Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Feeling the Heat

Marriage. The area we will be reflecting on in this next season in our Adelphi world. I embark upon this new season of writing about this topic with a touch of anxiety and lots of care. Marriage is so personal and private, and most of us don’t really want to expose our experiences. I mean the REAL experiences, not the ones we post about on Facebook.

So here I go, fumbling and learning as I go. Sharing about my marriage for the benefit of my own little nuclear family, but also to invite others to have a place where they can be open about theirs.  

So, Mark and I are both in therapy. Separately and with different counselors. Don’t you wish your marital challenges were so complicated that both partners needed to be in therapy? It’s amazing. 

There are 2 things that have recently dawned on me about our marriage, that make our relationship challenging. Generally speaking, we are very different. For example, Mark suffers from FOBO (Fear of Better Options). This is something mentioned in some commercial somewhere on TV. This means analyzing and analyzing and re-analyzing options. “Do I buy the green pen or the blue one? The green matches the grass, the blue matches the sky. But do I even like grass? It gives me stains on my clothes when I fall on it. I’ll pick the blue. But actually, the blue one is 2 cents more expensive, and I don’t really care about the sky that much. So why not go with orange?” 

I enter the scene, and I suffer from FOWT (Fear of Wasting Time). This isn’t a real thing…I made it up. But I do have this condition. If something takes more than 60 seconds to decide on, I start getting incredibly antsy. And my fears set in. “Do you know what we could be doing right now besides analyzing a stupid writing utensil? We could be doing something fun, reading a book, learning something new, swimming in a pool, chatting with a friend, or telling funny jokes. So many other things I’d rather be doing.” No matter how important the decision is, faster is better. I’ve got other things to do. Wasting time is not one of them. 

So you see the obvious and inherent conflict developing.  

Next, Mark is a Skilled Avoider. Let’s say a problem develops between us. Mark says, “What problem? I don’t see a problem. I see rainbows and perfection.” And I usually take it upon myself to uncover the damage myself and say, “Really?! You don’t see that? What are you, blind? That’s not a rainbow, that is a ton of dirt swept under the rug!” 

When I see my own wounds and problems arise, I think, “What is that doing there? I really need that to be dealt with so that I can feel better. Like, now. So I ponder, where did it come from? How did it get there? Who can help me with this and when are they available? I don’t want anything to hold me back. I want to be my best and feel my best as often as possible. One of our dear mentor friends has called me a Scab Picker. Doesn’t that sound disgusting? I’m not sure whether that is an insult or a compliment. I still don’t know. Thankfully, I love them so much I can live in the suspense of not knowing. But paired with a Skilled Avoider, you see the storms brewing.  

When there is little to no conflict in marriage, someone is not being their true selves. Because we are all different, none of us are clones. But some of us try to be a clone to avoid conflict. This doesn’t work, and we’ve been told by trusted marriage experts that the couples who don’t fight much or at all, are the ones they are the most concerned about. So, we don’t need to avoid conflict. It’s a good (and uncomfortable) thing.  

Why? Well, one of our therapists recently told us this: “People don’t change because they see the light. They change because they feel the heat.” Meaning, it’s not enough for me to just know that I’m impatient or struggle with anger. I will not change just by knowing that or “seeing the light.” I will change when my behavior and struggles in this area destroys someone’s feelings, fights break out, and chaos is on the loose. When I’m in enough pain, then I will change. When I “feel the heat.”  

So let us not process big collisions as being terrible or horrible or a disastrous marriage. Because collisions mean that people are feeling the heat! Feeling the heat leads to change. Yay! Change! And new relational paths can be forged, marriages have hope for healing, and entire families can begin to change. 

So what about you? What are some differences between you and your spouse? Can you think of a story where you both “felt the heat” and positive change came as a result?

Monday, May 9, 2016

How I Got My Groove Back

By Rosie Wittleder

There was a time in my life that each day required me to do certain things, or else I knew it was going to be a very difficult day. I was in pain and was desperate, so I absolutely had to do certain practices to help lift the fog, the pain, the anxiety or whatever was holding me down each morning – if I wanted to make the most of my day. 

