23 April 2010

She is the Zig to His Zag!!

Christ is Risen! 
Happy Feast Day to all of those blessed to be the namesake of St. George!

The lovely Mrs. Angelove from Love Being A Nonny! first turned me on to this article. Seeing as it was published in Family Circle Magazine in 2003, I thought it was probably okay to repost here. How grateful I am that Angela took the time to share this piece--a piece which has come to have so much meaning for her own marriage--with all of us!

I have to say that when I came across this article, my yearning for this kind of love and commitment intensified... In its own beautiful way, it helped to further nurture my optimism that what I desire really does exist.

It is truly a blessing to see that this article was published in a widely-read national magazine! :) The world needs more of these stories and perspectives! (and a whole lot less of the 'perspective' we are offered by Sex in the City, Desperate Housewives, and countless others!)

In His time and in the fullness of His love and grace for us, 
may God grant to each of us (as we are called), the Zig to our Zag!

 To read the original text above, simply click on the picture to enlarge. 
Otherwise, I have included the text below (emphasis mine.)

"What My Parents Taught Me About Love" [Marnell Jameson] Published in Family Circle in 2003

"Mom's in the hospital. Nothing huge in the scheme of mortality, just a knee replacement. She's 78, same age as Dad, and the joint has just plumb worn out. But our small family frets. Our matriarch is down, and we worry about the small odds that something might go seriously wrong, which some day will happen, but we hope not just now.

After the folks in blue wheeled her into surgery, Dad and I headed to the hospital lobby. "How are you doing?" I asked him, trying to jump-start a conversation."Lousy", he said. "The union's at stake.” I knew we weren't talking about the Civil War. "We have a routine," he continued. "I slice the banana. She pours the cereal. I gather the laundry, but she runs the washing machine. I don't know what kind of soap to put in."

All this time I'd been worried about Mom, but at that moment I realized Dad was in the hospital, too. The laundry soap was just the beginning. He was alluding to their daily dance, finely tuned after 53 years of marriage. She makes the plans. He drives. She cooks. He gardens. He turns the bed down. She makes it up. He starts the coffee. If the roles were reversed, she'd feel the same desperate way. What happened to their independence?

I imagine it was a slow surrender. As in most marriages, couples either wear each other out or break each other in. It happens by degrees. You have to give to gain. Intimacy requires dependency, which requires vulnerability. It's a package deal. And the deeper the love, the greater the risk. I'm glad my parents and their marriage have endured so I could see how scary and beautiful this is.

He continued talking, then drifted off, lost, not in confusion but in terror. He'd brought himself to the brink of his fear and caught a glimpse of how much he needs her. He vacuums. She dusts. She's the zig to his zag.

When we're young, we often look at our parent's relationship and think: Ugh, how dull. We naively compare it to adolescent love, with its erratic pitches of hope, headiness and heartbreak. As a teen, the feelings seemed very real to me in a way that my parents' love didn't. I confused intensity with genuineness. Genuineness takes time.

Mature love picks up where romantic love leaves off, and while very different, it's also in many ways better. Yes, the sun sets, taking its flames, but the moon, more magical, rises. Romantic love delights in novelty, while mature love revels in consistency. Dad knew the two things Mom would most want when she woke up from surgery were her glasses and lipstick, so he had them there for her.

Mature love is the payoff for investing in romantic love --which we all know doesn't always pay-- and for doing the work of mature love, the giving to gain. My parents are no longer beautiful, though they were in their day. But they're clearly beautiful to each other.

"I miss her," Dad tells me a couple days after her surgery. Though he sees her every day, I know he means he misses her beside him in the bed they've shared for half a century. He misses their routine, the zig to his zag. And I know, after she has recovered, after he's once again slicing the bananas while she pours the cereal, that as a result of all this, they will have moved closer yet one more degree."

Was that not touching?! 

In closing, I suppose there are two things I feel the need to comment on. (Although, without question, there are many more I could bring up.)

1. I appreciate so much the emphasis the writer gives to the matter of "mature" vs. "romantic" love. We live in a society that is told to relish in and even to prolong the romantic, "exciting" phase of one's relationship. Not only is this unrealistic, as the writer pointed out, it's like not wanting to let go of the excitement of the cocktail and appetizer when you could be savoring a delicately prepared entree. And we all know there is MUCH to be said for a fine entree that has been given time, attention, and a great deal of love in its preparation.

Moreover, however, there is a point that I do want to make about romantic love... that kind of love we first experience in a new relationship. (You know... that 'butterflies in your stomach when you pick up the phone' place in a relationship. Also, the place many people are quick to label "infatuation” instead of real love.” ) Despite what you want to label it, I do think there is something significant and something of God to be found even in that period of “romantic love,” as we’re calling it.

