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A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Red Monkeys and the Summit

I read another blog by a young man who had been divorced twice and was re-hashing his failures and foibles in an attempt to make a better relationship with future prospects. 

The information was valuable. I could see so many areas where I've got room to improve. Some of the premises didn't apply to our situation, but are good ideas. Some of them seemed like ant hills to me. "Oh, that's a simple thing," I told myself. Little snowball. But the little snowballs are where the avalanche begins.

We forget or neglect to do the small things and pretty soon the big things seem like looking at K2 from the foothills. What we seem to need are a couple of sets of climbing gear so that we can clamp onto the cliff and endure to the summit. And the gear needs to be used quickly so that he doesn't see how far above it is and decide to wait in the car.

The other day I watched Touching the Void, a movie about a couple of British guys who went climbing in mountains in South America. As they were coming back off the summit, one of the men slipped and shoved his leg bone up through his femur, badly breaking it. 

His friend did his best to lower him down part of the mountain, although it was excruciatingly painful. Since their ropes weren't long enough to really work well, they'd lower him down to the knot between their ropes. The broken guy would find a foothold and stand on his good leg, and then the one above could untie and then re-tie the knot around the carribeaner.

 They both wondered how they would make it. After a while, it got dark and they both were exhausted and dehydrated. 

And then it happened.

The broken guy was lowered past an overhang, making it so that unless he climbed back up the rope, he couldn't take the pressure off so that the man on top could re-rope. The one above had no idea what was wrong and began to slip. All he could surmise was that the man below had fallen and was dead. In order not to get pulled off the mountain, the one on top made the fateful decision to cut the rope.

The broken one fell into a deep crevasse and became wedged. He tried to climb out, but dropped one of his two Prussic knots (a system by which one can climb back up their rope). He thought all was lost. But here's where the heroism comes in. That man worked his way successfully off the mountain and is alive today.

He had to do unspeakable things such as: let himself fall further down the crevasse, hop on a false floor hoping not to hit a weak spot, drag himself over miles of boulders and treacherous snow bridges, drink from mud puddles, warm himself with his own urine, and time himself to get to little goals of a few yards.

My estimation of that young man hit an all-time high. Nothing in my life has been that difficult. To me, that young man had a spectacular reason to whine, to give up, and to make excuses. I do not.

What that young man didn't have in his equipment was prayer. He didn't have a belief in God which could sustain him and buoy him up. He had a spectacular will to survive...alone.

Which is also what the young man in the blog post was missing--a relationship with God. I think that neglecting that one imperative piece of equipment can be like dropping your Prussic knot. Or worse, cutting your own rope. Why not ask for help from the Being who made the crevasse in the first place?

So recognizing that this marriage is a three-way relationship is something we've sort of done, but not really. We're kind of allowing Him to be our roommate. I personally want a deeper relationship with both of them, because the whole expedition will work much better if God is the one belaying us.

My first marriage crashed badly. It was as if he'd cut the rope for no apparent reason at the time. From where I stand now, I realize I was surpassing naive,  lacking in confidence, and afraid to stand up for myself and for what's right. I let him drag me through several things I'll never allow again.

He'd never learned how to climb safely, as his mother had been married and divorced some six times or so. The Ex eventually had his own three or four more marriages. I'm not certain if he's finally found a way to keep from cutting his companions free because I haven't talked to the chap in about twenty four years. I don't miss him. Off belay.

So I've also been trying to re-apply some of the principles I learned in the other blog. One of them is putting fun back into the relationship.

My ice breaker for getting back into these ideas is a monkey. The other day I found one from my kids' Barrel o' Monkeys. For days, now, we've had a great time trying to tag each other with that monkey so the other person will hopefully get out of the house and later find it. He found it in his pajama pocket once (why do we need pockets in pajamas anyway?) and I found it in my hair this morning after he kissed me good-bye. I almost did it today hiding it in his wallet (but the dang thing was too fat so the wallet didn't close well). What that little red monkey has done is start bringing the playfulness back into our marriage. 

Now to get him to go walking with me. Or any other fun thing away from the computer. 

We're pretty good about kissing and saying we love each other. But I'm horrible about talking about him to my friends. I'm torn. In one book I read that we need to never talk about our spouse to our woman friends. But in all the rest of my experience, I note that we have a web of woman-type friends for a reason. They help you figure out what you're doing wrong so you can fix it.

I also note that many men just DON'T talk, and mine in particular. He doesn't have the capacity to sit there and speak deeply to me. There is no pillow talk arena. I'm not sure if that is totally a dead end, or if I'm just not realizing how I can acquire the key to that particular door.

Here are some great ideas that come from me and from other people who have been through it. Hopefully I can re-apply some of the ones I've let slip in my life:

1. Keep God in the middle of your relationship. He knows His stuff.
2. Don't stop doing the things that you did during dating just because you've snagged your spouse, like dancing, or working out, or wearing deodorant and nice-looking clothing, or cleaning, or holding hands and making out. It's dishonest and lazy.
3. Don't diss him/her to your friends just to diss him/her (I wish there was an IT you could use in English to include both sexes like there is in German.). It's disloyal and counterproductive.
4. Fight fair. Don't dredge up instances from the past, because it's likely they'll have forgotten all about that instance and feel like you're putting them on trial. Unless you both like affidavits, don't muckrake. If you have a beef, handle it when it first rares its ugly head.
5. Don't say stuff you wouldn't like said to you, even if it's true. Come on, this is the person YOU MARRIED FOREVER! You made a vow before God and others to love and cherish this person you're calling names. Cut it out!
6. Making your spouse read your mind is a bad idea. It's a good bet you aren't married to a mind reader. Expecting them to do so is not only folly, it means you don't respect them enough to talk to them.
7. Never disrespect your spouse to your children. The best present you can ever give your children is to love their parent.
8. Don't get lazy and stop doing the things you like to do together. And if you do stop for health or other reasons, find something else to do together. Love that person enough to do a few things they like that you don't care for.
9. Don't always expect the other person to repent first. They're probably expecting the same thing, and soon you'll expect yourself right down to the lawyer's office.
10. Not talking so you won't fight isn't going to cut it. You have to communicate. You have to have enough love and respect for your mate to make time to talk to him/her, and you don't make them 'pay' for wasting your time talking. It's a privilege and a duty and a right. They are your spouse, after all, not your roommate or your handyman/maid. You MARRIED that person across from you.
11. Finally, forgive the spouse. There is no way you are perfect. That means that at some point in your life you're going to do (or have done) something so stupid that you'll count yourself lucky if it goes unnoticed. So why would you think that your spouse, another flawed individual, should be perfect at all times? Cut them some slack. They do that for you all the time. (Mine does every time he opens the fridge and the black hairy goop that used to be cauliflower tries to lynch him.)

So that's a rough list for now. I'm certain I've missed important ones. I have more than many of them to work on. I'm determined to make it to the summit safely this time.

On Belay! And where did I put that little red monkey?

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