This usually included needing to have time by myself in the morning to journal out what I was dealing with, asking God for help, trying to process my thoughts and feelings. It also included some kind of reading and reflecting on what I had read. Then I would often call one of my people and tell them what was going on. Lastly, I would head to the gym to go for a jog. This is how I made it through some very difficult years.  

Well several months ago I started noticing that the pain, angst or dread had subsided tremendously. I almost could not believe it and for a while I thought I was making it up. It turns out that my years of inching forward through receiving grace upon grace everyday was turning my insides into a new existence.  

Of course I was filled with great gratitude and celebration about this. But I quickly realized I needed to learn to adjust to this new kind of normal. I was in new territory, which required some adjusting.  

This has taken me several months to figure out. Things came to a screeching halt not too long ago because I had over-exerted myself, and I didn’t have the same level of routine that I had in place before. I was exhausted, often irritable, and had very little space for the things that mattered most to me. I became desperate again.  

I couldn’t wait to go in to see my therapist that week. I needed help badly. I explained to her my situation and was hoping she could help me understand why I was so out of sorts. That is when she said this: “We don’t stay sane without our rhythms.” Meaning that for us to be well and stay well, we must have our rhythms.  

I started brainstorming about what rhythms I inadvertently dropped, and what rhythms I needed to incorporate. I get to choose to do these things even when I am not desperate. Before I had to compulsively do them to survive. Now I get to choose them to keep my sanity and peace of mind. 

In the last 2 weeks or so that these rhythms have been in place, I cannot explain to you the difference they have made. I feel like myself again. I feel like I have much more space for myself and for my loved ones. I feel peace and experience many more pockets of serenity. 

Here are the 4 rhythms that I need in my life each day:

1.)    Writing: I must write in some way, shape or form every day. Even if it’s just to write 5 things I’m thankful for. Or what’s on my mind. Asking for help. Or reflecting upon a truth or new idea to me.

2.)    Reading: I must read. Everyday. Reading rests my mind. It is very relaxing for me, and takes my brain from moving at a faster speed to slowing it way down. It also engages my mind in healthy ways. To grow, change, explore new ideas.

3.)    Rest: My routine for several years was to rest for 45 minutes every day. For the first 15 minutes I read, and then the next 30 minutes I take a nap. I get a second wind and a clean slate. I made this optional the past several months, now I’ve made it nearly mandatory again.

4.)    Running/Exercise: Getting my blood pumping helps me tremendously. I feel so much better about myself, my life, and what is happening around me. I often experience “aha” moments while jogging.  

Sometimes it is not possible for me to do these 4 items every day, but if I can at least get 3 of them in, I know I will have what I need to live well. On days I can’t get to the gym, even just going outside on a bike ride with my son helps too. So it’s not like this is a “rule-following, performance oriented” thing. Structure brings freedom. Rhythms bring sanity. And I prefer to be sane. 

So here are my questions for you today. Do you have rhythms in your life? If so, what are they? How do they benefit you? What rhythms would you like to incorporate into your life? What is one practice or rhythm that you could begin doing this week, just to get you started? 

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Change is in Order

by Rosie Wittleder

I have noticed some changes in my husband. Don’t get me wrong, he has been growing steadily for the past several years, but recently I have really been able to see a big jump. He is opening up and becoming more vulnerable about his day to day life -- his feelings, his stressors, what’s on his mind.  

I find it interesting that we may say we would like our spouse to change and grow in an area, but yet when it happens, often it means we also have to make a change. There is a reason our dysfunction has happened for a while – because it works for both of us to some degree. So when he changes, so must I. 

Because Mark wants to talk and process life more often, this means I need to be more available to him. Often he wants to share with me when he comes home from work. Unfortunately, evenings are not my strongest parts of the day. Like, at all.  

I’m usually a little tired of dealing with my loving but very stubborn 4 year old, who thinks it’s fun to kill bugs by eating them, call me out on my shortcomings, and scream outlandish things in anger. (I cannot possibly imagine where he gets these things.) So when Mark gets home, I’m a tad bit over Drew, trying to make dinner, have used up most of my word count for the day, and looking forward to bed. 

This creates a problem. Here he is doing the hard work of living his life in a more open and genuine way, yet I don’t have much space for him. It has been quite sobering for me to realize that I give my best self to other important things and people, but yet often I don’t give my best self to Mark on a daily, consistent basis.  

In the past this has not really been a problem because Mark would keep things to himself and deal with his everyday life stressors on his own more. But now that’s changing, so I must also change.  

An idea came to mind. Instead of beating myself up for not being a night person, what if I reoriented my day so that I could make space for him during the best time of my day? I decided I would wake up when he does (which is earlier than I normally need to be awake), get ready for the day, and then spend 30 minutes with him each morning before he leaves for work.  

I committed to do doing this for 21 days. I often get overwhelmed by deciding “for the rest of my life I’m going to get up and spend 30 minutes with him before he goes to work.” Yeah, that doesn’t really work for me. I prefer feasible and realistic. 

Today is day 4. I can already see a big difference in my relationship with him. I have much more space for him, and I can also reach out to him during the day to follow up on or encourage him about what we talked about. I already feel more connected to him than before, when I wouldn’t have said that I felt disconnected before. It’s amazing how you don’t know what you’re missing out on because you get used to a norm.  

So here are my questions for you. Have you ever hoped or prayed that your spouse would change, and then when they do you realize you’re not quite ready for it? So often those that we live with are the ones who get our leftovers, and see the worst of us. What things can we do to also offer our best selves to them? Is there anything you would like to commit to for 21 days, so we can be intentional together?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Waking to Desire

By Rosie Wittleder

A few weeks ago, I met up with the lovely Sam for the weekend. We woke up each morning slowly, often chatting with one another before getting out of bed. We would come downstairs and casually eat breakfast in this amazing sunroom. Then, we’d have some journal time and more chatting.

Then I would color while Sam did her thing for an hour or so. Lunch followed, again in the incredible sunroom. After lunch we took naps – often of the two-hour long variety. Then we’d wake up, get ready, and go out to see a movie and eat dinner. (Yes, we went to the movie theater two days in a row. Glorious.) On one of the nights we went to Barnes and Noble, browsing the wonder of a book store and purchasing new journals. 

This experience was so unusual for me. I spent a long weekend just doing a bunch of lighthearted and enjoyable things for no other reason than enjoying life and friendship. My anxiety during all of this was extremely low. My sense of wonder in enjoying the small things of life was higher than ever before. I wasn’t in the depths of pain, nor was I in some euphoric state. Because that’s what she and I do well–we process our pain well and we have fun with plenty of vigor. (This mostly includes laughing our heads off and making an insane amount of jokes, namely jokes about one another.)

Shortly after I came home, I met with Beth, my spiritual director. I told her that since the trip I’ve been thinking more about the smaller things in life that I enjoy. Things I didn’t even know I enjoyed. I told her how much fun I’ve had learning new things about myself, or about things I enjoy that I had completely forgotten about. These new experiences bring joy and beauty to my life, and slowness to the pace of my brain.  

After I finished sharing with Beth, she said that it seemed like I’m “waking to desire.” In other words, I am waking up to the things that stir desire in me. Things that before I wasn’t aware of. So here are some examples:
  • I had no idea how much I love going to the movies. I mean, just the smell when you walk into a theater signals that fun and specialness is on its way. The comfy chairs, the huge screen, the amazing sound, special snacks, engaging with a story (assuming we are talking about a true story.) I remember the first time I went to a theater when I was a little girl and it blew me away. I had totally forgotten this.
  • I have re-found my love of coloring. I’m not an arts-and-crafts person at all. But I had totally forgotten how much I loved to color when I was little. I have since purchased my own coloring book and special markers. Coloring has such a therapeutic affect on me. Even though I have no color strategies whatsoever.
  • I really love getting your nails done and having good-looking fingernails. Me? Enjoy getting my nails done? This was almost too hard to believe for someone who doesn’t do very many girly things. But it’s true. I love getting my nails done, and I enjoy and notice when people have their nails done nicely.
  • Bookstores. I mean, seriously. Who doesn’t just want to lay on the floor and bask in the smell and wonder of endless books and quiet and coffee? This too has taken me a while to really believe and accept because typically I don’t like shopping or most stores. Not so with bookstores. I could roam the isles and read the summaries of endless books. Or I could just sit in a chair and inhale big whiffs of bookstore.
  • I love scents. Especially the smell of oranges. Have you smelled one recently? You really should. You probably would be in a much better mood afterward. I have been known to hold a huge Florida orange, purchased from Publix, sniffing it on and off all day. Eating it? Don’t even get me started on what happens to my taste buds. 
So yeah, I think Beth is right. I think I am waking to desire. And I’m on a curious quest to find out more about myself and the desires that lie within.  

