There are moments in my marriage that take my breath away.
Last Sunday on Mother’s Day, the four of us spent several hours working on my garden. My garden is one of my sanctuaries, but every year the grass from the lawn finds its way into my vegetable beds and by mid-summer they’re overrun with weeds. Last autumn we realized that we needed to make a border around the garden to prevent the grass from crawling over, so my request for Mother’s Day was my family’s help to create this barrier. This required renting a heavy piece of equipment to cut the sod then transporting twenty, sixty-pound bags of rock from the store into my garden. I’m all for women’s empowerment but I knew I wouldn’t be able to manage this one on my own. My husband was more than happy to help.
We worked all day together. While my husband handled the machinery, our younger son rolled up the sod and our older son lifted the sod onto the lawn tractor and drove it to another part of the yard that needed re-sodding. We laughed, played, worked, and sweated. I was in bliss, full of gratitude for this day, for the passage of time that has allowed our sons to grow big enough so that they’re actually participating in our family work instead of needing to be entertained, and for the magically joyful space that the four of us have found together recently. For all of you parents of young children out there: It does get easier!
By afternoon, we had shifted gears a bit and decided to work on the raspberry patch. My husband was moving some of the rocks that he had laid down as a border several years ago, and I suddenly noticed that the rocks extended twenty or thirty feet. They had been covered over in grass the last couple of years, but I had no recollection of him setting them there to begin with. “Did you put all of these down?” I asked him. He said yes.
When did he do this? How long did it take him? Where did he get the stones? And where was I when he was hauling these stones into our yard and placing them with his classic artistic care along the edges of the raspberries?
I was with our boys, of course. I was cooking and cleaning and caring and holding. I was tending to big feelings and soothing bedtime fears. I was trying to figure out how to homeschool and addressing the challenges that came up along the way. I was also working and creating, writing and tending to my work. He was doing all of these things, too, but not at the same time as I was. Modern parenting is often a game of tag-teaming where parents connect with their kids but often lose sight of each other. If we parented in community, the way it’s meant to be, we would come up for air more often than we do. But modern America, with all of its innovations and technology, has forgotten that children aren’t meant to be raised by one or two parents alone. We truly do need the village, as this article so aptly states.
My husband and I have stayed as connected as any two parents could given the circumstances and we have stolen away into the moments of time and space as much as possible. But as our boys reach the next stage of their independence, we’re finding vast pockets of time and spaces of air returned to us. It’s quite delicious, reminiscent of the BC era (Before Children), and when I stood in the yard last Sunday and watched my husband re-placing the stones, my heart flooded with gratitude for him: for his devotion to me and our sons; for his commitment to our house and yard; for his courage to leave Los Angeles and a successful career all those years ago to forge out together into the new frontier of Colorado, a life that included time for each other and placed connection as the centerpiece; for the fact that we’ve made it through several dark nights of our marriage soul, rife with projections and inherited stories that begged to be healed, and emerged with so much more light, laughter, and love than I ever could have imagined.
Our marriage has always been a safe haven even when the projections were sky-high from both of us, but now it’s mostly a playground of joy and harmony. Of course, it would be hubris to think that we’ll never be dragged into the underworld again. We have many, many decades before us, and countless unforeseen challenges no doubt lie ahead. But what I can tell you is that the stretches of ease, harmony, and true in-loveness are longer and longer, and when we do get snagged on the hooks of projections and old fear stories we come back to each other within the blink of an eye. This is the most we can hope for in marriage, and it is more than enough.
Through all of the work and pain and challenges of parenting young children, we have emerged into a new plateau, and when I raised my head in that moment and looked at my husband it was as if for the first time. It was a moment of pure bliss, a window into what the next half of life might look like together as our kids continue to grow up and eventually leave the house, as we age and ache and grow even more fully into the woman and man we are meant to be.
I share this with you now because I know how many of you are struggling in your relationships. Anxiety steals us away from love, and life circumstances come in to suck out the air. I’ve been there. We’ve been there. But what I can tell you – as I share in some form weekly on this blog – is that when you stay committed to your inner work and devote yourself to your healing so that you become the source of your joy and can shed the stories from your past both yours and inherited that no longer serve you, you will also emerge into the golden light of spring. The tulips will serenade you and your joy will be reflected in the world around you. As the stories fall away, the truth and beauty are revealed. And it’s so much better than Hollywood tells us. It’s real life: multi-textured as much from the pain and darkness as from the light and love.
Hang on, my friends. You are being guided and led. There is a path to follow. Let your inner wisdom, which often manifests as anxiety, lead the way.
Hi Sheryl. I’m finding it very hard to unhook from specific thoughts and am wondering how to practice the journaling technique. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Right now I’m in transition as I’m moving to be closer to my partner and want to effectively work through this.
