I just returned from Women of Faith on Saturday night, one night earlier than I expected. I left my tribe on Friday afternoon after making sure the dogs were in the crate, the dishes were done, my kids had their house keys and the bed was made. Why I made the bed, I’m still not sure. I knew I wouldn’t be sleeping in it. And I don’t usually go out of my way to be nice to other people for no reason at all. Honestly, I just don’t. It requires thought and effort for me to be nice. I’m just not a naturally generous person. So, unless I’m going to be sleeping in the bed, I’m usually not going to make it. But for whatever reason, it was made.
I thoroughly enjoyed the ride up, the fellowship with other crazy women, the speakers, the music and the experience of being reminded of just how brokenly human and humanly broken we all are. I was reminded that it’s okay to scream, nag and fail. I was urged to be gentle with myself and those who are put in my path. I was encouraged to be vulnerable, honest and to share my story. I cried, laughed and soaked it all in. I left exhausted and recharged, ready to take on the world and eager to put my feet up and sleep in my own bed.
I warned my family that I would be returning a night early and they were thrilled, mostly. My dear friend Nancy drove us home and we told stories about bugs and our reaction to them. We discussed the gargantuan size of arachnids in Costa Rica and shared stories of our pasts, our children and our husbands – of which we had seven in total.
And then we arrived at my house. We pulled up the driveway to a closed garage door and no exterior lights. Looking back, I think that’s when it began. It was as if my driveway was some sort of invisible portal that transformed me from good Christian woman of faith Jen to Linda Blair or Mommy Dearest. But it didn’t happen to my friend. It was only me. So I’m pretty sure the portal was hidden in my front door. My very dark, closed, uninviting, anti-welcome-home-mom front door.
I waved goodbye as Nancy backed her car down the driveway after shining her lights on the dark front door so I could see my way inside. I never heard the portal close as I shut the door behind me. I made my way down the short foyer and into the dark great room, noticing the crap on the dining room table, the morning coffee still in the pot, the food and dishes on the counter and the scattered, tattered, dog toy stuffing all over the house. I caught a glimpse of three and half pairs of shoes belonging to my daughter and saw a hole in one of my favorite blankets as it hung from the edge of the couch. I noticed all of this in less than two minutes in very dim lighting.
I opened my mouth and after a quick hug and hello, spewed a number of irritating questions to my husband and daughter who had jumped up from their television show when they heard me come in. My daughter had jumped up eagerly but I’m pretty sure my husband Josh jumped up worried about what I’d complain about. Jack, my 18 year old, was smart enough to stay in his room. He must have known about the portal.
“What’s all over the table? Is the coffee made? What’s with all the food? Why is there French toast sitting on a plate on the counter? Did you feed the dogs?” I assaulted my tribe with a few more nasty quips before disappearing into the bedroom. “And thanks for leaving the lights on for me.”
I floated past the bed, which was, of course, unmade. I rolled my eyes and turned back around, stuck my head out the bedroom door and said, “Could you please turn the television down one or five notches?” I shut the bedroom door behind me, walked into the bathroom and sat down on the toilet.
I had been inside my house for less than five minutes and had managed to criticize, insult, offend and disrupt the two members of my family that actually wanted to see me.
I realized in that moment what a monster I had just been. And yet they weren’t shocked. My hubby and child were not surprised by my nastiness. That made it worse. When Josh had jumped up from the sofa he didn’t look at me first. His eyes darted around the kitchen because he was trying to figure out if he had enough time to quickly pick everything up so that I wouldn’t yell at him. That was probably his first thought. That is reality. And that sucks.
After I calmed down and relaxed by unpacking my bag and making the bed, I apologized because that’s what I do now. Some days I only have to apologize a little. Other days I have to make big bad apologies. Most days I just have to say I’m sorry a lot. I looked at Josh and said, “I bet you wish I’d stayed the extra night.” He did.
You see, it wasn’t that he wasn’t glad to see me. He just would have been happier to see me before I went through the portal. Before the goodness of the weekend was washed off of me. But the goodness is like beach sand. Even though most of it washes off, a lot of sticks. It sticks in the little cracks of my character, gritty and salty. It rubs me in between my normal nagginess and reminds me of the fresh ocean air and the awesomeness of the waves. The goodness of a recharge weekend like this one, the power of it gets stuck between my toes and under my fingernails. Even though the portal of reality tries to wash it all away, some of it will stick with me.
My husband wanted only to spend a few more hours sitting on the sofa watching shows that I don’t like. He only wanted a few more precious moments of HIM time, listening to the TV too loudly, letting food sit on the counter too long, doing nothing important or relevant or chore-ish too much. God bless the man. He never gets the chance to do those things when I’m home, ever.
I realized that he was probably looking forward to my time away as much as I was. But for different reasons. And when we came back together, me sailing down to earth with a thud, crashing his man party, we were both reminded of how much we need that. We need time apart to be better together. I need to have my Law & Order like he needs his Hobbit. I need to spend time writing in the same way he needs to Chive On. It is good for us. Good for us as individuals. It is good that I don’t like everything he does and he doesn’t like everything I do. It is good that we have our differences and are safe in the knowledge that we can go our own ways for an hour, a day or a weekend and trust, love and miss each other – a little or a lot.
It’s also good for me to know that as much as I need me time, I crave me time and demand everyone in my life respect that, I must also respect his me time even though it looks different than mine. Instead of reading, writing, girl time, yoga, coffee talk, naps, things that refresh and recharge, my husband’s me time involves binging on bad Netflix shows, twelve pillows, a dark room and underwear – shorts optional. But still, it is his. And it is not up to me to judge it. It’s up to me to love him because he loves me enough to let me have my time. He loves me enough to make the dinner that resulted in the dirty dishes. He loves me enough to spend time watching bad Netflix shows with our daughter.
And he loves me enough to let me figure out that I just walked through the portal and will eventually find the sandy places. He waits for those moments. He knows it might not be quickly. It might take all day and only occur when I slide my foot under the sheets to pull his leg hair with my toes. But the goodness will eventually fall out. The little pieces of glittery goodness will fall into our lives at unexpected moments, shiny and fresh. They will stop me in my tracks like the sand in the bottom of a tote bag. I will remember where they came from and what they mean.
The little pieces are filled with love, music, faith, gentleness, grace, forgiveness and sisterhood. They are magical little pieces of mightiness. They are laden with salty tears from fresh wounds and are heavy with decades of guilt and shame finally unburdened. They are miracles. And I will remember that even the smallest, stickiest little bit of goodness has the power to heal, restore and renew. So bring it on portal. I’m not afraid of you. Because you will never, ever be able to wash away all of God’s grains of sands. I’ve got too many crevasses.