So here are my questions for you. What are the smaller, more mundane things in life that bring you joy? What changes could you make in your day-to-day life to incorporate more of these desires, and bring more joy in your life? 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Just Wait

By Rosie Wittleder 

Not too long ago my husband and I were having a little talk. By “talk” I really mean us trying to hash out a conflict. It was about a sensitive issue. As he shared more, I began to feel hurt inside. Typically “feeling hurt” lasts about 2.5 seconds, before anger comes in to take its place.  

But this time was different. I wanted to do things a different way, so I tried not to respond. In those moments the word “wait” kept coming to mind. “Just wait, Rosie. You can endure these difficult feelings without reacting. Don’t rush. Just wait.” 

As Mark continued talking, he mentioned something that was difficult to hear. By this point, I thought it wouldn’t be long before I burst in anger. I begged God to help me, and quite honestly I felt very overwhelmed. “Its okay, Rosie. I see you. I see what’s happening. I understand how you feel. Just because you choose to not react, doesn’t mean you’re being a doormat. Just wait, Rosebud. Just wait.” 

After Mark finished speaking, I didn’t really know what to do or say. I had a prior commitment to get to, so I quietly ended the conversation and got in the shower. I felt conflicted. I wanted to be angry, yet I knew deep down I was hurt. I said to myself, “It’s okay, you don’t need to cover this hurt with anger. You can just be hurt.” Once I gave myself permission, I cried and felt my feelings. Later on, we went bed agreeing that we would talk the next morning.  

Heading into this conversation, I felt anxious. I didn’t know how it would go or how I would react. As Mark began to talk, that same word came back to me again. “Wait. It’s okay Rosie. You can tolerate these feelings. Stay in the moment. Listen well and don’t think about what you will or won’t say right now. Just wait and stay present.”  

I felt a little better and had more availability since I wasn’t thinking about how to respond. I found it easier to listen and to take in what Mark was explaining to me. I said a few things, mostly to clarify what I was hearing, but he did most of the talking. 

Then he brought up one of the things that had hurt me. My heart started beating faster. I struggled with whether or not I would be honest with him in a vulnerable way. For whatever reason, I had this sense that Mark would have space for me. That maybe it wouldn’t be like times past when he didn’t have that space. He just seemed a little different.  

I knew I should probably try to do this, as much as I didn’t want to. “It’s okay, Rosie. I am here. Even if this doesn’t go well, I am still here. I still see, even if Mark doesn’t. You can do this. This is your time to speak. Show your soft, tender, and broken side.”  

And so I did my best. I spoke softly and slowly, with tears in my eyes. Mark was fully engaged and intently listening. I shared openly about what this incident triggered in me – things that didn’t have to do with him. And I shared about the things that did have to do with him, and the hurt that I felt.  

When I finished, I saw how deeply present and concerned Mark was. He thanked me probably four times for sharing and doing so in a vulnerable way. So I knew he got it. He knew how hard it was for me. Then he spoke to the thing that pertained to him. His mouth started to shake, and he began to cry. He hadn’t understood how painful all this was, until I showed him how much it was eating me up inside. He wept as he said he didn’t want to bring this kind of pain to me or into our marriage. I had never seen him show this kind of sorrow before.  

I cried because I knew he was genuine. He saw me. He saw my pain and it mattered to him. He created enough space to see how things were for me, instead of making it about him or shutting down. I could tell that he came with me into my pain and saw things for himself. I didn’t need to be angry or emphatic, because he saw the pain as it was. As he finished, I just shook my head yes, as if to say, “Thank you.”  

