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Last week I started lap swimming again. I’m not sure if it was my snug jeans or my busied mind that urged me to go. I’ve always sort of viewed swimming laps as a cleansing process; after a few minutes my body falls into a steady rhythm, I forget that I’m exercising, and I get some serious thinking done. A few nights ago while turning laps at the high school pool, I started reflecting on my life recently, mostly about being married and what I’ve learned about myself in the past ten months. My mind drifted over fun memories with Joe and our friends, all of the new experiences that I likely would not have had if I’d chosen another path in life. Joe and I are so vastly different from each other but I honestly could not picture my life without him. And then I began to think about the harder parts of being a life partner and wife to my best friend. Marriage really is the most difficult thing that I have ever attempted. It requires every part of who I am. I understand now why so many marriages fail in the first year. Every day Joe and I are learning more patience, humility, and understanding for one another.
I smiled as I thought about our unique and transient lifestyle. I am getting used to telling people that we don’t have a house and haven’t spent more than two months in any one location since we got married. On the flip side, though, it has required a lot of frustrating adaptation for me to take on our high-functioning, unpredictable lifestyle. To make it as a “21st century global nomad” (as our friend Javier calls it) you must go with the flow, and be extremely laid back about almost everything. Being able to quickly adapt to change has been one of the most difficult parts of my journey. My life has been fun and all but there was no gentle learning curve when the transmission in our van blew on the highway, or
when I found myself huddled up to Joe shivering on the side of a mountain one night in my harness. Before getting married, my life was predictable and comfortable, and I was really content with where I was at. I had a steady routine and I held onto a blurred illusion of control that allowed me to be successful in almost everything I did. I could see the trajectory of my life, and I would have likely ended up exactly where I was going. Now the challenges are no longer in alignment and my life’s destination is subjective. Though the process of learning to live out-of-box, metaphorically, and out of my suitcase, literally, has not been easy for me, I have experienced so much personal growth, and I am just beginning to gain a vision for my future. Never in a million years did I picture my life the way it is now.
God has really been growing up the young girl in me, teaching and guiding me as I step into this next season in life and learn to fill my roles as an older woman and as a Godly wife. There are many parts of my personality that are still young and in need of correction. My temper is the most obvious example, and sadly Joe is the one who feels the wrath of it most. I have always struggled with anger, and it is often the source of disappointment and dissatisfaction in myself. My anger is often a result of my unwillingness to adapt to difficult situations that come our way. For instance, we completely ran out of money while we were in China. Joe helped out a fellow traveler, giving him almost all of our available cash in exchange for a credit card payment through PayPal. Joe thought that his debit card and credit cards would work at the ATM, but they didn’t. We tried to have funds wired to us. That failed too. We had to borrow money from our Chinese friends, and we were living on less than $10 per day. Instead of bonding with Joe through this experience and working with him to solve it, I became bitter and angry at him. And since it was his fault, he felt all the more horrible, and he began to pull away as I was already pushing him away. In the end, Joe found a Western Union and was able to get us some cash, but I wish that I could say this experience was a good one that brought us closer together. I can think of a handful of situations where Joe made a simple mistake that anyone could have made, and instead of being understanding and adaptable to the circumstances, I let my anger take hold of me and my selfishness show its ugly face. I think back to those times and wish I had taken a different approach to dealing with and handling my emotions. Instead of growing as a couple and learning to ride the waves of life together, I distanced myself from Joe and made him my enemy. My prayer lately is that God would transform my stubborn heart to be more understanding and forgiving, that He would replace my anger and frustration toward Joe with a deepened admiration and respect.