09 October 2012

Dirty Socks & Smacking Lips

A few people want to know how Danny and I handle things that are annoying about each other...and why I don't write posts about that.  ha!

Well, here's the deal...... Danny doesn't annoy me.

You guys.  I know.  This is not the norm.  I fear writing about this a bit as I don't want to make anyone feel badly.  But since a few people have asked, I decided to respond.

It's not that Danny doesn't do things that could be annoying.... 

Danny leaves his socks & clothes everywhere.
His work area is an absolute disaster.
He lays in bed at night and reads with a bed light on.
He doesn't like to power walk like I do.
He is relentlessly positive.
He changes lanes more than I do.
He mans our kitchen and is very, very particular about cooking and spices.
He never once has picked up the mail.

These are things that may drive someone else crazy.

Everything is Ok
                                                                                                                                    (photo by Everything is OK concept store)

But I feel humbled to say that I could care less.  I just couldn't be bothered by these things.  I actually had to think hard to even write that list.  I'll try to explain why...

Friends -

I lost a husband.

I have lost a chance at a "baby" 96 times.

I've lived, worked, survived and provided for myself in New York City 13 years - that includes getting chewed up and spit out at least 20 times, once in the form of a home that caught fire. 

Everyone has a different path.  But somehow I was able to learn how to surrender to things that are less than ideal and it's been so liberating that you can tell by now that I had to share this stuff & help others to do the same, if they'd like to.  :)

SO - - even though dealing with annoying qualities in Danny is not a challenge for me at this time, I know enough about the subject to share a few ideas about how I got here.  If you are trying to let go of the annoying aspects of your spouse, whether it is his/her smacking lips or chewing gum or playing video games (as mentioned by a reader), here are (4) ideas that might help...these are things that I do specifically....and these apply to many, many situations in life....

what is love, True love is a big deal
                                                                                                                   (Image by Words over Pixels)
1.  Manage your energy.
Getting annoyed by things and reacting to things simply drains you!  When I was married the first time, I got better and better at letting go of things that were draining me and it was because I decided to manage/conserve my energy.  You only have so much energy in a day.  A depletion of energy will be problematic when bad or stressful or annoying things happen - you'll be more prone to crack or snap due to a short fuse.  And zapping your energy over and over can lead to health problems - your body simply won't be able to operate the way it's supposed to if it's so drained (see this amazing article in NY Magazine called "The Ecology of Stress").  SO, think long and hard before you decide it's worth it to be annoyed over chewing gum or smacking lips.  You'll want a good store of energy when life's bigger problems do come your way.  (See a more detailed post I wrote on the subject: "The F-Word Made Me Bankrupt").  And, to keep your energy stores full when crap goes down, you must get in the pattern of pursuing virtues in the moment - see here & here & here for examples of how to do that.  Pursuing virtues actually FILLS your tank of energy and empowerment!!!   :)

2.  Have gratitude.
I think I have this one easy, because I know what it's like to lose a spouse.  It felt like a death.  But perhaps it felt even worse as his removal from our life together was voluntary.  ouch. 
So - I can't tell you how much I appreciate Danny.  The gratitude is just so great that it really just dominates everything else.  Any little annoyance just doesn't have a chance around here.  Also, Danny is my little family.  It's just the two of us.  I wouldn't dream of not cherishing him.  And, actually, the reality is I felt the same way about my former spouse.  Focusing on gratitude for a human being really goes a long way in letting go of annoyances.  (See the post:  "Danny's Prayer for Me")

3.  Dedicate your marriage to a greater purpose.
I think it's so easy to get caught up in wanting our own needs and desires fulfilled.  It's easy to think of a marriage as something to fulfill US.  But, I've changed my standards on marriage.  I don't expect it to be a Hollywood set of romance & desire, a place of ideal circumstances where all my needs are met, where someone fulfills me, and where someone should be responsible for making sure I don't get annoyed....Instead, I see marriage as a place to learn and grow and progress as a person.  I made this shift long before I met Danny.  And it has made a huge, huge difference in our marriage.  (See the post:  "Are You Working Away at a Hard Marriage?"
        
