Friday, November 7, 2014

Lessons From My Parents: What Does Farting Have to Do With Love and Commitment?

This, by far, is one of the weirdest posts I have ever written. 
Or, at least the weirdest title, but you have to have a catchy 
Rev. Katie with her parents. Copyright, Rev. Katie Norris

title if you are a blogger. 

I dedicate this post to my Mom and Dad who have taught 
me so much about life and relationships.


I just saw this great video from the Button Showcase at the 2014 National Poetry Slam and it reminded me of my parents. It is called "Hotbox Love" by Jesse Parent, and while it starts off a bit unconventional, it gets to the heart of what love and commitment is. Basically, the poem is about farting- if you can't handle it if your partner farts, you should not be together. Seems trivial, but you see farther into the poem that what he is talking about is being able to see the beauty in the disgusting and difficult parts of life.

As Jesse Parent says: "...conversations on a toilet. If you can't love me in this awkward space, just live in this filthy, stinky moment, what are you going to do when it really gets bad?...Can you still love me showering me in a chair, wiping my ass as I sob 'I'm sorry' at you, putting my underwear into a trash can without saying a word?"

As a I have counseled people in preparation for marriage, and in the midst of divorce, what most couples struggle with is understanding how to manage life when it does not go as planned and life is ugly. I am thinking now I should just show them this video. And yet, most people don't believe this stuff and think the only couples who can see the beauty in the ugliness are those with perfect relationships, outside of a few hard times.

My parents have been together for 53 years and by far it has not been a walk in the park for them. Yet they saw the beautiful in even the ugliest times. I see how different this love and commitment is when my Dad and I care for my Mom who has Lewy Body Dementia,which has left her unable to move and confined to a bed or wheelchair. We change her adult diapers together, and he does not say a word as he throws her underwear into the trash can. While I also do these tasks for my Mom, it's not the same. I don't like it and it it's not easy for me. It's a different kind of love and commitment, which you can see on my Dad's face as he lovingly takes care of her and only sees beauty where other people would see something far more disgusting than, as Jesse Parent talks about, farting in the bed.

My Mom would love this poem because she and I always used to joke about couples being comfortable farting in front of each other, particularly in bed. We even made up new words to the song "Wind Beneath My Wings" and called it "Wind Beneath My Sheets." She thought that kind of comfort with each other was not only funny, but gravely needed if a relationship was ever going to survive.

When I think all of that my husband and I have gone through and all the times either one of us has contemplated divorce, I know that the only reason that has not happened is because even in the darkest times, we see love and beauty. Sometimes I am in a deep state of depression or I am so angry that I have been horrifically mean, and he still sees just a moment of beauty. Sometimes he has been totally cold and emotionally disconnected. I look at him and I just can't stand him, and I think "But he is so beautiful."

I am sure my husband and I both learned this ability to see the beautiful in the midst of the mess from my parents. My husband has known my parents since he was sixteen years old. He too knew of the "Wind Beneath My Sheets" song my Mom and I had made up. He has seen my parents go through many struggles together and he has changed Mom's diaper with my Dad.

I am frequently told that my husband should leave me due to my illness, because "no one should have to put up with that" and that mental illness is a deal breaker in a marriage. People don't understand how beauty can be seen in our life together. My husband sometimes has to pick me up, get me showered, and dress me after we might have been fighting for hours the night before and I am too depressed to care for myself. Most people say that is just too ugly to have to live with. No different than the people who say the vow "in sickness and in health" no longer applies if your partner gets dementia.

I think one of the reasons it is so hard for couples to know how to see the beauty in the ugliness and how to leave ego behind and fight for a relationship, is that we never talk about messy relationships. People often tell me not to write about my illness because it is too messy. But if none of us talk about these things, we never learn that life can be terrifyingly messy and hard, but there are ways to keep going and have a good life. If we don't talk about it, no one knows the hours and hours of therapy and/or internal work it takes for two people to stay together and to still see beauty in terrible times.

I am not saying we put up with things like verbal or physical abuse, or any other number of issues in a partnership. I am also not saying that all relationships can stay together, because there are always extenuating circumstances that are exceptions. What I am saying is that you have to realize at some point your relationship will get messy, and when it does, can you still see a bit of beauty? Can you both call whoever you have to and do whatever work you need to to in order to do your best? Can you be the wind beneath each other's sheets?


Rev. Katie

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