gooseneck loosestrife growing in our garden
I am currently rereading (for the third time) Karen Maezen Miller’s book Momma Zen. One of the chapters – Tending Garden – is about the inevitable weathering of a relationship that occurs when partners become parents and the necessary work required to sustain the union. The analogy used in this chapter - comparing a marriage to a garden - immediately resonated with me.
Thirteen weeks after Thea's birth, I am witnessing changes in my own marriage. In so many ways, our relationship is deeper, richer, more complex. Traveling through my pregnancy together – and the three year journey that brought us to our daughter - wove our lives together tightly, and brought us new levels of trust, hope, understanding, and intimacy.
And yet, with a new person in our lives – a tiny girl for which we are entirely responsible - our relationship has changed. We are working to establish a rhythm that allows us to take care of each other as well as our daughter – to nurture not only our family, but also our individual passions and requirements for solitary space. And while these have been tough to balance, finding time and energy to cultivate our relationship as a couple has been even more challenging.
Since the night we were married, John and I have ended our days by pausing before sleep to appreciate the acts of love that the other has shown during the day. Often times, it’s just the simple things that we speak of – a lingering kiss during the bustle of the evening, preparing a meal, enjoying an evening stroll together. We often mention the chores that the other has done, particularly the more unpleasant ones.
Then Thea arrived. In the early days, with our world turned upside down, the lines between day and night blurred. Often, there was no bedtime – every few hours, one of us would pass our daughter into the other’s arms and collapse from sheer exhaustion. Out of our routine and out of rhythm, our nightly ritual was lost.
We’ve since reestablished this daily gesture, though some nights our appreciations are whispered, with eyes closed, spoken quickly as we drift of for a few hours of sleep.
I believe that pausing for a few moments each night to reflect on the ways that John has nurtured me, our family, and our relationship during that day helps to remind me that we are in this together, that this garden is ours to tend together – that we are this garden. The irony is that recounting these tangible acts helps me to focus less on the “work” that goes into building and maintaining our life together and more on the fruits of our labor – the living, evolving entity that is us.It helps me to release any built-up frustration by reminding me that we both contribute to our marriage. And though what we each bring is different, what we offer is equally necessary and valuable.
How do you nurture your relationship amid the day-to-day responsibilities of living? How does your garden grow?