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.