Buddy Breathing

When my husband was in the military, one of the trainings he had was in what was called Buddy Breathing. Recruits were paired up for a pool workout where they had to share an oxygen tank while swimming underwater. Quint figured out quickly the best way to stay calm and in control was to push the oxygen over to his partner right away, letting him fill up and keeping both calm. Other teams would end up fighting over the oxygen as they grew panicky about getting enough air, which only created more stress and made them fight harder to get the tank.

We have been reflecting since our most recent family trip about what made it successful (in other words, relaxing, peaceful, and enjoyable), and one of the things we did was to practice what we have come to call Buddy Breathing. This stage of parenting three young children requires a lot from both of us, and resources such as time and energy, much like that single oxygen tank between swim partners, are often limited. And while I absolutely believe in “putting on my own oxygen mask first” through self-care, my husband and I have identified a few ways we can look out for each other, contributing to both of us feeling a greater sense of peace and well-being. One way we do this is to encourage each other to get at least a few minutes of exercise in while the other watches the kids. On our trip to the mountains, this meant a few times a day, one or the other of us would say, “now’s a good time for you to take a walk.” Sure, we still often ask each other for what we need, but looking for opportunities to let my partner take a deep breath of air calms me too.

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List of Beautiful: May 20, 2016

   

 celebrating 10 years of marriage with my love at our favorite cabin in the mountains

the sweet piney fragrance of the air when it rains

morning walks under ponderosa pines

my boys gathering kindling for the fireplace 

feathering new growth in my hand

an unhurried pace

dreaming about the next 10 years

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Marriage Letters: How We Co-Labor

My response to this month’s Marriage Letters prompt at Amber Haines’ blog.

We swayed for an hour, shower spraying hot on my back and my head glued to your chest. The midwife was on her way from another state, the apprentice gone to get her supplies, having realized this baby was coming along quicker than most first babies tend to. We leaned into each other like two walls of a pyramid, and time ceased to mean anything, the two of us passing through this transition unawares. Your arms held me up when my body needed to pull south; I hung, pressing my forehead into the strength of your chest, and in between surges we rocked and you spoke blessings into my damp hair. This labor, this bringing forth new life, was a joint effort, and for all your exclamations and others bandying about words like “rock star,” I knew we had done it together, as a team.

The pastor who counseled us before marriage told us only ten percent of couples could handle working together, a challenge that raised my hackles. At the time, we thought of my joining you in your career, and when it didn’t work out, I wondered if the pastor was right and we fell into the other ninety percent. Turns out, I just had no passion for real estate, or administration. Plus, I hate making phone calls. But working together? That’s what we do every day.

It looks pretty conventional in this season; many days I am padding barefoot in the kitchen when you leave, suited and tied, for the marketplace. I’ve always enjoyed cooking for you, and you are the planter-of-trees and keeper-of-the-cars.

I’m zoomed-in close-up of a caterpillar, and you’re big-frame picture window with a view of the mountains. I love polishing your words; you help me make connections. I am focused concentration and you are all passionate, spontaneous energy. I’m spend-an-hour-on-line-edits, and you are Big Ideas and Get-It-Done.

Many times I have wailed, But what am I doing? I feel lost in these carousel days of diapers, sippy cups and sleeplessness. Days stretch like an ocean around me and I’m floating with no landmarks in sight. This season of small-child parenting is challenging, demanding, just plain hard. My frustration has at times led me to unfairly accuse you of making your work more important than mine. Yet you encourage me on a daily basis that I am doing good work and well, this nurturing of small ones, and you reassure me that there will indeed be more time for other dreams and projects, for different work.

You are my greatest champion. You, wisely, have always known this adventure we’re on will look different at every stage, and cheer me on in the small victories: the phone call placed, the poem finished, the books read, the meal prepared, the song performed. Sometimes one will bear a little more of the weight of supporting than the other at times. Sometimes support looks a lot like you leaving for work each day so I can follow my heart in mothering this way.

This work of ours is ordering Creation together: each dish washed, every diaper changed, each presentation made, every weed pulled, each line written, each client helped, each chord played is nurturing the soil of our family, chipping away at dysfunction and disorganization, making room for new things to grow, living the art we make every day.

In my macro lens mind, I can’t see where it’s going, how it will all add up, what the purpose is.  But this I know: We are birthing something new here, each day and season a series of expanding and contracting, of gestating and of bringing to light.
“And we’re doing it together,” as you so often tell me.

Thank you for eight years this month of creating together, Love.

Marriage Letters: Once Upon a Time

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I’m taking Amber Haines up on her invitation to write Marriage Letters every month. This month’s prompt was Once Upon a Time.

Dearest,

Once upon a time I dreamed of flying with you, of snugging into the window seat and watching the horizon for surprises.  Then, when that dream finally came true, you were the one who surprised me with our honeymoon location, revealed only with the airline attendant’s words as he handed us our tickets: enjoy your flight to San Francisco.  We went to that city without any plans, only hopes of discovery and adventure.

Once upon a time I jumped out of a plane with you.  Temporary insanity, apparently, since I would never do anything that risky again.  But the calm (like you were in line to buy a snowball, you said) was unlike anything I’d ever experienced; even in this crazy adventure, I knew I could trust you.  Someone wisecracked after we tied the knot: You trust this guy?  With my life, I shot back.

Once upon a time, you taught me to dance merengue, cumbia, cha-cha.  I wanted to spend my days dancing with you.  I thought the metaphor of a ballroom dance would carry us through.  I trusted you with the steps, with my very life.  I still trust you, not because I think you know all the steps, but because we are learning the steps together every day, trusting the Master Choreographer together.

Once upon a time, I thought I was patient.  I hung, perched on your words, admired the depth of your insights and watched, waiting, as your thoughts rolled past us all like a train bound for lands uncharted. Now I so often find myself ready to steam along when you are silent, impatient for your thoughts to slow to a stop so I can jump aboard, take the helm and switch tracks.  Forgive me.

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Once upon a time I thought our birth orders–firstborn girl, last born boy (with sisters, to boot)–was an omen of our success; after all, I’d read that in a book somewhere.  I thought I understood what marriage was hard work meant.  I didn’t realize marriage was like a rototiller doing the work on me, unearthing all the rocks of self-centeredness, churning up worms in all the tender places, long-guarded, that something new might grow.

Once upon a time, I hadn’t a clue about grace.  Sure, I had faith in Jesus, but it took someone who had experienced God’s extravagant grace extending it to me, day in and day out– seeing me at my most selfish and least gracious, and telling me gentle in the most broken of moments, “I love you,”–  to show me what it really means.

Thank you, Sweetie, for the dance, the adventure, the growth, and the grace.

Love,

Norissa

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