Writer’s note: I wrote this not to advocate any position, or to say anything in particular. It’s simply a collection of observations, stories, hushed chats and whispers. There’s stories in here that aren’t my own, and it’s certainly not my intention to sound like I’m advocating a position. It’s in a minor key, it’s a bundle of observations and a collection of mumbles.
Bekka’s turning 18, coming of age, party at mum and dads. Scotty spins the tunes and dad throws up the fairy lights, mum caters to fill teenage stomachs – it’ll come up in the front paddock in a few hours anyway.
Mason’s got a new truck, lifted with an LED bar light to be seen from space. He’s the first to arrive at this festive event, and his country dimples cover valleys of insecurity. Cowboy hat bent at the front, ma and pa secretly hope he’d turn his eyes towards their Bek – if only they knew.
Stace, Maria and Bree tumble out of someone’s back seat, pre-loaded. Dressed to the nines, their heels sink into soft country soil, squealing with each squelch, their lives work to snob you off.
Jase makes an entrance, circle work in his beat up ute. The joker, always the laugh. Bekka’s beau, the half bottle of cheap bourbon held by it’s neck. He’s the joker, but she’s got a creeping suspicion the joke’s on him. 20 years old, on the same an hour, with no prospects of increase.
Family comes, smiles abound. Uncle Frank and Aunt Nina, there’s grandma and gramps. Cousins of all ages. Dad playfully grabs Danny in a headlock, trying to explain that his sodomite son is merely creative, like you can try to explain the gay away. Thanks dad, but they both grieve, unable to move past recent revelations.
Raye and Chrissy sit in the tray of Mason’s ute, necking cheap vodka straight from the bottle. He could have both in a heartbeat, but his sights are set on other targets, perhaps tonight he’ll pipe up the confidence to tell her.
Dwayne sings along to the country ditties, he’s unusually talented that way. Laughing off the compliments, he wonders how life might be different if not yoked with three generations of expectation breathing down his neck. Still, he hums along, wondering, even for a second, if things were different.
Kal, as everyone agrees, is classic wife material, the mother hen of the group. She chats CWA with mum, half an eye on Danny, blissfully unaware he’ll make no woman honest. She mistakes his compliments for flirting, and the thought crosses his mind that perhaps he could fake it, until he made it.
Speeches, and mum and dad praise their perfect Bekka. She spies Jase, he’s getting amorous with Raye, and way too close to his bourbon. She pats her tummy – a week late, and she wonders how daddy will react if she breaks the news to him.
And the party continues, and the fire crackles. They all continue to live their lives together, all in secret.
Picture from https://www.google.com.au/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lovethispic.com%2Fuploaded_images%2F108685-Bonfire-Party.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lovethispic.com%2Fimage%2F108685%2Fbonfire-party&docid=2BomfXY3f8L2kM&tbnid=ahC-QHXakHIw-M%3A&vet=1&w=500&h=332&bih=708&biw=1517&q=teenagers%20party%20bonfire&ved=0ahUKEwiY4ePVj7_SAhVrrFQKHcKHDpgQMwhFKCMwIw&iact=mrc&uact=8#h=332&imgrc=ahC-QHXakHIw-M:&vet=1&w=500
They say marriage is a lifetime of getting used to someone. Without a doubt, any long term relationship is a rollercoaster. You get the good, the bad, the ugly. Sometimes you can get all of that in the space of an hour!
You’ve probably noticed your slightly (or very!) different, depending on who your with. Some people are quiet and industrious at work, but put them in a grandstand at the football and they are boisterous and uncouth! Some people are relaxed everywhere, except behind the wheel of a car. You probably have variations on who you are, depending on the context of the situation.
Another way of looking at this is do you give your partner what’s right, or what’s left. For example, do you find yourself planning your life on how you can invest in your partner, or, do you find yourself giving them the scraps of your energy after everyone else has had a piece of you?
There’s an interesting dynamic though, in marriage. It’s the dynamic, or tension between being your real self, and being your best self. It’s the tension between doing what’s real to you, and doing what’s best for your relationship. It’s an interesting, and difficult tension.