While there is much truth in the notion that this particular period of love has yet to fully come into its maturation and its fuller, more authentic self found and received only in self-sacrifice and love of the other over time, there is something to be said of the selflessness we often experience in the early days of a relationship. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.. no task is too big, no mountain is too high, no phone call is too long when you are just getting to know your love. I’ve been there too… there is nothing you wouldn’t do for your significant other if only they summoned you to it. Perhaps it is driving for hours on end to see them, maybe endless letters (or emails or, I suppose, texts) being sent their way. Whatever it is in your particular situation, you would be willing to sacrifice just about anything for the sake of the other.( As the classic song “Louisiana Woman Mississippi Man” by Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty says, “With a Louisiana woman waiting on the other side, the Mississippi River don’t look so wide.” This image is the epitome of what I speak of!) That being said, this, in my opinion, is an incredibly beautiful thing. For those few moments (be that they last for a few weeks or perhaps even months), you are no longer the center of your universe. Perhaps for one of the few times in our lives, we willingly(and I might even say, truly) step aside and concentrate our energies not on our own selves, but on “the other.”

Granted that all things can be taken too far, but this love, focus, and concern for the other is the exact thing we are called to as Christians. Yet somehow, over the course of time, we slowly return from this foray into self-sacrifice back into selfishness. Somehow, over the course of our growing familiarity with our love, we fall back into our self-serving routines. Of course, some of this is expected and even necessary, but all-too-often we turn and swing to the opposite end of the spectrum beginning to ask such questions as, “What are they doing for me?” and “How are they meeting my needs?”. Before we know it, we’ve completely missed the boat and fail altogether to consider the needs and wants of the other before our own! This, my friends, is the very thing we should strive so diligently to root out in our lives!

So, there you have it.. the important lesson I think we can all take from that period of early romantic love!

Now, for my other point…

2. I love how the author goes to the trouble of enumerating for us the many ways in which her mom and dad have become dependent on one another in this “dance” of life they have choreographed together. After all the examples of slicing bananas and pouring cereal, she says of her dad in the end, “He misses their routine, the zig to his zag.”

That’s it.. he misses their routine!! Living in a country (and being of a generation) characterized by Times Square, the lights of Las Vegas, and constantly changing technology, we often become accustomed to (and expectant of) endless change. The author illustrates a great point from her parents’ marriage in that sometimes life isn’t about the “new” or “exciting” but about the consistency and stability of the routine. It is here in the routine that you, seemingly ironically, come to know and appreciate the depth and beautiful otherness of your spouse. (Think here, amor meus, pondus meum! Even more than just the consistency and stability, Dr. John Gottman’s research has clearly shown the significance and role of some of life’s most routine activities in maintaining the good health of a marriage… routine things like making a shopping list together and folding laundry. See his book, Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Better yet, perhaps this is another post waiting for me to write!)

Having recently seen the trailer for the upcoming movie, Sex In the City 2, I was reminded that we are frequently quick to dismiss the value and benefit that comes from sticking to things in love, dedication, and obedience, even when our senses aren’t being tickled in new or unprecedented ways. The trailer to the upcoming movie release begins almost right out of the gate by the lead character saying of her marriage, “Big and I are getting a little too Mr. and Mrs. Married, we have to work on the sparkle. …I think we need some glamor.” While no one will deny that there is an element of romance that is okay (and important) to keep alive in any relationship, this line (and certainly the remainder of the trailer) is the perfect example of how popular culture indulges our propensity to be flighty and discontent when we sense things are becoming even slightly ‘normal’ or routine. It is as if to say, once the emotion and glamor of “romantic love” is gone that there is nothing that will ever be as good. I think the whole of this article would argue the contrary! As was said in the article, even when the sun and its flames go down, the magic of the moon rises.

All of this to say, may we be mindful of the beauty and blessings that can emerge from the small and seemingly insignificant happenings we go about as we share our life with others. Sometimes constant change and independence can leave us floundering alone at the shallow end of the proverbial pool. Rather than allowing this to be our plight, may we, as the author suggested, be willing to jump into the deep end with all of its beauty and benefit despite its greater risk! Kyrie Eleison!

While this passage speaks specifically of the wife, it expresses what I feel can be said of either spouse in a marriage like we have just read about...

"Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. 
The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. 
She does him good and not evil all the days of her life...
A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. 
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates."
-From Proverbs 31

Again, I say...
In His time and in the fullness of His love and grace for us, may God grant to each of us  the Zig to our Zag!

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