My husband has a new job, and with it he is required to participate in a bunch of extra stuff (classes, events etc.) which require outside preparation or study and so leave him with absolutely no time for the family.... a challenge we aren't unfamiliar with but which, when we had grown accustomed to having him around 24/7, is definitely not fun for anyone. In a beautiful way, though, all this suffering and missing each other and stress and feeling sorry for each other and miserable draws us all closer together-- we miss each other, so we pay closer attention to details... and so we are willing to skip each other's little grievances. It's strangely nice.
Yesterday was kind of a landmark for that.
You see, along with my other mamma friends, milk becomes very important to me when I'm pregnant or nursing. Running low on milk will send me into a minor panic-- not only because the kids drink milk every morning and I need it for various baking projects throughout the day, but also because there is something comforting about having it in the fridge and being able to use it. I become a milk maniac, and since I'm pretty much always pregnant or nursing, milk is on my mind a lot these days. And my husband, who is responsible for milk-aquisition in this house, suffers the wrath of a mediterranean woman, complete with hand gestures, when milk quantities dwindle.
If I really stop and think about it, I don't know what I think will happen when I run out of milk.... the world will still turn and I will continue living-- but needless to say, milk-lessness is a sure way to put an end to my sanity. Which is why running "low" on milk can change my whole mood for the day. Until there is a full milk jug in the fridge, I am quite volatile and my emotions render me a bit explosive. Running low on milk, in this house, is dangerous.... because we all know that when Mama aint happy, nobody's happy.
Now why is this a problem? Because I don't drive. Therefore I am completely dependent on other people to take me to buy milk---which is why this week was such a milestone.
I got very nervous and annoyed yesterday when for over two and a half hours, my father in law came back to the refrigerator half a dozen times to pour what little milk we had left into a tiny glass cup and retreat to the garage, where he was experimenting with how much he could get away with irritating me. His project? Painting words on reams of copy paper with precious milk to see if he could then put a flame to the paper and see the invisible words. I was enraged. We had been "low" on milk for two days now, and last night, thanks to the milk writing fiasco, despite the LARGE sharpie warning I had penned, FIL-style, that cautioned: "DO NOT TOUCH," we finally Ran Out.
Darkness envelopped me. My mind ran through a million milkless scenarios. What would we do? How would we survive? HOW WOULD I DRINK COFFEE????
It was easy to get angry... after all, I reasoned, my husband had failed me. But rational thinking prevented me from doing that. He had had to go to the hospital early at the last minute, and he was under so much stress from all sides it was a miracle he was still standing.
The only possible time he had had to go to the grocery store, he had had to go and take care of something for his dad, who we live with and who is dying of cancer and suffering from a wide range of mental issues. Mentally, I absolved my husband, and when he came home from work at 11 and realized he had still not taken care of his family, he was very distraught, but somehow I found the love and ability to say: "Babe, it's totally not your fault-- when would you have done it?? We will live. Please just go to sleep, you need some rest."
I then proceeded to finish baking a couple loaves of bread I had started with my six year old in the afternoon. While I was exhausted and would have welcomed the opportunity to sleep, I've been faithfully baking bread in the evenings so that there would be fresh bread for breakfast for everyone. It keeps our grocery bill very low, and it makes my husband and kids very happy, and it's something which, over the years, has become a family staple and which means a great deal to all of us. Bread makes us happy, so it's worth the major work.
But.... I'm not gonna lie, I felt like an awesome, super holy saint. Which makes me a sinner. ;)
He went to sleep feeling better, but once I went to bed, I lay awake most of last night, hit with pregnancy heartburn for the first time this pregnancy, knowing that taking small sips of milk would have cured it and sent me to sleep.
He awoke at the usual ungodly hour and went off to work, leaving me and the children to start the day, milk-less. Determined to make the best of it-- I resolved to make chamommile tea for all and smile. I set to work boiling the water for the tea. Almost IMMEDIATELY, like a magnet, my father-in-law began to putter around in the kitchen. (He makes a point of staying out of the kitchen until people are using it, and then makes a point out of telling us how to use it during the entire cooking experience.)
First, he asked me to boil the tea in the microwave, giving me a ten-minute lecture on the electrical and fiscal benefits of doing so. Eager to just get it over with, I complied, although I loathe the microwave. Then he started straightening up the kitchen, walking behind me and putting away everything which I had taken out to make breakfast, only putting it all away in a new place, where it didn't belong. The entire time, he made what he considers to be polite conversation--- raving violently against liberals and blaming the woes of the world on Obama and Nancy Pelosi, and ranting about how Catholics don't understand politics and religion is dead.