It’s the tension that you get after you and your partner have had really huge weeks, and you want to sit quietly and they want to talk through the week. Do you be your true self, or your best self for your partner?
It’s the tension in silly things – leaving the toilet seat up because you don’t care what way it goes, and putting it down because your partner likes it down and you want to be your best for them.
It’s the tension between just wanting to go to sleep, because that’s what you want, or choosing to open up physically to your partner because you want to give your best to your partner.
It’s the tension between listening enough to hear the key points, or giving your whole attention to your partner.
I think this tension manifests itself in many things.
So what is the answer? I used the picture above because I’ve met some people who seem to think that love is a licence for bad behavior. They seem to use the ‘if you can’t love me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best’ mentality to really just be selfish. Inversely, I’ve met other people who do literally everything they can to support their partner. It might be in the way they put their life on hold to support their partners career, or family, a project or lifestyle.
Is there a point where you give up being your real self, and give your best self, for the sake of the relationship? What about vice versa?
You can only every control yourself, your actions and emotions, so this isn’t about changing your partner. What I’m asking is how have you managed that tension between giving your best self to your partner, and being your real self? Can the two ‘selves’ exist? Can you be real, but still give the best of yourself to your partner? I’m curious, let me know.
The wilderness. A place far away. The wilderness of the soul. The wilderness of relationship. The wilderness of being. A place where all senses are both parched, starved and then finally, restored.
I’ve been pondering times when I, and those around me have been in the wilderness. When ones I’ve loved have been far away – either physically, mentally, relationally or spiritually. Times when no amount of reaching out could save them from the scorched earth they have found themselves in.
History is littered with times of people who have had wilderness experiences. Some are self-imposed, some are enforced by outside forces. I think of Joseph, head filled with dreams and promises, sold as a slave. I think of Moses, wondering around the Middle Eastern desert for many, many years. I think of David, who was promised to become king, running into the desert for his life.
All these stories have similarities. These men’s lives start full of promise – whether it be dreams, a royal upbringing or a promise of greatness. I think of a life changing event or events these men had – challenges on their life, a fissure between their promised glory and their present reality. I try to empathise with these men – how would I react if everything I held dear was ripped away from me? My home, my family, my comfort, my stability taken away and I was flung into the desert.
There’s a few ways we can react when we are having a wilderness experience. When everything seems far away, when even a little comfort seems unattainable. When we thirst for refreshment of the soul, of the mind, of the spirit or some nourishment relationally.
I guess there’s a stack of ways you can act when you’re in the wilderness. You could just let it overcome you. You could fight it out. You could go into survival mode. I guess everyone is different and deals with those experiences differently.
The more I hear of people that have had ‘wilderness experiences’, the more I see an emerging pattern. After being in the wilderness, there’s a restoration, but that restoration is always a choice. People generally don’t chose to stay in the desert forever. We all know the aforementioned stories end – Joseph does not lose sight of his visions, regardless of what life throws at him (and a stack is thrown at him). He stays true, he believes, he is lead through his many wildernesses. Moses? He led the Israelites out of Egypt. That’s no mean feat! David? From shepherd boy to giant killer to desert wanderer to King.
Here’s the crunch. What were those dreams you had in your heart, all those years ago? Where are they now? Have they been snubbed out by life? By a wilderness experience? Maybe your partner walked out on you. Perhaps you lost your job. Maybe your faith has been battered by the storms of life. Maybe the lure of riches ended up just being a rusty fishhook.
I truly believe those dreams were put in your heart for a reason. I also truly believe sometimes we need a wilderness experience to remember those dreams. To remember what it is you believed in, those many years ago. You don’t need to be in the wilderness forever. You don’t need to be separated – from life, from promise, from relationship, from destiny, from hope forever.
What has being in the wilderness taught you? When all has been stripped away, what is really important to you?
What’s stopping you from getting out of the wilderness? Pride? Past hurts? You’re right on your own? You like being in the middle of the desert? Whatever it is, you can be restored – but you need to make the decision.