4.  Let go, let go, let go.
I heard someone once say that they were so annoyed for 20 years that their spouse left dirty socks in the hallway.  And then their spouse died tragically.  And they now would give anything to have those dirty socks in the hallway.  Obviously, there are some abuses that cannot be ignored.  But little annoying things about a partner - ones that your partner may have difficulty in changing - are simply not worth zapped energy and the loss of harmony in a home.  Choose to let go out of LOVE for your partner, children, and anyone else around you......(See the post: "The Most Important Things I've Ever Learned About Love")

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here's a challenge for anyone who dares:  :)

Decide that the next time your spouse does something that would potentially annoy you, that you will try to react in a better way.  In fact, ask for an opportunity to try this!  Going into situations with some extra power and willingness goes a long way..... :)  So, think about how you might react in advance.  Plan on conserving your energy.  Envision yourself being "still" in the moment.  Channel some love & gratitude for your partner (and some self-worth for yourself goes a long way here, too...it helps to not "need" your partner to behave in a certain way.)  All it takes is a little practice, and you can see first hand how this works.  TRY IT!!!!  

[By the way, I took this very exact challenge once.  :)  :)  :)  It was the VERY, VERY first time I put into practice most of the things that I now talk about on the blog.  I will never forget it.  It turns out I had been planning out how to react to a little annoying thing, but then something rather serious happened.  Oh my.  I had one of the biggest surprises of my life.  But I decided to still apply these principles...and it turns out that the surrendering, the letting go, and the love worked just the same.  It turned out to be the most empowering moment of my entire life. ]

With love,

Mara

DAY AFTER ADDITION:  You know something?  I felt badly for having that list about Danny in this post....because actually, each of those things are quite endearing about Danny.  haha.  There are cute stories & loving gestures behind each of those things I listed and they actually make me smile.  I guess I was just trying to think of things that other people might not like - just to show how much power there is in our perspective. 
 
(top image by ett horn av eden)

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29 comments:

  1. bravo! your blog has been needing this balance. perfectly posed photos of stylish people cavorting around NYC hasn't helped those of us who are frumpy & live in the Midwest :) (and have husbands who can get on nerves)

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  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNWPs190isA&feature=share

    "At least one difference in a great marriage and in a tolerable one, may be that willingness in the latter to allow some things to pass without comment, without response." Jeffery R Holland from the talk How do I Love Thee.

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  3. This is excellent! All of this is so true, and its nice to have the reminder. Another wonderful thing that helps me is self examination. Sometimes it's not actually my husband that's making me upset.... It's the fact that I'm exhausted. Or starving. Or in need of some exercise. Or a raging hormonal beast. Or had a bad day at work. Or all of the above :) Sometimes, our spouses are the easiest target for us to take out our frustration on. But MANY times, if we would just cool down and give ourselves some time to think, reflect, and really understand the root of our emotions, we would realize there are actually A LOT of other factors that contribute to our "annoyance" with our spouses.

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  4. I needed this so badly today. Especially that bit about energy. We're in the middle of moving and I spent the morning seething while moving boxes because my husband can't take off work to help. Now it's noon and I have nothing left. I'm totally drained. Now I have to work on recharging and letting go of all my annoyances!

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  5. For the past 2 years my husband does something that annoys me, but the other day I kind of came to terms with it. And it's SO ridiculous! I'll tell you... We have baby body wash and baby shampoo for our son. The body wash is technically a body and hair wash. But for some crazy reason, I feel the need to use both, even though we could just use the one. For 2 years now, my husband has only used the body/hair wash instead of both. I can ALWAYS tell (because I'm crazy) and I've asked him repeatedly to use the actual shampoo on his hair. He never does, even though he says he will. :) Anyway, every time this happens, I get so annoyed!! haha! Isn't that so dumb?? Well, the other day I got really annoyed again, but then realized... why am I getting upset about this? His hair is getting cleaned, my husband is great enough to shower with our son, and I don't have to worry about it. So I let it go! haha! It was great! This is a ridiculous example, since it's so petty (but aren't most annoyances petty?), but I just wanted to share. :)

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    1. Thanks Rik, one thing that I've learned that applies to what you've said: not only is it true of the little and petty annoyances, but it is true of the big one's too. Even the biggest of offenses also need to be let go (don't misunderstand me...I'm not saying they should be ignored).

      It can be easy to read of an experience like you've described and say "well, yeah, what a silly thing to get upset about." For me the key is realizing that if it's true for that experience, than it's true of worse things as well.

      Mara and I have shared an experience in our classes about having her wedding ring stolen while on our honeymoon. Talk about a reason to be angry, frustrated, upset, vengeful, or whatever else. And yet, after doing everything that we could to report the theft, we made an immediate commitment to just let go of all the negative emotions. It was tremendously powerful. We ended up having a wonderful honeymoon that not only wasn't ruined by someone stealing her wedding ring, but was made better by choosing to apply all the things we write about on this blog to a very unfortunate situation.