Do you have the course? The video on journaling guides you through it clearly.
Yes I donhave the eclipse, but I’ve tried journaling and I feel it hasn’t helped. I can see that my projections with my partner (her not believing sex before marriage is a an) is just a projection due to the fact that I’ve been with others who believed the same thing and it didn’t bother me, br I don’t know why this time the thought keeps popping up. Maybe it reminds me of my ex partner or I don’t know what. I’m afriad god won’t bless the relationship and that I’m making a mistake by staying.
Even though she is the most loving,kind,compassionate, caring person I’ve ever met who we both go to church together and she’ll be an amazing wife and mother one day.
Hi Sheryl: This is so beautiful! I felt a little anxiety while reading it because though I have often felt in that sacred heart space with my partner despite projections and conflict, my marriage has not always felt like a safe haven as you describe yours has during even the darkest nights of your marriage soul as you lovingly worded it all. I suppose depending on where we are in our growth indvidiually as well as a couple determines to what extent we recognize the safe haven that is possible in any moment. Gave me pause and a good opportunity for reflection. Thank you!!!!!
We won’t always feel safe with our partner, especially when projections are high or we’re disconnected from each other, but underneath the temporal feeling of unsafety usually lives a sense of basic safety, often described as a sense of home.
This is so incredibly beautiful, it brings tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing and may you have many more incredulous moments to come.
Thank you, Jessica.
Beautiful post! I’m still very much in the baby years, but I am glad there is much to look forward to down the road as well! I think it’s so true what you wrote about the peaceful, connected stretches being longer! Marriage isn’t about perfection and I’m so glad your site helped me leave aside those expectations! It’s definitely a gift to build a haven with another person and walk along them in so many areas of life and growth! Glad your mothers day was beautiful!
A gift, indeed. And truly something that we build over many, many years.
. “Let your inner wisdom, which often manifests as anxiety, lead the way.”
This post is the little nudge and reassurance I needed to keep going! I hope you and yours continue to enjoy the joyful moments, thank you for the gift of your insight as a guiding light in this hard work!
Thank you, Ravenna.
This is such a beautiful post Sheryl. Thank you. I especially loved this part:
“But what I can tell you is that the stretches of ease, harmony, and true in-loveness are longer and longer, and when we do get snagged on the hooks of projections and old fear stories we come back to each other within the blink of an eye. This is the most we can hope for in marriage, and it is more than enough.”
I can say the same thing about my relationship now, after much hard inner work and stick-to-it-ness. We will celebrate 10 years together this fall and I feel so much gratitude for him, and for the life we share full of love, laughter and support. And when I do inevitably get stuck in annoyance or frustration or thoughts about lack of attraction, I don’t panic anymore. I just let the thoughts be (they’re just thoughts after all, nothing more) knowing full well they’ll pass and we’ll cycle out of the ebb and back into some sort of flow. What I have is indeed more than enough.
This is the work, Gardenia. Congratulations for doing it!
This is just beyond beautiful, Sheryl. Thank you so much for for sharing. In a 15 year marriage and with a little boy and struggles behind us, this is the reminder, the hope, the comfort, the validation that is so so helpful. It’s more than helpful. Thank you for sharing from “the other side”.
Thank you Sheryl for again writing a wonderful and reassuring post.
I was so grateful to wake up to your article this morning.
Last night when our 4 young children were finally asleep I sat with my husband and with a hurting heart shared that a week ago I felt so connected to him, and last week I felt so disconnected from him. Fatigue, work, kids, life I guess…. this article came at the perfect time.
I very much relate to your life choices as I too moved away from city to find inner peace, and away from a more money and high achiever lifestyle to have more family and together time. Your past blog about surrounding yourself with things that fill you up (like nature) really spoke to me and I working on it.
I’m now at the stage where my first should be going to kindergarten next fall and it’s been challenging to have them all home with me especially now that my youngest is a baby. I have a lot of guilt concerning their education, their stimulation and entertainment. My relationship with my husband is on the back burner and I won’t even talk about my own self care! I know you wrote an article about why you chose to homeschool but did you ever write about your actual day to day life and experience (like did you homeschool with a curriculum, or more unschool).
Sending much gratitude and love,
I’ve never written about our day-to-day homeschooling but what’s more important than that information is for you to trust your decision and know that there’s no perfect path. For some people/families, homeschooling is a very loving choice but for many others it’s not for multiple reasons, not the least of which is needing a break and needing other people/teachers to help raise your child alongside you. With every path there are blessings and challenges, and when we’re trying to find the “perfect” solution we end up feeling paralyzed.
Sheryl, thank you for this beautiful article! This part – “For all of you parents of young children out there: It does get easier!” especially is something I really needed to hear today!
