Beth and I are reacting to the pressure in different ways and the contrast is remarkable, painful at times and comical.
Beth decides what items to store, take or let go by placing the item some place in our home, feeling its connection and worth to her and then judging where it goes. This may take five minutes, five hours or five days. In the meantime, everything she owns is spread throughout the house on floors, tables, dressers so that she can see it and go through her process. I’d compare it to a cook who has multiple sauces being prepared or a scientist conducting a series of tests.
Scott constantly cleans and curates. His process is to organize things into categories, decide what he needs now (RV), later (storage) or never (sell, giveaway, throwaway). In most cases, Scott can decide on an item in five seconds, though some items he’ll come back to because the decision is difficult. In that case he’ll go back to the pile and continue making a series of quick decisions. His goal is to get as many decisions made as possible in an hour.
The key differences are what each partner values most. To Scott, it’s efficiency. To Beth, it’s emotion. Under normal circumstances, we both share and appreciate the other persons process. But we’re both strung-out and feeling less charitable about the other person’s primary methodology.
Those of us in marriages or partnerships will be familiar with this divide and how it grows wider during stressful moments like moving. It’s also annoying as heck. It’s the moment when we look at our partner and think, “why are you and I together?” or, more likely, “WTF are you doing?”
This is 100% normal and almost impossible to prevent. Our childish or adolescent sides come out when we’re under extreme stress – which is really fear – and these inner kids don’t have the capacity to stop acting childish.
What we need then (and what I’m developing) is what ACA calls the loving parent, a side of ourselves that knows what the child needs (kindness, nurturing, tears, etc) and how to allow it to be. When one develops a strong, mature loving parent and an understanding of the suffering child, we can move from disregulation to regulation, from victim-adult or perpetrator-adult to the loving person we’re meant to be. This is THE WORK.
So, last night I began what I have to continue today: to treat myself lovingly and to slow down and prioritize our relationship over my “need” to get things done. Next, I have to remember and recreate my connection with Beth. This is a humbling, hard process that requires me to say, “I’m sorry” and not try and fix my partner. Again, this is THE WORK and it’s the hardest work I can do – harder by far than moving, adventuring or anything else. It’s the inside game and it’s only way to find true north.(pretty important for traveling, eh?)
As I write this, I’m crying. My parents did not know how to take care of my child/adolescent because their parents didn’t know either. I’m crying for me, for them as children and for a legacy that has suffered through this ignorance. May these tears, God, cleanse me and give me the strength and compassion to be a loving parent. And may my efforts in some small way cleanse my legacy and my partnership, offering us the chance to do better.