Updated: May 1, 2020
It all started a week ago when my husband stepped on a needle, eye side up.
I was on the phone with a friend when it happened, and he recruited our two teenagers to administer first aid without telling me what was going on. When I got off the phone, and was apprised of the situation, our conversation devolved to the point where I -- the one who had dropped and left the embroidery needle in our living room rug -- got mad at him. I was mad enough that I got in my car and drove 15 minutes to the nearest ocean cliff, where I wrapped myself in a picnic blanket from the trunk and stood in the wind until I had cooled off. Both literally and figuratively.
You will have to just take my word for it, but we really both were in the wrong in this incident -- or if not actually in the wrong, we were playing out a dynamic in our marriage that is in need of some attention eventually. It's a dynamic that has been in place for quite a while. But the fact is, this season is not the time to address it.
I talked to my friend Jen on the drive home from the beach, and here's what I realized as I processed with her: Though times of crisis reveal issues in our relationships, they are rarely the time to address them. Note them, yes. Pray about them, for sure. Possibly make note of them to circle back later. But don't try to sort out and heal a long-standing issue with your spouse when you are both under more stress than possibly you have every experienced before.
When I got home, I said to my husband, "Shall we just chock that up to Corona Virus quarantine and forgive each other and move on." "Yep," he said. We shook on it.
In the first couple of weeks that our world was totally disrupted, those of us with kids in school suddenly had kids at home all day, and most of us who are married suddenly had a spouse home all day as well. From what I saw on social media, most of us went into what I think of as Power Up Willpower Mode. We resolved to stay positive and practice gratitude but also to set new schedules and goals to give structure and sanity to our days. But like the situation in my living room a week ago, things started to devolve for all of us. Sadness set in. The news got worse. The novelty of having all this lovely time to play Pictionary and take walks started to feel less like a privilege.
And we started to get on each others' nerves.
So though I have set some goals for myself spiritually at this time, and even some writing deadlines to keep me sane, I am letting go of the urge to see this time as an opportunity for a marriage makeover or the opportunity to finally going to make some headway on breaking my kids' bad habits or insisting they always use the right tone of voice. (Although making sure we get the dishes in the dishwasher and not under the couch is necessary for everyone's sanity, but that seems a reasonable goal.) I'm taking as my motto instead 1 Peter 4:8: Above all love each other deeply, for love covers over a multitude of sins.
I reached out to a local psychologist and marriage and family therapist, who specializes in EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) trauma therapy, to see if I was on the right track in thinking it was more important to give grace than address issues right now. This is what Curtis Rouanzoin Ph.D., said:
"When the bombs are dropping overhead and exploding, it is not the time to address the sensitivity of someone else's ears or why their homework is not done! Wait until the onslaught is over, and then address the issues in peacetime.
"We've never had a global crisis like this before, at least not in our lifetime. Love, grace, forgiveness and flexibility is what will allow our kids to survive and allow us to survive. If you go back to our grandparents an great grandparents, between wars and the great depression and plague -- they survived. But they did it by clinging together in community, family and each other as best they could."
Don't get me wrong, nor Dr. Rouanzoin, either: We are all going to learn some profound lessons in this season. I have great hope that the God I serve will bring amazing good fruits of character from this time if we submit to Him. But these fruits might not ripen in the next couple of weeks, because of the nature of traumatic situations and what they do to our nervous system. As parents, we can struggle to silence our adult worries and stay present with our children; our kids live so much in the moment that they can't connect to what the long-term good of suffering can do. My friend Kelly and I talked this week about our children's suffering being the hardest part of all of this for us; we feel their pain and so somehow want to muscle them out of it.
But being in the moment is the only thing for us to do. The simple, child-like faith that Jesus points us to is what I am clinging to: believing that God knows and anticipates our needs, letting go of worry, considering the beauty of nature, asking in prayer for our daily bread and taking each day one day at a time. And some days are going to be days we need to mourn, cry, eat a whole bag of popcorn, forget about lessons and watch a Disney movie marathon, comfort each other with lots of hugs, or take a drive and just stand at the oceans' edge until we calm down.
So maybe today, step out of Power Up Willpower Mode and just allow yourself to be needy, weak and bummed out. Receive the grace you need for yourself. And then give some out if you can. For right now, grace is enough.
For an encouraging glimpse of hope, check out this article on what the long-term results of traumatic experiences are. Hold on to this exciting idea: that we have the opportunity as a whole nation to experience these spiritual benefits: