I do, but I don’t

Complex.

That’s the word the majority of men would use to describe women: complicated and hard to understand/deal with.

As complex as I know I normally am in my husband’s eyes, my behavior as of late has even got me to the point of wanting to step outside of myself and be like, “Um, I’m not with her”.

Oh, the valley of indecision

In an earlier post I shared a bit about how much I value quality time with myself and that life in Kitale has not been making nice with my personal goals. Ray and I were home together all the time and really rubbing each other the wrong way.

“We need space!” I shouted at his face.

So Ray obliged and began to take on some long distance jobs that would cause him to be gone 2-4 days at a time.

“Come back,” I whispered to the door… then of course I gave Ray the silent treatment for not taking me with him, which made him think I needed more space, but silent treatment obviously means that I want you to talk to me. Duh!

I don’t know what I want.

Do I want space? Yes, but not as much as I once thought.

Do I want Ray around? Of course. As much as I love being with myself, it’s become awkward to laugh at my own jokes without Ray’s laugh to accompany my own.

Do I want to travel? Indubitably. Whether alone or with Ray, I’d rather be outside of the confines of our home.

So my point is …

Pray for Ray.

 

Can I just have a little space, please?

I may love quality time with my husband, but I’m also a fan of quality time with myself.

The me, myself, and I phase

Before Ray came along, myself and I used to have a good ol’ time together. If I wasn’t hungry, neither was myself, so there was no need to bother with cooking. We both hated washing dishes, so at times we would neglect doing that until the insurgence of gnats or appearance of mold forced one of us to cave (I wish I could insert a “jk” here, but sadly, I’m telling the truth). On Friday nights, myself would treat me to a movie, and we’d take our blanket and sit on the heater while we ate junk food and repeated humorous lines from the movie to each other.

Now that Ray has laid claim to the role of best friend, and I have been given wifey status, time with myself has become… strained. Instead of eating only when I notice my stomach growling, I have to make sure that I’m cooking meals regularly. Instead of using every utensil in the kitchen at least once before I wash the dishes, I have to clean them daily. I still get movie time, but whereas myself and I were always in agreement about what movie we were in the mood for, Ray and I always have to debate between action, comedy, and drama.

The livelihood of wivelihood

When I first came to Kenya, as Ray and I were initally discovering our feelings for each other, he asked me what I thought the hardest part of marriage would be. I didn’t have to think too long before I answered the loss of my independence. Through almost nine months of marriage, we’ve been dealing with the ups and downs of my transition from an independent woman who spent the majority of her adult life single to a married woman who lives in a culture that has high expectations for “wivelihood”.

Like most women, I came into the marriage with tons of ambition to be the best wife I could be. I was hand washing all of our laundry, cleaning and decorating the house, and actively learning how to make all the local dishes as well as experimenting with new recipes. When Ray would leave for work, I would feel a genuine ache of sadness and become really distraught when he would get home late.

Now I’ve taken to hiring our neighbor’s house girl to do the laundry for me, I don’t really enjoy being in the kitchen anymore, and I often hope Ray delays getting home so that I can scramble to clean and cook so it looks like I wasn’t on the computer all day, which of course I was (I do a lot of online transcription and freelance writing, so don’t be too quick to judge).

Trying to make it work

Ray and I have talked about this transition in my attitude towards house work, and he’s suggested things like making housework a priority before I focus on other work, but just like morning devotions have never worked for me, morning cleaning is just as big of a flop. Ray has always been great about taking the weekends to do the cooking, but now that he sees the coal in my furnace smoldering, he has been making more of an effort to help throughout the week as well. Some people might think that he is spoiling me and encouraging me to be lazy, but really, his giving me a break is motivating me to want to do more for him. It’s encouraging me to get out of my current slump.

In fact, yesterday was probably one of the best days we’ve had in our relationship. He decided to stay home from work because there were some rallies in town that were likely to become riotous (thankfully they didn’t). At first I was kind of upset because I had queries to write for freelance jobs, I had a transcription to do, I needed to finish writing a guitar lesson, and I just wanted to be alone.

Then he brought me breakfast in bed.

While he was in the kitchen I just stared at the food and thought, “Okay, he’s making a sacrifice. Let me not turn this day into another fight.” So when he came back to the room, I had made up my mind to serve him. Back and forth throughout the day, we did what the other person wanted even if it meant we lost out on some things. Yes, those writing and transcription projects are still waiting for me today, but I caught a glimpse yesterday of why an attitude of humility and servitude is so important in marriage, and that outweighed the urgency of my to-do list and alone time.

The principle of giving in marriage

When you place the desire of your spouse above your own, you’re ultimately satisfying your own desires. Not only are you demonstrating the second greatest commandment, which should be our ultimate aim, but you’re filling your husband’s love tank, which ultimately leads to the filling of yours. That last part may sound a little selfish, but just as we’re told to give in order to receive in monetary terms (Luke 6:38) and even in terms of forgiveness (Matt. 6:14), I believe the same principle applies here. Give, and it will come back to you.

