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Mission: Perspective

August 13, AD 2012 8 Comments

It’s interesting how different reality looks when it’s on paper, in neat paragraphs, all in the right order. There, I am a powerhouse. I am strong; I am adventurous; I am embarking on a mission with eternal consequences and not looking back.

But for all my talk of heroism and mission, I’m often tempted to throw in the towel, despair, and give up.

I wrote earlier about how marriage is a mission, and how Christian married couples, if they shine as beacons of virtue, can take the world by storm and save the world from its sexual dysfunction.

But right now I don’t feel like taking the world by storm, or shining as a beacon of virtue. I feel kind of sullen and selfish. I’m mad at my husband (of just over a month) for asking me to leave the dishes for him when he gets home from work. I’m mad at him for buying a stick shift (the former bachelor thought it was manly) instead of an automatic. I’m mad at him for owning four coffee makers when I don’t drink coffee and our counter and cupboard space is cramped.

And, after spending much of our engagement preaching loudly about how stupid it is to expect a flawless wedding day, I’m still trying to compose the perfect toast for the occasion, and trying to make myself have given it.

When I start writing, I start trying to take the world by storm again. I start thinking I’m better than everyone else, as if putting heroism and virtue into paragraphs was the same as living it. (I am virtuous. You can tell because I’m happy. Admit it – I’m just oozing with irresistible joy, and you’re about to convert because of it.)

It isn’t enough to say these things. We must live them. And yes, marriage is a mission, and it requires hard work and discipline, just like marathons and Amazon explorations. But I’m on duty even when I’m not feeling strong and adventurous.

Some days I’m ready for a fistfight or wrestling match with whatever power of evil would tempt me to love my dear husband less. Some days I’m ready to climb mountains and soar. But some days I’m just tired.

Some days I have a bad cold, or a stressful afternoon, or not enough sleep last night. I’m a woman, and some days my hormones do weird things. Some days I don’t feel like cooking, and some days we don’t have leftovers. Sometimes my sense of adventure just has to wait.

But I have to love anyway. My mission doesn’t change, even on days when I’m just not feeling it. I don’t have to feel strong and powerful in order to love deeply and steadily.

Maybe instead of wielding a sword and forcing myself to be happy, darnit, about the coffee makers, the stick shift, the offer to wash dishes, I should just shrug and look the other way. I’m annoyed about some petty things. Okay. I know that, in the past (like, yesterday), I’ve laughed about the coffee makers, felt proud at how far my stick-shift driving has come, and been grateful for his offers to help with housework. Those were emotions, too, and they’ll come back. Probably tomorrow.

I never promised to be passionate; I didn’t vow inexhaustible energy or permanent cheer. When I’m not in the mood to deliver a powerful blow to the enemy’s face, when all I can do is sigh and return to my work – that’s what I must do. That’s my fidelity and commitment. That’s the love and honor I did vow.

And, for the days I don’t feel like doing anything heroic – that’s my job. And I can do that.

About the Author:

Mary C. Tillotson is reporter for Watchdog.org, covering education reform issues across the country. She is co-founder and blogger at The Mirror Magazine and founder of Vocation Story. She tries to blog at The Earth and the Ether. A Michigan native, she lives in Virginia with her husband, Luke.

  • Luke Tillotson

    I do NOT have 4 coffee makers…one of them is an espresso maker. That’s different.

    🙂

    I love you, dearest!

  • 🙂 You’ll make it all work out in the end, just give it a little time. It was SO HARD for like the first 6 months of our marriage, especially curtailing the sense of adventure I have, but it does get better. And with your attitude, I’m sure your “rough patch” won’t last nearly as long.

    And, since this post wasn’t meant as a bid for attention on your part, your insights are wonderful, and many would benefit from reading them before marriage.

  • Oh, the “rough patch” was like a half an hour while Luke was at work. 🙂 I wrote the article as I worked through my own feelings, and decided to publish it because, as you said, I hoped others could benefit.

    We’re actually really happy.

  • Erin K

    Yay, Mary! Such a pleasant surprise to find you on here, and with such great thoughts, as always. 🙂

  • Teresa Tillotson

    Ah yes, “feelings.” As the saying goes “feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are.” But you recognize that how you act, not how you feel, is the important thing. And a little help from God and guardian angels doesn’t hurt either!

  • “Admit it – I’m just oozing with irresistible joy, and you’re about to convert because of it.” Hahaha yes I know these frustrations!

  • Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude. It’s like you’ve peaked into my marriage and then wrote about it! Only, replace coffee makers with electronics. Great post and timely reminder about the truth of our vocation.

  • Jo Ann Elder

    On paper we are adventerous, virtuous, and determined to be lights shining in the darkness. In real life, we find out that St. Therese’ has it right. Life is about all the little ways we love one another and how we choose to act on that love. It is in staying on the path despite the sprained ankles, the bugs, the heat, the humidity, and all the obstacles that we often put in our own way, that is the measure of our virtue. It is the effort and not the accomplishment — the journey and not the destination — that we are judged by.

    Even after 36 years, my husband and I continue to accomodate each other. Yes, it is still annoying that he always gets in the shower first (because he insists he is faster), and he is still the last one on the block to ever mow the front yard, but will mow the back yard for the dog twice as often. On the other hand, he has learned to make me dinner, reads the “Hunger Games” to our youngest daughter for three hours when she is sick in bed, and understands that eating out after Mass with our teenage children is absolutely necessary for the emotional health of our family even though he hates spending the money.

    Life is all about letting ourselves decrease while allowing Jesus to increase in us. It is often very, very hard but the fruits of that effort are awesome when viewed backwards 🙂