Look around you – the world is full of stories of the odds being battled. Of sunshine after the rain. Of the stillness after the storm has past.
It’s time for you to write your story of coming out of the wilderness.
Image from http://www.hashtagpics.com/?p=595
I love photographs. I love instagram. I love seeing pictures of beautiful cities, sunsets, my family and new additions to the family.
Not too long ago, the family would have a camera. Usually an easy to use point-and-click device that had film in it. Some families were a bit lardy-da with a SLR and took nice looking photos. A family might take a role or two of film on holidays. A single photograph might be taken at a family picnic or a first day of school. Once the 24 shots had been taken, the film would be taken to the local camera store, where the photos would be developed. You’d excitedly open the packet of photos and eagerly relive the memories. It was an exciting moment, seeing the photos for the first time. Sometimes, the camera shop would put a sticker on one of the photographs, saying something like ‘I’d look great enlarged!’ if the photo was particularly beautiful or memorable.
The packet of 24 photographs would be taken home. A photo might go on the fridge. One might go with dad to work, to put on his desk. You might send grandma and grandpa a beautiful picture of the kids on the beach. Mum might make a page in the family photo album of the families recent Gold Coast holiday.
Only a select few people would see your family photographs. There was an intimacy to them. A specialness. A romance. When a son or daughter would bring home a significant other, looking at their baby photographs was a right of passage – it signified the significant other was being let into the family, into their intimate moments, into their story.
I just can’t help compare that with how different it is with photos these days. I recently went down south for my brother-in-laws 30th birthday. Even before the party started and the children were playing, I had taken over 100 photos on my iPhone! Can you believe it? Of those 100 or so, I culled them down to perhaps 60. I put maybe three or four onto my instagram.
These days, the trend seems to be that we generally take photos of everything and anything. Our morning coffee. The sunset. A funny face our children pull. A beautiful ocean vista. A family scene. Something arty. Multiple pictures of ourselves. We willingly submit these pictures to a corporation to manage. To hold. To own. To display. For others to ‘like’, for others to see.
Why do we do it? Is it just society telling us to? Do we need validation that our child is particularly special in eating baked beans in a highchair? Do we need to prove the view from our family holiday is amazing? Do we need to show the world that we can eat at some unique gin-joint? Have we all just become narcissists? Perhaps it’s much simpler than that. We want to share these special moments with others on a much grander scale.
I can’t help think that we have lost the intimacy of the photograph. The anticipation of taking a photograph on a camera and having your memories printed out on paper, just for you to see.
I’d love to know your thoughts. Have we taken photographs and social media too far? I’ve read about the hashtag #aftersex has become popular with the young and pretty. Now that’s definitely oversharing an intimate moment! Have we gone too far, or has photo-sharing been a good thing?
Stop listening to your wife!
Yes, you read correctly. Stop listening to your wife.
“But Vidins, I thought you were all about healthy, happy marriages?”
You know what? I am.
Who has come across the doting husband and dedicated father? The one that totally loves his family? How wonderful are these men? They are home for dinner every night. They read to their children and tuck them in bed at night. They listen to their wives and are kind to them. They do all the things on the ‘chores list’ (and every family has one!) without fuss. This man delights in being there for his wife and children. He’s a great man. He’s funny and hardworking. He constantly ‘dies to self’, putting the needs of his family above his own, ensuring they don’t go without.
He’s also incredibly boring.
In an unguarded moment, he finds himself thinking about the ‘old days’. Parties. Concerts. Sports. Wasting money. The thrill of the chase. The days before responsibility and sensibility ruled his world.
So what is he to do?
Stop listening to his wife.
You see, part of marriage is growing up and growing together. It’s about learning, developing, nurturing. It’s not about losing yourself in your partner, or finding yourself in your partner. It’s about you both growing. Growing together.
I’ve always believed that being ‘too good’ is akin to being boring. Where would the highs be if it was not for the lows? The excitement if it was not for the routine? The sadness if it wasn’t for the joy? Having a ‘bit of different’ keeps things fresh.
