I carried a pair of mismatched, dirty Angry Birds socks in my pocket all day. At breakfast, my toddler was wearing them as mittens on his hands and was frustrated that his attempts to eat a banana with them were not going as well as he had hoped. I gave the boy a hand (his hands, actually) and stuffed the banana-icky socks in my pocket. Where they stayed: All. Day.
I thought about taking them out once or twice, but chose not to. The socks felt symbolic: representative of how I have messy, mismatched, sticky things going on in my head and my home right now. I took the socks to the store, to the park, to the school fundraiser concert. They were lumpy and hidden in my pocket, just like the other life-mess I carried with me. Sticky, but out of sight.
In truth, I kept holding on to the socks because I needed them there. I felt my pocket and my fingers could discern the shape of my sadness all balled up.
This week someone told me about their hard marriage on the phone: hard because there has been shouting and blaming and ugly-things-said. I listened and thought, “my marriage is nothing like that.” Her marriage gets hard when the shouting is deafening. Mine gets hard when the silence is deafening. Rather than flare up, we freeze. Rather than shove, we shrivel. But our struggle is also hard in its own, private kind of way. The damage done is not as noticeable, and perhaps such silence might even be considered by others to be signs of self-control or loving restraint. But when an iceberg sails into your living room, you would do well to remember the Titanic. Icy silence can do great damage.
I felt the socks in my pocket and I thought about our latest bout of silence. I thought about how fake I feel: a lay-leader in my church and a regular contributor to a website for engaged and newly married couples. Month after month, I write columns about healthy marriage, and I have hinted in my words that maybe “communication isn’t all there is to it”. But if people knew – if they really knew – how, even though we love each other fiercely and even though we are happy most of the time and laugh much of the time and even though he is mine and I am is – even with all that, we still get stuck. We hit a wall. We have a small handful of unsolvable problems. I hurt. I cry. I get lonely. And sometimes, there are ice-bergs in my living room.
And who can I tell, without it seeming that I am dishonoring or blaming my loved one? How can I ask for help, if the solution has to come without the requirement of us talking about it? And would saying these things out loud cause others, who see us as stable – no, need us to be stable – would it cause them worry? Would talking make it better? Or would it make it worse? It can be a lonely thing to struggle in silence in a Christian community.
Maybe I should quit writing about marriage, I thought. If the best I have to offer is a marriage with periodic Scenes of the Titanic, who needs that?
All day long, I thought about the socks. I thought about my husband and I: two angry birds ourselves, balled up together in a sticky mess. A mismatched pair, but a pair nonetheless. In it, together, even when things are hidden and icky. I felt the socks in my pocket and fingered them like prayer beads: asking God to help us fix our nest.
At the end of the day, I took the socks out my pocket and threw them in the laundry. We put the children to bed. We talked about our day. We watched an episode of Friday Night Lights. And drip by conversational drip, drop by habits-of-love drop, we started the days-long process of defrosting the iceberg.
I think maybe I won’t quit writing about marriage, after all, because we’re not quitting marriage. We may not know how to do the healthy-disagreement thing, and we have some issues, yessiree. But he’s the red sock to my yellow sock: we’re a pair of love birds, you know, even when we’re angry.
Tomorrow, those socks get a new start. Freshly laundered. Walking together.
I’m excited to be participating in Momastery’s Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project with this post — To learn more, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!