How to stop a train wreck

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We are fast approaching the end of a season, and the beginning, I hope, of a bright new one. The world is starting to warm, to awaken, to sing with new life. Lent has come to its close, leaning into the Triduum with the certain expectation that there will be Easter.

And I’m glad.

I’m very glad that Easter is upon us. But Easter is not the season we — he and I — will enter soon. No, ours is a private season, one that comes at the end of a stretch of days, months really, of trains chugging away from here, only to return at the end of the week — a steady, rhythmic pulse into another city for him, while I stay home with our six children under roof. This season has been a particularly brutal one, coming as it has in the time of life already punctuated with the grief of parents dying, the needs of children stretching and growing, and the busyness of both work and family at their apexes of need.

We have been communicating. We’re good at that. But our conversations of late are utilitarian and perfunctory, often sadly lacking depth, attention and charity. They are distant and distracted, even when we don’t want them to be. Even when we are in the same town, we fall into bed at night exhausted, yet still awake in our own heads, thoughts running full speed ahead of the next outgoing train.

Thirty years of marriage have taught us well, and we know that we are disconnected and distracted, and that that makes for fallow ground where, ironically, both fatigue and loneliness can bloom into full-blown sorrow. We tell ourselves that it will be better as soon as this big project is finished. (His project? My project? Both projects?) And I have no doubt it will. But not because the project ends.

It will be better because, when the train screeches to a stop at last, we will reassess as we always do. And we will note that this time — unlike in seasons past and despite a long history of intentionality — the extended period has been one of ricocheting from one crisis to another, each one more life-altering than the next. And in the midst of such gravity, we’ve tried to just keep going, just keep producing, just keep answering every obligation and fulfilling every responsibility that crosses our paths.

It’s time to stop the train altogether and retreat in order to get our heads about us. It’s time to remember what the intention was all along: to accompany one another to heaven, to arrive one day at the station where it’s Easter all the time. 

It is painfully obvious; we won’t ever rest peacefully together until we learn to prioritize one another and the marriage we share.

There is no question we’ve been walking through fire — we are burned and blistered and, frankly, worse for the wear. Still, even during the really hard seasons, when we value this marriage for the fullest sacrament it was created to be, we prioritize it. We have to prioritize each other. We can’t be an afterthought to one another, an item penciled in on the margin.

Instead, we have to be the other’s commitment — maybe the big thing written in red one day or one weekend, but then the small things written on every day that remains in the month. These small things are also written in red, and are just as much a priority. These are the purposeful moments that strengthen a relationship and bless a marriage. We have to connect, intentionally and with purpose, every single day.

As St. Teresa of Calcutta urges, we can do small things with great love, and when we do them day after day with deliberate fidelity, we resurrect a love affair and sanctify the core of a family that is a marriage.

Foss, whose website is takeupandread.org, is a freelance writer from Northern Virginia

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018

@elizabethfoss