Being Specific

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“I’m having trouble adjusting,” I sobbed into my husband’s shoulder. He had grabbed me into a firm embrace when his simple, “everything alright?” brought tears to my eyes.

For the past four and half months, my husband and I have been getting to know each other in ways that only happen when you share the same house. I change the sheets more frequently that he would. He does laundry every day, before I can even think of it. He never tires of eating the same thing for lunch: pretzels, carrots, and an apple. I only eat the same thing two days in a row if there are leftovers.

We have happily found that we enjoy watching The Voice together, and Big Bang Theory. Neither of us really likes mornings, and we are working hard to be thoughtful people who remember to send birthday cards and holiday greetings. It doesn’t come naturally for either of us.

Marriage is as wonderful and difficult as I expected it to be, and to the practical aspects of marriage, I am adjusting just fine, I think.

What has been difficult is remembering who I am.

::

At 42 years old, I had never been a wife or a step-mother. I had never had in-laws or been called Mrs. I never wore rings before, or shared a check book with anyone. When I wanted a snack, I ate one. When I wanted to watch TV, the remote was where I left it. Failed cooking experiments meant only I was left hungry, and if I didn’t have time to go to the grocery store, I could make do from the pantry.

When I got married, not only did my name change, but so did my address, my church, and my work. I used to live alone with my dog; now I live with a man and three boys. Plus a cat. Friends that I saw and talked with weekly now require calendars and “catching up.”

With so much change in my life, somehow I felt like I was changing all the way to the heart of me.

But did I have to?

Though I never wanted my life to be defined by my singleness, now, it’s tempting to define myself as “married” or “mother.” I didn’t think a lot about myself as “woman” when I was single, because without filling those primary roles that so many women embrace, my life seemed gender neutral.

Now that I find myself with a husband and stepsons, maybe I am thinking too much about what it means to be a woman, and too little about what it means to just be me in a new setting.

::

“Would you be interested, or at least willing, to go to an exhibit at the art museum Saturday?” I ask my husband, the day after my meltdown. The tears had mysteriously drained away some of my confusion; I feel clearer about what it means for me to adjust to these new roles.

“Sure,” he says, willing, even eager. He mentions an art fair in the same city going on Saturday, as well. Almost a year ago, he took me to an art exhibit on our second date. He remembers, maybe better that I do, who I was—who I still am, I think.

I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to adjust to marriage and motherhood and a new home and a new church and all. I have a lot to learn about each of those roles, things God hasn’t taught me yet because I didn’t need to know until now.

In the midst of these adjustments, I will have to wrestle all over again with what I believe that God requires of wives and mothers, and I will have to learn how to manage a home and live in a small town and worship in a church as a family, not just an individual. I will even have to learn again what it means to be a friend.

But in all of these adjustments, Lord, help me to be specific, to learn how to be just the wife and mother and home manager and friend you want me to be.

Photo by Ian Sane, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.

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Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.


  • laura ,

    I think you’ve pegged a struggle that seems–to me–to be a lifelong one, Charity. But I wonder–should we struggle against it? Maybe the gift is in the bending with these changing roles; relishing each new thing. I know, I know, it’s not how I’m made either :). But maybe I need to be more open to that. Bless you as you keep stepping into the new, never shrinking away.

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      Charity Singleton Craig ,

      Laura – I am intrigued by your comment. I think I agree with what you are saying – maybe I have just said it in a different way. I think it’s definitely a gift to bend with these changing roles. I think I am struggling not to break, though. I think there’s probably a little of both going on in me: stubborn resistance to maintain my independence, and total submission to be only what others want. Somewhere in the middle, I think, is the bending you speak of. Is there something you have retained that is just your own unique identity through your changing roles? Is there something you have given up?

    • Megan Willome ,

      I like what Marilyn said. We’re at 21 years, and I’m still learning the specificities of who I am as Megan, who I am as wife, who I am as mother. It does shift as kids grow older and as my husband and I grow older, too. And it’s okay to carve out time alone. It’s necessary.

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        Charity Singleton Craig ,

        Megan – The time alone is something I treasure, and yet one of the things I was looking forward to the most in marriage was being home and doing my own thing, but NOT being alone. I love it when my husband and I are sitting on the couches each reading our own book. Or on Fridays, he works at home, too, so we are both in the office working away on our projects. I think in time this will be true with the boys, too. There are signs that that is starting to happen.

      • Marilyn Yocum ,

        You’ve captured it well and your prayer for God to show you specifically, rather than you getting caught up on generalities and what everyone else seems to think, is an excellent prayer that never grows old. I’ve been married 40 years. Life keeps sending new challenges, calling for new responses. I never run out of the need for God to shine His light on my next step.

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          Charity Singleton Craig ,

          Marilyn – Yes, I expect I will be sorting through these issues from now on, always trying to understand my role and trying not to be swept up in cultural expectations. What has been the one thing you’ve done that is uniquely “you”?

          • Marilyn Yocum ,

            Wow! I’m having to think hard about this, Charity! My husband says I’m very creative in the kitchen. I find things I want to try and I get into it. True. But a couple other things stick out to me. There are just things I “get a hankering” to learn and I go find a place to learn it. It doesn’t matter if anyone else cares about it or goes with me. Learning a second language and drawing, for example. I even felt at one time I needed to take graduate-level seminary classes because it’s important to keep stretching beyond yourself. So I did. It’s kind of a thread through my life, that I always learning something. It’s just part of my craziness, part of me. 🙂