I took long, deep breaths, assuring myself that I had been through this every day of my life for the past two years and that I could do it again graciously, but it was like this big sign flashing: "NO MILK IN HOUSE" was going off in my head, and in my mind I kept seeing an image of him dipping his paintbrush into the little jar of milk.
You see, my Father in law drives. And while he has no qualms about plastering a giant "D" on every item of food he brings into this house so that we don't touch it, he also has no qualms about eating whatever we make, asking me to make him special meals at random moments during the day with our food. He also acts like I've just asked him to donate a kidney if he perchance should be going to the grocery store and I hand him a five dollar bill and ask him for a gallon of milk. All of this to say... I was getting more annoyed by the minute.
I gritted my teeth and worked around him, dodged the word bullets, and smiled and nodded. And I felt like things were going pretty well until, all of a sudden, the bomb dropped.
He was standing very still, staring at the stove with strange little half smile on his face.
"So, I've been thinking about this for a few weeks and I want you to stop baking your bread. You are ruining my oven. It's not meant for that kind of use, it's not an industrial oven, and if you think I'm going to allow it, you can think again."
I closed my eyes and inhaled deep, pausing to wonder if I would be handling this any better WITH coffee. He has moments like this all the time, where he looks for things to get steamed up about and then carries on and on in his mind until it spills out into his environment.
Asking "why" is never a good idea for unmedicated with people with unacknowledged OCPD. You will hear why for the next two hours. It's always better to agree and wait. So I sighed and said: "OK, dad. Loud and clear. Roger. You can stop now."
Realizing he had been rude, but feeling like he was justified and genuinely had a right to be angry and concerned, he began the long-winded oven apologetics speech I had heard so many times before about the blinds, the refrigerator, the sink, the washing machine, the dryer, the cabinets, the carpet, the fireplace, the couches, chairs, and lamps, the fans, the bathtub, and all the other things in the house he has lectured me over in the past. This time, though, the longer he talked about internal oven workings and baking methods and his reasoning, the more hurt and angry I became. I kept my face still and as pleasant as I could, but my internal steam engine was working overtime.
When he had finally worked himself into a rage and threw out the final "nail in the coffin," of his rant ("I'm going to have to think about it, but I don't know that I ever want to see you bake bread again. I was a baker in the army and I never needed to use water in an oven. Your bread is probably failing because of the extra humidity-- the crusts are WAY too hard and that's not how they are supposed to be.") I was holding back tears.
The irony of the man who thinks MOONPIES ARE FOOD telling the French girl what bread is and isn't supposed to look like was too much. But I knew also that my pride was injured... and that I had to let it go.
For HIS sake, I live in a house where my children can not play freely, where my children can not run in peace in the yard, where I can not read a book, raise a blind, or sit down to write or school my kids, make a pot of coffee, drink a glass of water, kiss my husband, close my bedroom door, dust a piece of furniture, pick up the mail, or talk on the phone, without being told-- or being debated-- about the reasons why I'm doing it wrong and being inefficient. It is like a literal living hell, especially when his OCPD begins to regulate the fire levels in the fireplace.... hello 84 and 5 degree nights inside when it's 60 outside. My own personal purgatory, complete with heat. Mental illness is HARD to live with.
I ran-- well, walked fast, because we aren't allowed to run in this house-- into the bathroom door, shut the door, and melted down. Ignoring the children pounding at the door asking to come in, I dissolved into a crying, sobbing, pitiful mess on the floor. And then, composing myself and setting my thinking aright, I began to praise God.
At which point He showed me: I am HERE. And I love you both.
Even in the midst of my milkless and miserable existence, even as I stood on trial for being a GOOD and responsible wife and tenant, even as I came under continuous pummeling from all directions..... He was there. With me. These were blows He had endured before: humilitating, unjust, and totally outrageous. These blows He had willingly endured had saved the world, and ensured peace on earth. Though He had prayed: "Father, take this cup from me if you will," He had also prayed: "But thy will be done."
I had promised to follow Him, and I couldn't accept to just follow Him in the glory of the resurrection. This is Lent-- and I must follow Him to the Cross. And I will.
Because Easter is just around the corner...which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. (1 Timothy 1:12)
God reminded me that what I really wanted was not a jug of cow's milk. I want God. I want the Love He is made of.
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation... (1 Peter 2:2)
Hasn't He promised us "a land FLOWING with milk and honey?" (Jeremiah 11:5)
I wanted THAT. Not milk. Not my own house. Not a break from my father in law.
Friends, are you suffering also right now?
Trust in the One who has endured all that you are faced with right now. But remember the words of Romans 8:18: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
We do not suffer for nothing. God knows every tear we shed. and we know that glory is just around the corner. Stand firm in your faith and suffer well!
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. - James 5:16