Remember the Wedding, Live the Marriage

I wanted so badly to wake up with the sun. 

It was one of the many unspoken promises I made to myself during wedding planning: I'll rise at first light, meet God there, see the dawning of a new day, journal, breathe deep, be grateful to the core. 

My best friend nudged me at 9:00am: "Lacy, it's your wedding day!" 

And that was the beginning of breaking deals made in the part of my mind that craves perfect orchestration and imagines romance where there is none. 

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I sat up annoyed at myself but gradually relaxed into the wonder of our wedding day, September 16th, 2012. I cannot describe what it was like to be embraced by so many who know you, who have loved you and your family and your fiance and his family too. I cannot describe the joy of being prayed for by women who shepherded you into freedom, who are almost as nervous as you are, who understand the cosmic reality of what you are walking into. 

It was a supernatural day. 

When I think back to the wedding now, I see the details in HD, crystal clear. It must live somewhere in my long-term memory, because I'm not the type to recount events in play-by-play. I'll recall the sensory experiences and the emotion and tone, but rarely the chronological sequence. Granted, more pictures were taken that day than every previous day in my life combined, so maybe that's why I can still transport back in time to replay the minutes of our wedding in vivid detail. 

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On that day, I had no idea what was coming. 

There is no self-pity or patronizing in saying this. I simply could not have known. Though I had some naivete about marriage, I was not afraid of hard knocks. I grew up with two older brothers who taught me resilience from a very young age. If marriage was a fight, I was prepared to win. 

What I didn't know is that there are worse things in life than hard knocks. There are secret narratives, spinning around you like an invisible web, weaving in and out of longstanding traditions. There are losses too private to describe, and honesty that tastes metallic and keeps you sleeping on the couch, night after night.

Some moments in marriage are so painful, you wouldn't move forward if you knew they were coming. 

Other moments are so joyful, you wouldn't believe they'd be part of your story one day. How could I deserve or earn the kind of love that beholds me without a tinge of jealousy, malice, or restraint? And why is it that in spite of so many interpersonal conflicts and dysfunctional systems, there is a place vast enough to hold the love of two people, for as long as they both shall live? To have no answer to these questions is a source of joy that floods to the core of who I am. 

On anniversaries, we celebrate our wedding through conversation: "Remember how your grandparents Skyped in to the ceremony? And how hard our friends danced to Charlie Brown? How your brother drank champagne from our wedding glasses and our first destination in the getaway Fiat was CVS?" 

I remember the wedding in all of its splendor, but I don't try to relive it. I've felt pressure in the past to recreate as much significance and beauty as possible in order to conjure up an apparition of my husband, dressed in a charcoal suit, taking me in with tears in his eyes. It was such a heavenly day, after all. Why couldn't it last forever?

What I celebrate after 5 years married is this: 

That we keep choosing each other, even when there's a gulf between us. 

That one person can hold onto hope when another one's light goes out. 

That we honor the need to be silent with each other as much as the need to speak. 

That when competing priorities demand for more, we say "no" for our own sake. 

That we pray, we discern, we decide and we act.

That we trust slow growth unfolding over years at the expense of instant satisfaction. 

That we are still welcoming the same big questions we asked when we dated, because who knows, maybe our opinions, minds, beliefs, values could change? 

That we have two heads between us and thus never consider one person to be the "head" of the household. 

That there is a cord of three strands wrapping around us and God, hemming us in.  

This is our marriage, 5 years in the making. 

Whatever we do not know about the future-the names of the sorrows and the joys coming down our pike-pales in comparison to what holds us together in this present moment. 

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Crisis and Trauma and Me

ATTENTION! ATTENTION! GRAD SCHOOL UPDATE :)

It’s nearly July and I’m finally finished with classes until August!!!

I thank God for the chance to be back in school, learning bit by bit and staying open to where this path will lead. Most of you know I’m in a Clinical Psych program and I wish y’all were sitting next to me, studying and talking together about the health of our increasingly complex identities and communities.

But since you’re not, can I make one book recommendation? It’s not exactly beach reading, but it’s critical for understanding a society like ours where three in every four people could tell you a story about personal trauma.

I think when we hear the word “trauma”, we tend to picture someone else. In fact, our brains our wired to do that; an ounce of self-protection is worth a pound of denial.

I started my most recent class (Crisis and Trauma in Community Mental Health) thinking, “Dang. Am I prepared to hear everyone else’s stories about this?” In reality, the story I was least prepared to hear was my own. My family’s. I don’t think it’s too radical to say that every family has trauma in its history, but it feels far easier to think about it as a far-off problem the rest of the world deals with.

