Somehow, the other day, having lunch with Bean, the idea of Tevya singing If I were a Rich Man, from “Fiddler on the Roof,” popped into my head. Bean was telling me about a dream he had with lots of staircases going in every direction. Some of them didn’t even actually Go Anywhere, he was saying. I am a product of my childhood, watching musicals all the time. I can hear Tevya’s accent and every pause. I can see every stomp and every arm shake as he sings, “There would be one long staircase just going up, another even longer coming down, and one more leading nowhere, just for show.”
Today, I read a couple of different articles about the struggle of marriage. One was on the blog, Scary Mommy, called Because Someday the Children will be Grown, and it broke down marriage into battle cries and words of war, and somehow managing through it to the other side, hopefully still together. And it was beautifully written, and I think lots of people will want to speak more softly to their mate after reading it. There is a price to pay for speaking harshly, after all, and it can be loneliness and loss and brokenness.
The other article was actually a bit of fiction writing from a tremendously brilliant writer, talking about the hardship of illness in marriage, not knowing how to speak of it, not knowing how to offer comfort, having the comfort come from unexpected places and at unexpected times. I sobbed through it, because it was so incredibly well-written. It also made me think of marriages that are on the brink, of times when my marriage was on the brink, when it was difficult to breathe, or speak, or know what was happening, or be positive, but being positive seemed like a better alternative to anything else, and so I PollyAnna’d my way through hoping against hope for a miracle. I sobbed through this writing, because it so accurately portrayed every wayward hope during that time, and painted a beautiful picture of how fragile we can be in our difficulties, and how much we want to help, and how we don’t know anything, and how random the help can be when it comes, and how perfect, and then it’s up to us to carry on. Life. Wow. It’s such a treasure and such a turmoil. It is every emotion bound up in one imperfect statement, hanging in the air waiting for someone to rescue it.
I am a bit unraveled after all this, and grateful. We made it through a trying time. Not everyone does. It doesn’t mean we’re better, or that anyone else isn’t trying their absolute hardest. Marriage is tough. When it’s good, it’s very, very good. When it’s not, it can be awful.
I think of the stairways going nowhere, all the work we put into building this house, this marriage, this family, and there are often, in this day and age, stairways that get started, family lines that get started, and then abruptly end. There are children left wondering what happened. Moms and dads left wondering what happened. Families today are delicate, and tumultuous, and need so much love and tenderness. I grieve when I hear of one falling, or stumbling or crumbling, or starting in a direction only to be left mid-staircase.
The song about another staircase going nowhere, just for show, was about a man wishing he had the means to provide for his family so well, that they could have extravagance and excess, but in today’s society, we often see the going nowhere as something started and left unfinished.
I think we sometimes get caught up in talking about the negative, when really, it is the tiny moments between, the still, small moments of tenderness and caring we should focus on, the half-glances and wishes, the hopes and maybes, the remembering what led us to want this person in the first place. It takes treating each other well, better even than we think the other person may deserve. It is giving and receiving grace. I think the blogging world can get really boisterous, and there aren’t that many men here, and we women can start standing really tall and thinking our needs aren’t being met, and we have this big group of women to support us, and we can sort of start to sound like hyenas with a battle cry. We need to remember that the couple, the family, the marriage, the two people and the children of that union, and the friends, and the homes and safe places shared between them – need love and grace.
Grace. Shared. Tastes. Good.
Grace given and received is a blessing and a benediction, and a salve to a world gone wild.
photo of stairs and windows from here