Give your time, and you’ll get it back.

Give your service, and you’ll get some back.

Give up that last piece of cake that you were saving for a midnight snack, and you’ll get something better.

Of course it can be dangerous to focus too much on the expectation of a return on your investment, so be careful of the onset of offense if you don’t yield profits as soon as you expect. Maybe it will take longer than you expect, but as you serve, remember Galatians 6:9:

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Maybe the time I thought I was going to spend at home pampering myself or getting work done will be temporarily denied by my husband’s presence, but if I seek to serve him instead of complaining, it won’t be long before he’s pampering me or helping to relieve the burden of work. In that respect, I’m finding that time spent with Ray trumps time with myself any day.

I wanted him to hold my hand. He wanted me to hold his stuff.

A few months ago Ray’s company was hired to provide sound equipment and photography for a gospel concert at Daystar University’s Athi River campus. This campus is unique for various reasons, but I’d say the greatest reason is probably the fact that it’s in the middle of a game reserve. Even as we drove up to the campus that day, we were greeted by herds of wildebeest and zebra.

There was one particular zebra beside the road that stopped to stare at us as we stared at him.

zebra run

He was standing there watching us for a while, but by the time I got my camera out he was movin’ on out.

zebra run

And there he goes!

That zebra, in all its striped majesty possessed the power required to lift me out of out what was quickly developing into a foul mood.

TIA strikes again

See, Ray and I live in a town called Ongata Rongai. With little to no traffic on the road, it’s about half an hour away from Nairobi city. If you leave at the wrong time though, you could be sitting in traffic for an hour or two. That morning Ray’s co-workers were supposed to pick me up and bring me to meet Ray in town. They came on time, we arrived at the rendezvous point, and everything was going according to schedule until… TIA. We ended up sitting in a hot car and waiting for at least two hours before all the other guys showed up.

Aching head? Check.

Sweaty pits? Check.

Growling stomach? Check.

We hadn’t even begun the 40 km drive yet! And fast food restaurants like McDonalds and Subway do not exist here.

When we finally reached Daystar, the zebra encounter managed to distract me enough to keep me from assuming full Hulk-mode, but thankfully Ray noticed that all too familiar greenish hue beginning to surface on my skin, so he wisely took some time to take me to the campus restaurant. We enjoyed a very tasty dinner together before he had to get to business. Crisis averted.

Lost in translation

This was my first official outing with Ray to one of his jobs, so I didn’t know what to expect, but I was hoping that we would get to enjoy it together somehow. We had already had such a lovely dinner together, why let the fact that he was on a job get in the way? If you don’t know already, one of my love languages is quality time, so nothing would have made the night better for me than for Ray to come cuddle up beside me to enjoy the show.

I found a nice bench near the stage and waited for Ray to take care of some preliminary details before joining me. Fluffing my hair and crossing my legs in a “yeah, I’m that guy’s wifey” kind of way, I waited… and waited. Finally he approached.

“Babe, can you hold this bag for me?”

In moments like that it’s very easy for me to be a brat and whine about how he’s not paying attention to me, but then I remembered that not an hour earlier, he had taken time away from setting up with the crew to cater to my needs. The least I could do was comply with his request. Now, one of Ray’s love languages is acts of service, so for me to act like his personal assistant expressed love and support to him in the same way his taking time to eat with me expressed love to me. It sounds simple enough, but not too long after that I found someone to chat with and left his bag of equipment totally unattended. Eventually he took the bag away from me and put it backstage. I had one job to do…

As the night went on and the crowd grew larger, my dull headache quickly spiraled into a stampede of wildebeest back and forth between my temples. Ray was all over the place taking pictures yet coming to check on me periodically, and I was trying to pretend like I was enjoying myself.

love language

Don’t let this picture fool you. It was taken fairly early in the night.

Normally in the States you have maybe two or three opening acts before the main act appears on stage, but that night there were no less than ten, closer to twenty different acts and with each act, the crowd got bigger and wilder.

daystar crowd

The wildebeest were now frolicking as merrily as the day is long all over my cranial region.

“There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home,” I whispered over and over.

I may have had the Kansas thing going for me, but beige flats does not magic slippers make.

Ray spotted me shriveling in my seat, looking like I wanted to clothesline everyone within a ten yard radius, so he gave his camera to one of the other guys and took me backstage to watch the rest of the show while we cuddled in the corner.

Ahhh, finally.

Before the night was over, Ray gave me what I needed most, a little TLC, and I got to redeem myself by carrying some of his stuff to the car before heading out. That night had all the makings of inciting an icy cold car ride home, what with my ridiculously high expectations despite the fact that Ray was supposed to be focused on work, but we made it work.

In the end I got him to hold my hand and he got me to hold his stuff. But we’ve decided that I won’t be attending anymore jobs in the future.

We’ve been learning a lot about the different ways our love languages have created funny, and not so funny, dynamics in our relationship. Anyone else have any interesting love language stories? We’d love to hear them.