Why I keep doing the work…

Why I keep doing the work…

and why I’m glad I didn’t blow up my marriage when I had the chance.

At the time, I wanted to do just that. I had a speech prepared. I had rehearsed it in front of the mirror. I was ready. And then these words came out instead:

I love you. I forgive you. Let’s try again.

To be fair, there was plenty that I needed forgiveness for as well.

Perspective is an amazing thing. That day, all I could see was the wreckage. My view of life was limited – think watching a parade pass by through a hole in a tall cedar fence, because you are too short to see over it.

Today, I am looking at my life, all 57 years of it, and I have a very different perspective. And I am so incredibly grateful that I didn’t bow up my marriage when I had the chance.

I am grateful that I learned how to do the hard work of repairing my marriage, treating my mental illnesses, and continuing the hard work to maintain my relationships and mental and emotional wellness. To be honest, my blog is a huge part of that work. If you have chosen to come along for the ride, or simply stop by from time to time as a casual voyeur, you are welcome here. I hope you stick around.

I’ve been asked “why”. Why do I talk about the hard and the messy and the uncomfortable? It is so tempting to give in to the relentless toxic positivity that permeates our culture, especially Christian culture. But it doesn’t help to give in, because that kind of positivity – that God is a magic vending machine and will give you whatever you ask for so stop whining and pray more and fake it til you make it – isn’t real. It’s actually really harmful. But that’s a bigger topic for another day.

The question before me today is WHY.

Mental illness is real and hard and lonely and decimating and beautiful and mysterious and elusive and… HARD. I am aware that I said hard twice. So, why? Why do I get up everyday determined to do my best to slay the dragons of depression and anxiety and PTSD, knowing that they will still be waiting for me again tomorrow?

Have you ever had a moment of reflection where the trajectory of your life plays out in your memory and you see things in a new light? That happened to me recently.

My husband and I were in the vehicle, having just left Kananaskis Mountain Lodge, where we ended our post Christmas family getaway. It was magical. I was filled with gratitude and joy on a level I had never before experienced. I looked out the windows at the pristine snow covered peaks of the Canadian Rockies, and my life flashed before my mind’s eye. All the forks in the road. The choices I made, the paths I considered but did not take. The relentless work I do for my mental and emotional wellness. That was the moment when these three words whispered in my heart.

This is why.

But first, our epic family adventure!!

We decided as a family that instead of spending too much money on Christmas gifts, we wanted a family getaway experience for our 2021 holidays. And then we spent too much money on gifts anyway.

We loaded up the vehicles on December 26 and headed to Banff, to spend two nights at Buffalo Mountain Lodge, followed by a night at Kananaskis Mountain Lodge, where we would enjoy a blissful day at the Nordic Spa. Both daughters were home with their boyfriends, and the six of us were all looking forward to fun new family experiences.

Toes up in front of the fireplace at Buffalo Mountain Lodge

We are incredibly fortunate because, while we all love each other, we truly and deeply like one another, and we enjoy spending time together. Not every family can honestly say that.

We set off the smoke detector in our suite with a ‘little too big’ fire in the wood burning fireplace. We skated on Lake Louise in -30C.

Steve and Lisa at the Ice Castle on Lake Louise

We snowshoed the Tunnel Mountain Hoodoo Trail toting thermoses filled with hot homemade bone broth and hot chocolate.

Tunnel Mountain Hoodoo Trail panorama

We went out to dinner for my birthday to Melissa’s MisSteak where we enjoyed fantastic food and live music, and the singer/guitarist sang happy birthday to me. Adrianna (my youngest) and I also got kicked off the dance floor, because covid, but we hadn’t yet paid the bill so they let us stay a while longer.

At the Nordic Spa, we soaked in hot pools and cold pools. We sat in steam rooms and saunas, breathing in essential oils and sweating out all manner of toxins. (Yes, we are all double vaxxed and followed protocols. Life must go on at some point.)

