Walking on Fresh Grass
I’ve done it again.
I’ve cut him off and dominated conversation with our friends, not letting him get a word in. Again.
To nurture my shame I stride out ahead of him as we walk, grasping my independence. The unrelenting blue, blue and hot Australian sky above us seems to mock me. The sky is always the same. I’ll never change. I’ll continue to hurt him.
We know this path well and have walked it many times before. It winds along the river through a stretch of tall gumtrees and leads us to a wide oasis of soft green grass. I stress the green as Australia has little green in its colour palette. Gumtrees that dominate the landscape produce grey leaves that hang down in exhaustion from the remorseless sun. But it has a rugged, untouched beauty of its own that always makes me feel centred.
The sighing wind in the gums begins to work on my mood. Each step releases the tight grip I hold on my independence and I slow my pace. Christian holds out his hand for me to take.
This is the pivotal moment. It always is. Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have taken his hand. Twenty years ago he wouldn’t have held out his hand.
I take his hand.
We reach the green and take our shoes off to walk on the fresh cut grass. The pressure of his hand is enough to begin to release the tension.
“It happened again” I say. “I couldn’t help myself.”
“I know you Caroline”
Those four simple words. So precious. But I’m not ready to accept them yet.
Silence as we walk on the bitter sweet grass. I am challenged by so many conflicting feelings inside. He’s not perfect either. It was only last week that we were having this conversation about his critical nature. What he does is worse.
“I didn’t have any malice in what I did.”
“Why can’t I change for good?”
“Why can’t I?” he replies.
We’ve been talking a lot about personality problems lately. Early in our relationship when we began to find out how different we were, we kept on clashing and the problems seemed insurmountable at times. Sure we had our commitment and love to carry us through, but it was tough going.
Many of the couples Christian sees have seemingly incompatible personalities. Here is what he has learnt in his clinical experience and professional training:
You can’t change a personality, but you can manage it.
A personality can’t change but it can always grow. A personality is like a body-can you change it? Well, you can’t change the colour of your eyes but you can keep your body fit and trim.
Twenty years ago I was dominating conversations. Twenty years ago he was criticising. We still are, but we know each other’s faults and have learnt to manage them. How?
Well, for starters, we talk about the hurts, we don’t keep them in. I used to keep them in, Christian used to repetitively speak them out, neither was helpful. Now we walk and talk them out.
Secondly, we have learned to forgive each other. Wow, is that hard! It takes time. We have to nail our pride to a gumtree and leave it behind as we walk. I fail often at this.
Finally – and this is the most important step – we have to accept that our personalities are not going to change, but we can keep working to make them less hurtful out of pure love for each other. Trying makes all the difference. Trying is a silent language of love.
Welcome to our blog. Each blog contains a little story of our journey and an insight drawn from Christian's 18 years of clinical experience as a psychiatrist. The central ideas are in bold. We post every fortnight and would love to hear your comments. Looking forward to travelling with you in this amazing journey called life.