Shelfies!

XXL and I recently passed the six month anniversary of our wedding—halfway through the first year, which, I’m told, is the toughest. Funny—I thought all those years on Match.com were the toughest. Assuming for most couples it’s because you’re faced with working through the grown up stuff like taxes, budgets and whose coffee mugs make it into the cabinet vs. the toss pile. The coffee mug challenge has likely rattled many a union. About three months into shacking up, XXL and I had a rather lively discussion over storage containers that was about 2 decibels away from becoming a domestic situation. I never realized how passionate a man could be over Tupperware. Being a grown up is highly overrated on so many levels. XXL scores more grown up points than yours truly, however, as he has a prior marriage under his belt. He’s experienced, whereas I, on the other hand, am a total rookie. I’m not going to sugar coat it for you. Marriage is a wonderful, beautiful thing, but if you’re like me—a woman who spent a few decades perfecting her solo act—it can be challenging.

Typically when I’m confronted with a challenge or embarking on some endeavor where my frame of reference is limited, I head to see my friends at Barnes & Noble. On my path to personal exploration, as well as finding a suitable partner, I was a B&N frequent flyer, often consulting with trusted advisors such as Elizabeth Lesser, Eckhart Tolle, Martha Beck, Ram Dass, Julia Cameron, Pema Chodron, Anne Lamott, Thich Nhat Hanh and a few others on a wealth of subjects. I literally grew up with them. I spent so much time with them I should have probably invited them to the wedding. Over the years I’ve welcomed them into my home where they’ve landed on my nightstand or found coveted space on my bookshelf. My ‘shelfies’ cheered me up, made me laugh, counseled me after relationship blunders, picked me up after break ups, and assured me that I wasn’t the freak that I sometimes thought I was after some perceived shortcoming or failure. What I learned from my shelfies was that no matter what I was going through, I wasn’t alone. Sometimes a single quote or passage would lift me up out of the darkness or radiate a divine light bulb of clarity.

When we descend all the way down to the bottom of a loss, and dwell patiently, with an open heart, in the darkness and pain, we can bring back up with us the sweetness of life and the exhilaration of inner growth. When there is nothing left to lose, we find the true self—the self that is whole, the self that is enough, the self that no longer looks to others for definition, or completion or anything but companionship on the journey. This is the way to live a meaningful and hopeful life—a life of real happiness and inner peace. This is the Phoenix Process.—Elizabeth Lesser from Broken Open.

For me, there is nothing more comforting than cuddling up with a shelfie, coffee cup in hand, soaking in the experiences of someone who has blazed the trail. Thank you B&N for some of the best $24.95 I ever spent.

Sharing your journey with a companion is a blessing and a treasure, as long as you’re not fighting over which suitcase to bring and who forgot the sunblock. When you’ve been single, independent, in control (aka controlling), and maybe a wee bit self-centered, you have to learn how to make room in the suitcase for someone else. Change was needed—and change never comes without some kicking and screaming. For awhile, I pointed the finger of change at XXL. After all, while he had been married—that marriage didn’t work. Clearly, he needed to change. After a few rounds of pointing the finger at XXL, however, it began to occur to me that there were probably a few areas I could tweak. The logical woman to ask for advice would have been my own Mom who was married to my dad for 52 years. Unfortunately, she passed back in 2006 so I had to seek advice elsewhere. I circled the shelves of B&N, and of course, there were definitely no shortage of authors willing to weigh in on the subject of marital bliss. I had already read and reread the Venus/Mars book—which, in my opinion, should be required reading for every man and woman hoping to communicate outside of their own gender. The one that caught my eye was “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands,” by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Now, I know Dr. Laura is a bit controversial—people seem to either love her or hate her, but she actually offers some good, practical advice—advice even this strong, independent feminist woman could relate to, i.e., “We all think we’d like to be able to control everything and everyone around us. We imagine we’d be safe and secure—always on familiar turf. Frankly, the texture of life does not come from the familiar (which is comfortable), but from challenging ourselves with the unfamiliar.” Hmmm. Maybe she’s onto something. Men are simple. They have basic needs: They want to love us, make us happy, fix our problems, and slay our dragons. In return, they basically want us to be happy. They’d also like us to be nice to them, smile a lot, NOT treat them like one of our girlfriends (describe our daily vents in 1200 word rants with colorful adjectives and finely tuned details about our feelings) and occasionally give them some sex and affection…preferably both, and probably more than occasionally. Sounds good to me. Oh—and when faced with the coffee mug challenge ask yourself “is this the hill I want to die on?” Thanks, shelfie.

Written by: Lori Welch Brown

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