The entire trip was a once in lifetime kind of experience, but everything thus far was simply a prelude leading up to the main event.

Brittany’s boyfriend Marc was planning a proposal, and we were all in on it!

Marc had to first get Adrianna’s permission, and she was deeply involved in choosing the ring. Adrianna sat on this secret for months. I have no idea how she and her boyfriend Mike kept that to themselves!

Finally Marc came to me for my blessing, then had The Talk with my husband Steve. Then the proposal planning started in earnest. We hit a few road blocks, and had to do some creative explaining to keep the secret from Brittany. Let’s face it – we flat out lied to her for days on end.

I borrowed battery candles from our church after the Christmas Eve service. We had to concoct another lie about why Brittany could only be in the vehicle they were driving so she wouldn’t accidentally see the candles in the back of our vehicle, covered by a layer of blankets.

Steve offered to spring for a fancy dinner on our last night “just because”. Steve “took the guys for a drink” because “it takes too long for girls to get ready for a nice dinner”. In reality, the guys were actually scrambling to get the private room set up with the flowers and candles and music and champagne, while we girls were “running a little late” for our “dinner reservations”.

The pack of lies stacked up one upon another, until the final moment when my husband opened the door to the private room, revealing candlelight, flowers, Marc waiting for Brittany with a ring box in his hand, and Mike softly playing a guitar in the background.

She said yes!

She said yes, we all cried, we popped the bubbly, took a bazillion pictures, and cried some more.

The ring is gorgeous – created especially for Brittany by Custom Made.

The ring

We made it to our dinner reservations at the Cedar Room in time, and spent the rest of the evening oohing and aahing over the ring, wiping happy tears, and coming clean on the web of deceit we had spun over the last several days.

The next morning, in the vehicle driving home, looking at the mountains and feeling a euphoric all-consuming joy to a degree I had never before experienced, my life flashed before my mind’s eye and I could finally answer the question Why?

I realized I had actually answered that question the night before, while the sweet, earnest groom-to-be paced the floor of our hotel room as I ironed his shirt, literally sweating with panic over saying the exact right words to our daughter.

This is what I told him:

The moment matters, but the lifetime matters more.

We have all experienced moments that mattered. They were life-defining, trajectory-changing moments to be sure. But the lifetime matters more. Every day – every choice – every intention. They all collect and connect like links in a beautiful chain, or chapters in an epic saga that never quite reaches a final conclusion because the story keeps spinning out.

That moment of joy? The thing that made it infinitely more special was that I got to experience and share it with my husband of now nearly 35 years. The marriage I wanted to blow up once? I’m so glad I didn’t. We would have experienced the joy of our daughter’s engagement even if we had decided to divorce way back then. But it is so much more special and satisfying to experience moments like these together, as a healthy partnership.

This is WHY.

Why all the work and effort and hours spent with our marriage therapist is worth every minute of time, every ounce of effort, and every dollar invested in professional therapy.

Important – GIANT DISCLAIMER!!

Not every marriage should be saved. If you are in a toxic relationship with a person who abuses you, gaslights you, and otherwise manipulates you, that is not a relationship worth salvaging. Run fast, run far. I do not believe in staying married for the kids, for your religion, or for the approval of people who don’t know what it is to walk your road. Sometimes you need to pull the pin and throw the grenade.

I am one of the few lucky ones, that after I tossed the grenade and the dust settled, we both still wanted to take the blown up pieces and build something new and better, and we rolled up our sleeves and did the work. I understand how rare that is, and I will never hold up my marriage as a goal to achieve. I will always, however, stand by the work we have done and continue to do, and encourage you do the work too, however that looks and wherever that work takes you.

What’s your Why? Why do you do the work? Why do you face the dragons of mental illness, day after relentless day, doing the work to pursue healing and wellness?

Lets talk about it. Dump your baggage here – I can make space next to mine. Let’s dig through it together and discover all the brilliant, mundane, shiny, sticky, proud, and cringe-worthy moments that have collected and connected to make a life worth living.

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