So for once, great husbands and dads, stop listening to your wife. Just for a bit. Take a night out with the boys. Go to the game. Camp in the wild. Take a risk. Go to a quiet spot and read. Write. Think. Fish. Run. Swim. Hike. Observe. Get away and stop listening. Grow yourself. Find yourself again.
Give yourself a chance to miss her. The house won’t fall apart if you aren’t there for a short time. Your wife is a confident and competent lady, she’ll be fine without you for a bit. When you return, you will return refreshed. You’ll both have more things to talk about. More things to find out about each other. More things to wonder at, enjoy, feel, experience. You’ll have grown that bit more. You’ll want to listen to her more. You will listen to her more.
And wives, before you get all up in arms, your husband wants you to stop listening to him, too! He wants you to stop listening to the kids, the school teacher, the housework, the job. He wants you to go out, grow yourself, find yourself again and miss him! He wants you to go out, be recharged, remember yourself again and come back with fresh energy, wanting to communicate again in every way
About this time last year, South East Queensland was lashed by devastating floods. Small towns, farms and valleys experienced terrible flooding. In my professional role, I was required to spend time in some of these small towns and faming communities as part of the governmental disaster relief program. I witnessed the absolute gouging of the water through the valleys. Whole paddocks washed away. Concrete bridges smashed and thrown down the river like they were driftwood. Scars 9’ high etched through the middle of the valleys. I spoke to some of the farmers who had been through this, and other floods. They spoke of the roar of the river. The recklessness of water. The tyranny of the flood. They experienced it – I just saw the aftermath of it. The effects. The devastation. Watching these farmers gauge how they would rebuild, if they could. Wondering what they would do with a gravel riverbed where acres of paddock used to be. Counting the cost.
At the moment, I find myself in a storm. Not a physical storm, but a destructive storm nevertheless. The storm? Divorce. Before you ask – no, I am not getting divorced, nor separated. I do, however, feel like I have front row tickets, watching the storm that is divorce in an acquaintance of mine. Like any storm, you see the warnings, the signs. You get ready to brace. You prepare yourself for it, hoping somehow it will pass. Hoping the violence of divorce will somehow fizzle out and end up being a storm in a teacup. You put up protective walls around your already bruised heard. And you brace. Then it comes.
The storm rages around you, like the storms mentioned above. The rain pours down, it races down the mountain. It collects, gathers speed. It disregards all in its path. It smashes against those with strong foundations and demolishes those on shifting soils. The storm of divorce is a selfish storm. It cares not for those in its path. It cares not for the devastation it leaves behind in its wake. It thunders down the mountain and rips a deep gouge in the valley of the heart. It separates, isolates, causes fear, shakes foundations.
At the moment, I am seeing this storm shake the family in question. That raging torrent is screaming through the valley. It’s drowning the love that might have been there. It’s ripping away root from earth. How much more destabilising can this storm of divorce be?
This violence that is divorce does not just affect the married people in question. The surge washes over children, parents, extended family, friends. That’s why it’s selfish. I’ve noticed in many a divorce, one, sometimes both people are just being so selfish, disregarding all those with an emotional investment in the marriage, in the health of the family.
You know, it’s easy to feel out of control in the midst of the storm of divorce. The farmers I spoke to told of the gripping fear of helplessness in the midst of the storm. Of being powerless against the anger of the river. Of the rising of the tied. But like the storm in the valley, the storm of divorce subsides. Yes, devastation follows, but that devastation does not define the recovery.
The ‘no fault’ divorce has been a part of Australian Family Law since 1979. Children of those early ‘no fault’ divorce parents are now often married themselves. Many of my peers don’t want their parents’ marriage. They definitely don’t want their parents’ divorce! Regardless of your family history, it’s not your future. You don’t have to be your parents’ marriage. You certainly do not have to be your parents’ divorce! You have the opportunity to create your own family, for you, your spouse and your children.
So if you are suffering under the effects of someone’s divorce, take heart. The storm subsides and the water recedes. From there, you can re-build. You can decide what foundations you want for your life. For your marriage. For your children. You can decide not to inflict the violence of divorce onto those you love – those that need your protection the most.
