thought I understood what the word 'tired' meant. Then I had a baby. A baby that cried at all hours of the night and left me so bone-deep weary that I had to try not to hate that helpless little thing when he woke me with his cries. No one could have adequately described what 'tired' would really look like, just as no one could adequately prepare me for how much 'work' marriage has turned out to be.
Which I realize is all starting to sound a little maudlin, and that isn't what I intended.
The truth is, that I have been in a self-imposed hibernation as we work things out. It's taken all of my energy. It's made me look reclusive and fragile and perhaps a bit unforgiving. But even though the metamorphosis is in its infancy, I feel enough of a change that I can come out of that hibernation a few steps at a time. I can go to church without feeling acutely aware of the presence of other people-- their attention no longer sets my skin on fire. I can wake in the morning without being aware of every last finite ounce of energy I have, afraid that it won't be enough to make it through the mundane events of the day. And I can sit here and type on my blog without feeling like I have to have answers or solutions or even a happy ending. I can just be.
I'm feeling better. And I'm back.