      That reminds me...we really need to do a post about that :)

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  7. I love the dare but I think I've already dared myself to that when I moved in with the boyfriend. I call him a snake because he "sheds off" like snakes and leaves his clothes where he takes them off. Hahaha! I do that to sometimes but the only difference is that I put mine away. I could make a list of the things that annoy me about him but it's all about being patient and letting things go. I know some people who would go crazy when their partner does not text or call them. When Ron forgets to call me, he makes himself looks good by texting/calling me while he's having fun. ;)

    xo,
    janmloves.blogspot.com

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  8. I really appreciate this post! I love the idea of anticipating the things that will cause contention and planning for them. It is empowering to know that I can change a situation without trying to change my spouse. Being angry feels like crap. So I will choose not to be angry and annoyed.

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  9. I too lost a spouse and I would do anything in the world to have a Danny. I've thought of what I wouldn't give to have someone to love, cherish, and annoy me. Thank you for reminding us to let go of the little things and to focus our energy on the positive. Every time I read your blog, I get inspired! I have learned to treasure the small things that may seem insignificant to others. Love this blog! XO

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  10. Mara you always fascinate me with the topics you choose to write about. They speak to everyone's heart but not everyone talks openly about them. 5 years ago, when my fiance and I started dating, he used to be very obsessed and disturbed by a lot of random things, like the sound of eating chips or eating from the same spoon and little things like that, because that was the way he always was. I tried not to take it personally and over time and boding together everything is gone and nothing disguises us about each other (inside logical limits of course). Now, from time to time people get nervous or angry or just emotionally overwhelmed and those moments e.g when stuck in traffic with open windows in the middle of the heat listening to the sirens and noises our there, or feeling dirty and sticky or very cold and far away from your destination or everyday frustrations between offices doors or stupid delays make you notice every single little things that your partner does and OH MY it is SOOOO annoying. There are so many times we get bothered by little things and we have 2 ways of dealing with it. First one is straight away like : dont get me wrong but I can not stand this right now. It might sound harsh, but it is so liberating to know what the other one might be feeling and how to help not making him worse, or just to know he's not feeling okay and it has nothing to do with you, he's just hungry for example. The second way, which I choose to do more and more often is LETTING GO. Friends, I love to whine about everything, just as little as hurting my hand on the wall or getting mood drops when walking in rain, and my favorite is when I feel sick, oh I so love to express everything I feel and expect sympathy and warn words instead of what I usually get (nobody loves this attitude unfortunately), so you can imagine I love to point out anything bad my partner does. But I have been forcing myself to bite my tongue and say nothing, focus on deep breath and letting go. Sometimes I try to not say a single thing like "oh I had a bad time when I was there", yes, I try not to complain about anything. Trust me, it works. It really pays off. And I do the same with my man, I let go of the things he does that I don't like, I say nothing when it happens leaving it for later. And you know what, I forget about it very soon. And I feel oh so good, so light.
    To cut it short, I try to work things out with family too. When I have an argument or stupid talk, I go the very extreme way, thinking of the day they won't be in my life. Would any of what just happened matter when I will miss them and never have them by my side again? Of course no. This is very harsh and not everyone can handle the emotional side of this (I cry like a pig all night every time) but it is so worth it. The hard way is the only way avoid stupid mistakes. I practice it with my partner too, when we fight over something not important or just words follow words. Stop and reflect, is what you are doing worth it? What is something bad happens tomorrow? Say I love you and light your heart. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying to tolerate cheating from your partner or abusing from your family, just for the sake of love and what might happen tomorrow, but for the small things, it works.
    Oh, such a long comment, sorry. Thank you Mara again!

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    1. Exactly....a little perspective goes a long way! Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  11. Beautiful Mara! Over the weekend I was talking with a friend about how there are just two real emotions—fear and love—everything else is just a byproduct of those. She told me that every time I start to get angry about something I should ask myself, "What am I afraid of?" So powerful!

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    1. Thanks Linsey - I think you nailed it. I've been saying something similar for some time now and it has really helped me distinguish between whatever paths are before me.

      This simple recognition is for me one of the most powerful and most life changing.

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  12. This is good Mara. There are very few things that annoy me about Andy, and the things that do, I don't let bother me because I would rather he pull the covers off my feet when he tries to get comfy at night then for my feet to stay snuggly covered but for him not to be lying so warm and comfortable next to me. When we first got married, I would sometimes let those silly little things fester, but the more and more I understoodd about our purpose in a marriage, what can be gained, what can be given and learned, the more I realized I don't care about those things any more. What used to be annoyances are now funny quirks that make me smile because they are part of a man I am crazy about, who is crazy about me, who is a wonderful partner, father, friend, and lover. I will take all the quirks from here to eternity. Its an easy choice.