D I WHYYYYYY?????
So you and your partner have bought a home. You want to save a few bucks and invest your labour and love into your new home. Spruce up a few rooms. Re-do the garden. Find some unique antique furniture and breathe new life into it. Splash on some paint and even venture out and do a feature wall. You could pay someone to do it, but you now have this huge mortgage hanging over your head and want to do things on the cheap. The only logical solution? D I Y.
A few nights are spent around the laptop, watching D I Y videos on Youtube. Preliminary reconnaissance missions are undertaken at Bunnings to cost the project. Friday nights are set aside to watch Better Homes & Gardens, just to get some final hints and tips. It’s all oh so exciting! You can’t wait to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in!
You are both excited. You imagine doing hard yakka together, playfully splashing paint on each other, sneaking in kisses in between sanding and smacking your partners backside with a paint-covered hand. You picture the pair of you smiling, sitting on upturned milk-creates sipping a beer and eating pizza, marvelling at your finished D I Y project, then racing to the shower for a post D I Y shower together and celebratory nookie.
You borrow tools from friends and family in exchange for boxes of chocolate. Trips are made to Bunnings to buy the necessary equipment. The paint is on sale as it’s an ‘end of the line’ colour, so you get it for half price! Score! The room is prepared to be painted. Drop sheets are laid, you don that Ralph Lauren knock-off Polo you got in Thailand a few years back. You are ready to go!
The First Day goes great! You work well together, the children don’t get in the way, nothing has been spilled and you quickly get the hang of using a paint roller. You wonder why more people don’t do DIY more often, cause it is actually quite easy. You mentally count the hundreds of dollars you have saved (even though your bank account is currently empty, with all surplus funds being spent on stuff for this project) by not paying a professional.
Day Two and the going is a little slower. The children want a bit of attention and somehow manage to get into the room you are painting and knock over your paint pot. It’s laughed over and quickly cleaned up. Thank goodness for drop-sheets! The damage could have been much worse. You quickly find that the corners and cutting in on the sides is actually quite an art. The paint just seems to run a bit today, and, due to the humidity, isn’t drying as quickly as you want. Never-the-less, you just know this project will be knocked over in a couple of days. Thankfully you’ve booked in holidays so you don’t have to go to work.
By lunchtime on Day Three you’ve done the undercoat. Rain-clouds are closing in and you remember the guy at Bunnings say ‘don’t paint if it’s raining cause it won’t dry right’. It’s been a busy two and a half days so you figure you deserve a break, anyway. Your partner has done a great job with keeping the kids entertained while you do the real hard work, so you figure you’d spoil them by gracing them with your presence. The only problem is that they don’t really understand how hard you have actually been working and how you really just need some peace and quiet while you have a rest on the couch for half an hour. After settling in on the couch, your partner quickly scolds you for not showering, then laying down on the couch with your now well paint-splattered, smelly Ralph Laruen polo shirt, getting a few dots on the black leather seats. In a huff, you storm to the shower to clean up. The images of the pair of you laughing over post-DIY beers and pizza just seems a little tainted.
Day Four and Five it rains, so no painting. Two days lost.
Day Six and the sun is out. You decide to make hay while the sun-shines and get started early, except you realise you didn’t rinse the brushes out as well as you should have and now they have gone hard. Your clock reads 5.30am and it’s a full two and half hours until Bunnings opens. Wasted time! It’s mid-morning by the time you start painting again. You quickly get into a good rhythm and by the time you know it, the second undercoat is on. It’s also 8pm at night. Tired and sore from all that painting, you rinse all the brushes (well this time), shower and hit the sack. All you can manage is a quick kiss and a good night from your partner. It’s been a long day. ‘The post D I Y beers and nookie can wait’ you tell yourself.