If you find a moment, couls you please remind me the title of your very first blog post on your website so I can start reading all your posts from the beginning.
And if you ever lack inspiration for your posts, please write about Why being highly sensitive is a gift ❤️? I still don’t accept it fully in nyself and feel like an oversensitive, overly caring freak sometimes. In addition, our beautiful 4 year old daughter is also highly sensitive and I feel overwhelmed sometimes having to guide her and myself through life….
Thank tou so much
Thank you, Gabi. If you scroll through my blog backwards you’ll eventually arrive at the beginning.
Thank you Sheryl! Time and time again, you speak to my soul in a way nothing and no one else does. I am in the depths of early motherhood with a 2.5 yr old and about to have our second. While I enjoy life immensely, I am also struggling with missing the BC life which for us, did not last very long. However, I doubt I would enjoy it as much as I enjoy moments away now BECAUSE I didn’t have a child and couldn’t appreciate the quietness.
Your words truly helped me make the choice 4 yrs ago to marry my husband while I dealt with extreme projection, ego, and being a highly sensitive person. It was difficult but I am so thankful now that I was able to make that choice. You continue to help me navigate married life and motherhood. Thank you for your work! Words cannot really express what I’m feeling, but I want to thank you.
Thank you, Nile. Your expression of gratitude touches my heart!
Thank you Sheryl, so very much. Blessings, to you & your family. Namaste
What a lovely post Sheryl. Weeding the garden with your husband – a great example of the “oat meal love” that Robert Jonson talks about,belated happy mother’s day ?
Indeed and thank you ;).
Thank you for so much beauty shared.
I have also though about my relationship with the differents parts of me that I strigle with so mucha. I hope it will also grow to a mature and full of love friendship.
last time I read about your husband was when you had the horrible flooding,and I imagined him then doing everything he could to save your home.What blessings to have this sanctuary of love, family and home.
He’s a good man, through and through ;).
Thank you for this. We’re knee-deeping in getting a Kindergarten IEP for our autistic five year old. She’s struggling with other health issues and we has regular doctors appointments and therapies. My father is dying from heart failure and I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in August that we’re still trying to get a good handle on. I’ve fallen away from
Journaling when our 22 month old son was born. It’s no wonder I’ve felt disconnected with my husband lately and those projections and games of Whack a Mole have re-emerged. I began to revisit my Trust Yourself materials about ten days ago and this blog post today helps me remember: it’s normal for ME to feel this way. This is my pattern and a call to visit my inner well. It is a result of stress, overwhelm and delayed self-care. And it is a beautiful and messy season of our life. There will be a day when the children sleep better and play more independently and my daughter will use the bathroom willingly and my dad will no longer be in pain, but will be in peace. There might not be more Babies for us, so we will make an intention to connect as spouses while we enjoy our little children and say goodbye to their grandpa.
(Side note of celebration: my daughter has an incredibly empathetic and gifted PreK special education teacher who takes the time to shepherd the children through their big feelings in order to be ready to learn. My daughter drew a picture of herself thinking about her big feeling around waiting for her birthday and explained it to me! She’s already learning how to journal her big feelings!)
Your capacity to name your inner worlds is in-tact and inspiring. You might not have time to journal with everything on your plate but it sounds like you’re still making sense of it and naming the projections as best you can. Sending you blessings through your challenges.
I LOVE the side note!
I am so happy you enjoyed your beautiful interactions with your family. Your an amazing, selfless mother. I always wished I had the gift of becoming a mother, but its ok… I guess you cant have everything in life. Who knows whats just around the corner. Never say never. Love ? Angela ?
I hope you can give me some advice and wisdom. I have been married for just over a month. The wedding day was lovely and for a few weeks after it was too. Just a lot of love and appreciation. Every now and again I do still get that feeling but more often than not the feelings I get are utter annoyance and frustration and sometimes like I hate my husband. I really worry this means aren’t meant to be together. I started to feel this way a few months before we got married too but went along with it because I know I really do love him. It just concerns me as I always feels like A) he’s out to get me – even if he explains time and time again he isn’t I still think he is or B) I get annoyed with him and even feel like I want to leave sometimes because I just ‘not happy anymore’. He makes me so angry and I can’t even tell you why. I get annoyed so easily with him. It’s just stupid school boy things he does to irritate me which are a way to get a reaction from me but I find it so immature and annoying. Most days almost turn into an argument because I get so frustrated with him. There are times I’d love to leave but then times the thought of him leaving or being with someone else crushes me. I know deep down I would never leave because I love him too much. I know he is just trying to be fun loving but I just find it SO annoying, I’m not sure how to deal with this! I feel so bad because I do love him and I hate that I could be upsetting him but I can’t help how I feel at times.