    PS I miss you two. Danny is unendingly positive. Its contagious. Also, Amish country looked perfect. I always wanted to go while we were in Brooklyn. Never got around to doing it properly. Thanks for the tips. We are bound to go back one day I am sure.

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  13. I envy your relationship with your husband. However not a lot of people find a love like this nowadays which is very unfortunate but also very true.
    http://glaswegianwhore.blogspot.co.uk/

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  14. Well said Mara! I love team sports, and I always compare my relationship to a team. We succeed TOGETHER. The better we communicate and the better we work together the happier and more successful our team will be. Teams I've been on where people were critical of one anothers faults always struggled because there was a lack of trust and appreciation. Pride and resentment have no place on a real team. Its all about appreciating and reinforcing your teammates (or significant other) for their strengths and abilities.
    My $.02

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  15. love it, love #3 and #4 especially. I was struck by your sentence about losing pregnancy hopes and about the housefire. I was someone who asked for more balance on your blog (although I didn't ask for a list of annoyances :) and I think this is what I mean: more about these experiences, about real survival.

    My husband is sterile; there is zero chance of us ever getting pregnant. Zero. We are very young, and have only been married 3 years. On Saturday, at my 30th birthday party, my younger sister announced she is pregnant. I was literally jumping out my chair and almost tackling her to the ground, I was so thrilled. I have wondered how I would react when this happened and I am so thankful to Jesus that my heart is literally overflowing with gratitude for her new life... and NO jealousy! I may struggle with feelings as her pregnancy advances, but I am so thankful I have a choice every day about where I put my attention.

    This image from pinterest summarizes how I feel, and a lot of what you preach: http://pinterest.com/pin/76279787409009103/

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    1. Thanks Melody, glad this resonated with you. Loved what you shared about your sister getting pregnant, that shows a tremendous amount of courage. Seriously! Loved that there was no jealousy. To be able to celebrate another's joy in the face of your losses is a beautiful display of real love and compassion.

      And regarding the desire for "more about these experiences, about real survival", my suggestion if you haven't already is to read everything from the beginning. We spent a considerable amount of time in the first months describing "real survival" so that people could better understand how the messages learned there apply to the day to day and smaller stuff.

      Thanks again for the great comment!

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  16. Hello Danny and Mara,

    I've been thinking about the comments you received awhile back calling for more of the nitty-gritty of your life both past and present. I've been thinking a lot about your response that you've arrived at a place where you just don't let it bother you. I've arrived at the conclusion that what people were asking for, and what you gave us in this beautiful post, was a reminder of why we listen to you in the first place. You have had 'opportunities' to put these precious principles into practice in an almost larger-than-life way. The opportunities I'm referring to are your trials. Sometimes we, as your readers, need reminders that even if you have a positive, even joyful, attitude about your circumstances, it doesn't mean they are easy. You have acquired skills that you are passing on to us, and one of the ways that you touch us so deeply is that we know you have walked difficult roads. Thanks for the reminder of that.

    Sally Bluhm (www.letitrainlemonade.blogspot.com)

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  17. such a great post! thank you for sharing this with us. such wisdom. I've realized (from reading your blog, among other things) that although I love my husband dearly, perhaps I could act in a more loving way towards him.

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  18. What a GREAT post! I seriously cannot get enough of your blog!!

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  19. Seriously, you guys ROCK! Thanks for the awesome post.

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  20. Well, thanks for sharing some of the less-than-ideal traits that make you human. As I read this blog, I will hope to continue to learn enough to let go of the little annoyances I have about my husband. Because I am SO not there yet. And it's not because I lack perspective. I married later in life and know how lucky I was to find love. I have been through plenty of hardship that gives perspective: growing up in a physically and emotionally abusive environment, facing death of loved ones, working on the most traumatic issues you can imagine - rape, domestic violence, human trafficking, child porn, and other social justice issues, spending time working in refugee camps include one where women were systematically raped during wartime, doing research in the poorest countries on the planet, working to partially support myself since about age 12. And the list goes on. So, intellectually, I get that certain table manners or playing video games or not being as clean as I'd like aren't big issues in life. And yet they bug me like nails on a chalkboard would bug someone. Still not sure how to get over this, but I'll keep trying. It's as torturous for me as it is for the person on the receiving end.