Day Seven and it’s time for the final undercoat. You wonder why the previous owners painted the room such a dark cover that you need three undercoats, but it needs to be done! Better prepared with well-cleaned brushes, your day starts promptly at 6am. Painting like someone possessed, you don’t realise that your dog has sat on the paint-tin lid, then proceeded to sit on the carpet, the couch and wipe itself all down the hallway, leaving a trail of off-white as it goes. The children find the white blobs of paint and think it’s hilarious , using it as a launching pad for more finger painting! Frustrated, you scold the dog, the kids and the weather (it’s a million degrees out there). The polyester cotton of your filthy, sweaty knock-off Ralph Lauren polo shirt is sticking to you. It itches your under-arms and makes you sweaty. It takes over an hour to clean up the mess the dog and the kids have made. Grumpy, you get stroppy that the paint has run and now you have to clean up lines. By 2pm, your partner reminds you that you have company that evening so you need to clean up and help. You feel your blood boiling. At least you have a few hours to get this coat of paint on.
That evening, all you can think of is getting this silly D I Y project finished. You are terse to your partner and verging on rude with your guests. You toss and turn in bed that night, getting an earful on why the painting has not finished and don’t be so rude and snappy.
Day Eight and you have to go back to work. You wonder where the week has gone. You have a half-painted babies bedroom, your room is full of furniture from the room being painted, the baby is also sleeping in your room and an unhappy partner. Laughing over post-DIY beers and nookie is now a distant thought.
This continues until you can paint again on Day Thirteen, which subsequently, is raining again. So is Day Fourteen.
Day Fifteen and you’re back at work. Aching to get this damn project finished, you resolve to paint at night. By the time the children are in bed and the jobs are done, its 8pm and you’re just so tired, but the show must go on. Painting until 1am, you seem to make a hell of a racket cleaning up, managing to wake up the dog, the baby and your partner. It’s 2pm by the time you are in bed.
Day Sixteen and you’re tired, sore, annoyed. No painting tonight. Same for the night on Day Seventeen, Eighteen and Nineteen.
Day Twenty and it’s almost been a month since you started. You feel like your bedroom has now been truly taken over by the baby’s furniture and the baby. The house smells like paint and you have a permanent headache. Dragging yourself out of bed at 6, you put on your disgusting knock-off Ralph Lauren that now smells worse than the Devil’s sphincter and proceed to knock over the paint tin. Dragging yourself and your children to Bunnings, the clueless teenager behind the counter advises you that the colour you want is out of stock and no longer made. They do have a similar colour, but they won’t be getting it in for a week or so. He calls around to a few other stores. It turns out that one store on the other side of town has a tin, and they’ll put it aside for you.
Hauling the family to the other side of town, it turns out that the shop only has enough of the colour you want for about half a wall, not a whole room. You don’t know if you want to cry or go postal. You get yourself and the children a sausage sizzle from Bunnings. The sausages turn out to be too hot and end up on the floor of your car, with tomato sauce smeared over the window and onto the upholstery.
Day Twenty-One and you are almost defeated. You stare at the unfinished walls, wondering what the hell you were thinking. You’ve ruined your once-nice knock-off Ralph Lauren polo shirt. Your partner keeps raggin’ on you for not finishing the job.
Sitting down over a cup of coffee, your partner makes a suggestion:
“Why don’t we just pay someone to finish the job?”
Defeated, you relent. It’s taken over 3 weeks to finish one room, and you are really not that closer to finishing. You look at the runs of paint around the window, the whisks and drips on the floor, the uneven strokes of your roller.
“Ok” you agree.
Day Twenty-Three and the painter sends around his chirpy apprentice, who just happens to have the right colour. Looking at the work at hand, he comments ‘Is this all you want done?’ You go to work. You come home to a completely painted room.
Day Twenty-Four and you move the babies furniture back into the newly painted room. It looks beautiful. You have your room back. You throw away your old, faithful knock-off Ralph Lauren polo shirt, covered in paint and sweat and spilled coffee and dog hair. After paying for the painter, you don’t have enough money for post- DIY beer or pizza. You’re too tired for post- DIY nookie. Your partner cooks you some pasta and sauce, cause it’s the only thing left in your pantry. You are exhausted.
Your partner looks at you. You can barely keep your eyes open. “I’ve seen this thing on Pintrest that looks really cool and easy to make”…
You think to yourself… D I WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?????????