From there I thought the conversation was ending. Then this thought came to me. “Rosie, tell him that you forgive him.” I was a little reluctant, largely because it felt unnecessary. He already knew I had accepted his apology by my reaction and my non-verbals. But it wouldn’t go away.  

So I decided to tell him. Unexplained tears came to my eyes. “I don’t know why I’m saying this,” I said, “but I wanted to tell you that I forgive you.”  

It looked like a damn broke. Like a 50 pound weight had been taken off Mark’s shoulders. He wept. Much harder than before. And we wept together. This is not how we typically roll. At all. Then he told me he loved me, and I told him the same. 

He then comes over to where I was sitting. He guided my head and placed it against his chest. It’s hard to explain but in those moments I felt like I was a little girl being held by God. He was stroking my hair. And pats on my back. And I could hear Mark’s heartbeat against my ear. It felt like the heartbeat of Jesus. With such strength and rhythm and gentleness, offering such security. And those same thoughts came back to me. “It’s okay, Rosie. It’s okay. I see you. I will take care of you. It will be okay.”  

And then our almost four-year-old son walked into the room. At first, I was nervous. Our son is very sensitive and I thought he’d be worried at our tears. But he came and sat right next to us, looked us straight in the eyes and did not say a word. He leaned in and put his arms around both of us. And the three of us hugged for probably five minutes. The whole thing felt surreal.  

So here are my questions for you today. When you are overcome with the pain that life brings, is it hard for you to wait? Is it a struggle not react to hard things the way you’ve always done? What things could you do to learn how to tolerate being so uncomfortable while you wait? 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Changes in Relationships

By Rosie Wittleder

Recently this one particular thing has come up a lot in my life. And that is this truth: when we are on this path to becoming our best selves, and we make changes to that end, the relationships we’ve always had often change. As we develop new life patterns, there are some in our life who really want us to go back to our old patterns. And this creates a strain and a difficulty.  

We wish so badly we had the other person’s support and understanding. Often times this person has been in our life for years and years, and now we come to the realization that maybe we are not as close to them as we used to be. And that is very hard. It feels lonely. It feels like rejection. It hurts our feelings.  

So what now? What do we do with these difficult feelings and transitions? Give up on the healing path and quit because it’s getting too hard? I think not. Some may choose to turn courses because the cost becomes too high. But for those of us who choose to continue, what do we do?  

First, we can grieve the change or loss. Yeah, not so flashy or fun to talk about. But as we have discussed in Adelphi, sorrow leads to joy. If we don’t grieve, we will carry around hurt and pain—which eventually makes us bitter and stuck. No thank you. Instead, we can grieve the sting away. 

Second, we can be intentional about our support system. This often means inviting new people into our life who are on a similar path as we are. Of course, investing in others requires time, effort and vulnerability. It might seem easier to just stick with the people you’ve always known. But it is in building this new support system that we develop and begin to live this new way of life.  

This doesn’t mean you have to drop all your other people. It just means you have those in your life that really get you, get what you’re trying to do, and can support you in this meaningful path. So building these new relationships could be an add-on to the relationships you already have. It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. It can be both. 

But if we are to stay on this path less traveled, it is imperative that we have others with us who are likeminded. If we do not, we will absolutely go back to our old ways of living and relating. We cannot do this alone. It’s impossible. 

So here is my bottom line for today’s post: When we embark on life changes, our relationships change. This can be hard. But, we can grieve the changes—or even losses—which will alleviate the overwhelming hurt and sting. While we grieve the changes, we can intentionally invest in others. Those who are also on this path. These are hard transitions to make, but they are vital if we want the full life intended for us. 

So here are my questions for you today: As you have been on this journey of healing and wholeness, have you noticed a difference in the way you relate to those you’ve known for a long time? If so, how has it been different? When it comes to this idea of developing a different kind of support system, what feelings come up for you? What are some obstacles that keep you from investing and deepening relationships so that you can have a loving support system?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What Could I do?

By Rosie Wittleder

Last week, a group of women were circled around in the sun room of my house. It was towards the end of our time together when one of them was talking about an upcoming operation she was going to have.  

Several of the girls piped up and volunteered to cook meals for this friend and her family. I sat back and watched as the girls interacted and it was awesome to see the community and friendships that have developed, and to see the willingness to help out another in a time of need. It was obvious it made an impact to the girl having the surgery as well.  

As I sat there listening, quickly following the joy of seeing such genuine community happen, a huge gallon of shame dumped over my head, seemingly coming out of nowhere. As the girls were talking about what they could do to support the friend having surgery, I sat there and asked myself, “What could I do?”  

At this point in my life, I still put a lot of hours into my emotional, mental and physical well-being. It kind of feels like a part time job. I also put a lot of hours into motherhood. And I try to be available to others for a phone call, a reply, or a visit. But, I still don’t have the degree of functioning that a lot of others do.  

So as I sat there for a few seconds thinking about what I could do for her, the only thing I could think of is that I could offer my presence. And show up for a visit with her. I made some joke about how I can’t do much, but I could come over for an “emotional wellness visit.” Kind of like how kids go the doctor for “well visits.” She responded very kindly and told me she would like that. 

While this whole exchange was happening, something inside of me felt off. I felt ashamed, embarrassed some, and sad. I think in that moment I felt like, “gosh, I really have nothing to offer people, in terms of when they are in need.” At least in the more typical ways people help out. I don’t have a lot of space nor am I passionate about the ways people generally support others when they are having a hard time. 

I like to cook, but often don’t, at least not right now. I think that could change in the future because I enjoy it. But, I don’t have the space for it on a consistent basis now. I hate cleaning for the most part. I don’t mind watching people’s children, but again, I wouldn’t say it’s something I thoroughly enjoy because I can get overwhelmed easily. (Although babies are an entirely different matter :))

I don’t make crafts or create things, so I can’t make something special or thoughtful really. I don’t really get people gifts because I hate shopping. The amount of options overwhelms the hell out of me. (Do we really have to have 67 different types of shirts? Can’t we just have 3? I would experience shopping freedom if this were the case.) 

And as I was sitting there feeling all this, I could have started crying if I would have let myself. Feeling like I can’t do the things that “normal” people do. Wishing I had more space than I did, and also wishing I was more passionate about these things as well. It’s just embarrassing to be honest. Things that would be normal day to day things for most people, are not really for me. And sometimes, I just really hate that. I know I’m on the right path and that I’m using the time and energy I have on the things I value most, but still, it’s hard not being able to do things others can with relative ease. 

As I have been thinking about all of this, I’ve had to ask myself hard questions. “Am I enough, just as I am? Even if I can’t do this or that? Is my presence and me just "being" enough? Or will I always feel like I have to be “doing” to matter to others, to God, and to myself?”  

What I have to offer right now, and something I feel passionate about in life, is just being there for people. Especially when people are in the trenches, or are in the ER of life so to speak. That’s when I feel the most comfortable, and that is what I can offer naturally, without it really feeling “hard” or difficult. I don’t have my purpose fully mapped out, but I know this is part of it. Being with people in their pain.  

Because I’ve been through a lot of hard things, I have a heart for those who are broken. Offering my presence in the midst of pain, is all I feel like I really know how to do for the most part. But what I realized last week is, it just seems so insignificant. Like I’m really just doing nothing. And what I’m doing doesn’t really matter. And I felt so much shame that I don’t have something to physically bring to the table. And I guess at times it doesn’t feel like enough. I am in tears as I write this out. Wishing I had more.  

So that is the journey I am on this week. Trying to get to a place where “just being” and offering my presence is good enough. Being content with what I can give and what I can’t. And accepting myself for who I really am. Accepting what I am passionate about and what I am not. Not trying to be someone else, but instead becoming myself even if that looks a lot different than other people.  

What about you? Have you ever caught yourself noticing others and what they can do or offer, and feel like you just don’t measure up? What are things we can do to avoid the comparison trap? Something else to consider, what do you like doing or what is a natural gifting you have that you can offer others easily? What could do you do to try to implement that passion more into your day to day life? (Instead of forcing yourself to do things you don’t particularly enjoy.)