    Also, while we are on the topic of annoyances, some constructive feedback for the blog as it grows: you'd be so we well served by reading some books about writing (On Writing Well is good), maybe taking a course, and learning a bit more about grammar (Grammar Girl is a good and free website).

    Sometime I'm distracted by the message in blog posts due to bad grammar/writing. For example, it's not "I could care less," it's "I couldn't care less" - which means you don't care at all so it's impossible to care less. "I could care less" means you care to some degree. You would also benefit from learning the difference between "lay" and "lie" (and their various forms), which are misused on this blog all the time. And the possessive versus plural are also misused in almost every post. Finally, a lesson on ellipses might be helpful. Ellipses are only correctly use in sets of 3 (...) or 4(....), and there are different reasons to use each form.

    My 2 cents for today. I hope it's helpful. Thanks for this post.

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  21. Oh my... (just read the comment ahead of mine and I'm picturing you reading about how your "grammer etc" is annoying a reader! And choosing not to be annoyed by that... funny!). And now I'm suddenly worried about my grammer, anyway...

    I don't comment much but I wanted to write and say thank you so much for this post. I read this a few days ago and it's been on my mind a lot. I decided after having a bad day with my husband and son yesterday that today I was going to pick my battles carefully... and have a good day with both of them.

    Today was the best day I have had in a long long time. I took your words to heart when you say that you cherish Danny because he is your family. I have my husband and my 4 year old and they are my little family and I have not been cherishing them near enough. So today I kept the word "Cherish" in my mind and I tried to do that all day. It was so wonderful.

    Instead of getting frustrated that when my husband does dishes he gets the whole entire kitchen soaked in water, I stood next to him and dried the dishes and felt grateful that I have a husband who will do the dishes.

    Instead of doing my own thing tonight I sat on the couch and watched The Avengers with my little guy (we only watched the parts where the super hero's came out per his request). He loved it, and he loved watching it with me. He told me that I'm the best mommy ever, and ran his little fingers through my hair as he watched. It was a night I will always cherish. We did a lot of fun things today, especially things that he wanted to do. But at the end of the night when I tucked him in I asked him what his favorite thing about today was he said cuddling with me.

    Thank you for all that you do here on this blog. Thank you for your reminders of things that we all need to put into practice in our lives. And thank you for writing your heart and your experiences whether you have perfect grammer or not ;).

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  22. Mara, I stumbled across your blog many months ago and occasionally drift back to it out of shear curiosity. We are different in so many ways, but have a least two things in common. We both seem to be incredibly lucky when it comes to the men currently in our lives and both are trying to start a family. I have been watching your journey of infertility with hopes that one day I might come back and find that fertility has been just around a blind corner. The reason I don't come often is I am a little put off by, what seems to be unintentional, you putting yourself and your relationship on a pedestal. Your overall message of unconditional love in your marriage is delightful. Then you make a statement like "Danny doesn't annoy me" and follow that by giving a list of annoying things. There is a big difference between recognizing things that annoy you and letting them go because they aren't detrimental to your relationship vs. never being annoyed at all, as you implied. It is very similar to your next post where you said " feeling the intense pain of infertility is actually optional." Mourning the loss of a woman's fertility is a big part of the process of moving on with the journey, whether it takes you to RE doctors and IVF, adoption, or no children at all. Getting past that mourning is a huge step and saying that pain is optional comes across as very cold (I know you are NOT cold people and suspect that it was just a very poor choice of words based on your update.) Dwelling in that pain can also be very destructive, which is why it is so important for those of us who are in this process to be understanding and supportive of others in this journey with highs and lows that can change at a moments notice. To sum things up, I guess I am saying that it comes across as if you don't get annoyed, don't feel intense pain. I know that isn't true, and that you use your positive outlook on life to come out stronger on the other side, but the choice of words you use would make it seem like your "mountains" are simple "mole hills." I know that you really wear your heart on your sleeve and really put yourself out there and that is brave. I hope you'll take this comment as constructive criticism and I know that no matter where your infertility journey takes you that Danny will be at your side and that is what really matters. I adore that you are so open and hope that you will always continue to be so. Good luck, J

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  23. I was just skimming over this post after reading what it was about because I don't really get annoyed with my husband either. But as I got towards the bottom "something" told me I should read it as a mother and not as a wife. I have been trying to figure out ways to be a better mother and not get so annoyed so easily with my kids. I kept thinking that I needed to figure out how to change them and I now realize that it is me that needs to change. Thanks for this post. I needed it.

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  24. "Let it go" recently became my motto. There is so much in life that might be annoying, but it doesn't mater in the big scheme of things. It's really hard sometimes, but it makes it easier to be happy.

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