We have to start recognizing there is no bubble, there is no high ground, there is no wall that can keep the bad outside and the good inside. The war is within, as Thomas Merton says. Our brains can only self-protect so much before our bodies catch up to what’s awry and before we know it, we can’t sleep, we battle unwelcome thoughts, we fixate on the past, and so on.

This book is by a man who began his training by understanding trauma through the eyes of Vietnam veterans and has followed in its wake cutting through every layer of American society for the past forty years. This book is a wake up call, an omen, and a lamp post, lighting up a small part of the dark.

“The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk is the kind of book I’d dream of writing, packed with research and science and discovery, written as much for the reader on the Metro as the President of the American Psychological Association.

 

There are too many of us impacted, too many carrying these experiences around in our bodies and in our brains, to keep pretending trauma is a weed in someone else’s garden.

If I was going to stop school now (which I’m not!) and never learn another thing (which I will!) it’d be worth it to have read this book, looked trauma square in the eye. and seen my own story mirrored back.

(And if you're more of a podcaster than a reader, check this one out with Van Der Kolk and Krista Tippet: https://onbeing.org/programs/bessel-van-der-kolk-restoring-the-body-yoga-emdr-and-treating-trauma/)

Happy Reading! 

Lacy

Breaking Glass

When does a house become a home?

Is it the first time you unlock the front door?

The first time you sign the rent check?

The first time you order takeout and eat it on your patio, in plain sight of all your empty boxes?

We found our new place by way of a housing list, a disconnected phone line, a quick prayer, and just enough courage to knock on the front door. A woman answered our knock and launched into an explanation without missing a beat. “I’m on the phone with the guy from AT&T!” she whispered while motioning for us to cross her threshold.

We walked past a backyard filled with rose bushes and a bright blue pool. Aus and I caught each other’s gaze as she led us to a small guest house with green trim tucked behind the garage.

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Boston anymore.  

It was as if she and her husband were waiting for us, and us for them. This little place had everything we needed, plus a T.V. Our first T.V.! On the weekend after we moved in, they invited us over for dinner and offered a toast to our good health and success in California.

My heart swelled with gratitude as I raised my glass, and I wondered whose life we had dropped into. Certainly not ours, with unanswered questions and loose ends trailing behind us.

This life felt like someone else's dream. 

I often lapse into believing that the goodness of the Lord is something I can earn. A blessed life is a controlled one, where every effort is exerted and every possibility prepared for well in advance.

And, as with all manipulations of grace, behind this perversion lay a hidden fear: Left to its own devices, life will break you apart and lead you astray, so get involved, sister. Get control lest the whole thing go awry.

But what happens when the controllable shatters?

A few weeks after settling in, a crystal drinking glass slipped over the edge of our kitchen counter. We were both home, but neither of us were nearby the glass when it fell. My breath still caught in my throat. We're certainly no strangers to breaking glass. Five years with no dishwasher lends itself to these sorts of accidents, and these accidents can often be a gateway to passive aggression. 

Someone forgot to dry/wash/put away the dishes. Again.

I knew we had about two seconds to decide: would this broken glass be an omen, or an opportunity?

Our gaze met. We laughed with recognition.  

This is how it would go for us, the breakers of not one but two Chemex coffee makers. Even when no one's nearby, something fragile would break.

So, who bears the responsibility? The one who left the glass on the counter? The one who failed to lend a hand and place it in the sink?

Or the one needed a drink of water in the first place?

The controller in me doesn't want to hear it, but sometimes responsibility has no one clear owner. 

And sometimes no one in the room is to blame.

The truth is, all the moving, the packing, the changing jobs and finding a new place to lay our heads?

It was pretty rough. 

I'm still losing hair over it, to be honest. 

There was awhile there where all we had was an acceptance letter. An acceptance email, really. 

There were no jobs. No address. No five year plan. We hit the road with all our worldly goods and desperate prayers that everything still unglued would somehow find its way back to something cohesive, something that looked like a new life in California.

When we rolled in to town, we went straight to our friends. Friends who opened their arms wide at the end of their driveway and said "You're here! Let's pop the champagne!" Friends who knew we'd come a long way and we still had a ways to go, but we weren't going to go it alone. 

What relief when grace meets you at the end of your journey. 

 

To ebb what's breakable, I raise the glass that a loved one hands me and toast to everything I cannot see:

Here's to the visions we nurture and the prayers we pray, that even the broken pieces of life in our new little home would become part of a much bigger and graceful story that, even as I write this, is being made whole.