Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What Constitutes an Easy Life? Could it be a Matter of Perspective and Temperament...or...who your Spouse is

Recently we had some friends over, and somehow whatever subject we were on brought Gary to say that he had had an easy life. Not just, I assumed, in comparison to the bushmen of Africa, or the people living in huts made of aluminum scraps and pallets. I was speechless, but I've had to ponder it since then. He and I, I would think, had for 25 years had the same life, living in the same house and under what I would think were the same circumstances. It made me realize just how much perspective impacts our view of things. Was I stressing myself out to make his life easy, or was he taking it easy such that it stressed me out? I couldn't see that either case was true. Still...
Except in comparison with things like third-world type living, I wouldn't have ever thought to describe our lives as exactly easy over those years. Am I less resilient? Am I weaker? (Well, I guess in a sense I am.) Am I more negative? Less optimistic? (Probably--Gary is indomitably optimistic.)
When I look back and list the things that I see as making up a major impact in our lives together, the stressors stand out, flood my memory banks and impact the content of my writing; if you've read it you know this to be true. I remember being around 30 and wondering how in the world my grandmother made it to 92, being sure that I wouldn't make it nearly as far. I was tired and stressed! (And anemic; that was significant!)
I wonder at Gary, what he looks back and sees: probably each of our trips (and we did have some good ones, by God's grace--usually accompanying Gary on his work travel; once, Gary won a trip to Lake Louise!), the view from our old house in our crazy old neighborhood (the view was the redeeming feature that he loved about it, looking out over Puget Sound; I rarely felt I had time to appreciate it, and tended to focus on the scarier aspects of the neighborhood...), our various friendships over the years, our two healthy kids and the privilege of home schooling them...of course there were good things. Of course. And if that were all I recalled, I'd say we had an easy life, or at least a good life, too.
Many of our stressors have been the type that would more typically hit the wife harder than the husband. Of course our pregnancies and c-sections would affect me more directly; my other surgeries too; but those all affected him as well, if it were only in that he had to keep house much of the time in addition to his work. In the midst of a six-year period of various surgeries and health problems I had, Gary was head usher at church, and it wasn't until we left that church and suddenly became well that I attributed our constant flow of about 10 colds and 2 flus per year to his hand-shaking there. (He does wash his hands--maybe more now than then?) None of those sicknesses in themselves were major, but they added a dimension onto a substrata of stress, primarily mine since I would generally be the nurturer of the sick.
From his perspective, you would expect that Gary was affected as well by his mother's Alzheimers, by her death and his father's death that followed; by his aunt's and uncle's deaths; all the more by our losses of babies. Those all would seem significant even if the other stressors did not exist. He does handle it differently than I do.
In a recent sermon I heard, the speaker related how his own mother valued a husband who provided a meal on the table; he proposed that it was a universal need in the mind of wives. I don't think of the job gaps as central to our stressors, but it didn't make life any easier. It did train me to be all the more frugal, and above that, to have faith in God's provision outside of the usual means. He has always, always been faithful! We never did lack for basic provision. So in my view of that, maybe I am a complainer, a wimp...thinking of the difficulties rather than glorying in God's continual goodness.
Yesterday I told Katie about her father's strange perspective. She immediately had an explanation: Gary was 33 when we married, and had lost no immediate family members before that; his family life was generally happy and supportive. I was 23 when we married, had been hugely impacted by my father's death, and didn't feel especially happy from age 10 until I came to Christ at 29. So if you analyze anything of what we've been through, Gary's been married less than half his life, and I more than half. Since most of the stressors since the stressors in Gary's life have primarily been since we married and many have had to do with my health...you could certainly say that I'm the monkey wrench in the cake batter of life. Gary's single brother Doug has been telling us this all along in his own way: he has a full head of hair, while their married brother Dave's hair is very thin on top and Gary has nothing but the fringe on the sides. Doug once submitted to us that the hairline corresponds to the stress levels that come with marriage. (Sigh.) Perhaps he had a point.

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