Our Charleston Trip

Ash and her cousin, Calvin

Ash and her cousin, Calvin

For a few days in April, Ash and I got to visit Charleston together. Ashley was the “Best Ma’am,” for her cousin who was the groom. As such, one of Ashley’s responsibilities was to plan the bachelor party. Ashley asked if I could come out to Charleston with her the weekend before the wedding to keep her company and go to the bachelor party with her.

I knew Ashley would be more comfortable if I was able to be with her there. It gave me the opportunity to see some of her family that we both enjoy hanging out with. Plus, we always have fun when we are able to explore a new city together.  

The Friday we got there we were able to have dinner at a local restaurant called Fuel and then walked down on King’s Street to check out some spots for the bachelor party the following evening. We found ridiculously good ice cream at a place called Jeni’s. Interesting enough, when we came back to our local AJs we found that they sell Jeni’s ice cream!

Saturday morning I woke up early and found a local pastry and coffee shop called Wild Flour Pastry. Ever since Ashley and I’s first vacation, our honeymoon, we enjoy finding a local coffee shop where we can go and spend our mornings on vacation. Give me a coffee, a pastry, and my wife on an outdoor patio in the morning, and I am set. If that can happen, I consider the vacation a success.

At The Cocktail Club on King St.

At The Cocktail Club on King St.

After a little rough start to the bachelor party that evening, one guy pre-gamed too hard and passed out before we went to dinner, we had a fantastic time. We had appetizers at a bar with local music, had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant, ice cream again at Jeni’s, dancing at a nightclub, and finishing the night at a hip upstairs bar. Nightclub’s are not my scene, but I know that Ashley loves when I dance with her and I knew she was bummed that we were not going to be able to dance at the wedding (I had to fly home on Monday and the wedding was on Thursday). So I got outside of my comfort zone and danced with her and we had a lot of fun.

Enjoying sandwiches and coffee at Carmella’s on Bay St.

Enjoying sandwiches and coffee at Carmella’s on Bay St.

Sunday was Easter and we were able to spend the whole day together. We went to Wild Flour Pastry in the morning (again my favorite part) and got to stroll along King’s Street. We did a carriage tour around Charleston and explored some of the historic sites with her cousins and aunt and uncle.

Time on vacation with just Ashley and I is an enormous blessing. We usually end up talking about our hopes, dreams, and ideas that we have. Historically I have discounted my ideas as crazy and pushed them to the side. Ashley has been encouraging me lately to explore my ideas and not to instantly discount them. Ideas like starting a baby food jar recycling business or tinkering in customizing leather boots or working with Crossfit gyms to sell t-shirts internationally. Ashley has encouraged me to think of no idea as too big or too silly. The ability to share with her my ideas has required vulnerability, but her encouraging me and not discounting me, has made us closer.

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I encourage you to spend time on vacation doing the things you and your partner enjoy together, go outside of your comfort zone to do something you know your partner enjoys, and spend time dreaming together. In my experience, that is a good recipe for a great vacation.

-Tim


Your Emotions Are Valid, But...

In my last blog post I talked about acknowledging and beginning to learn how to interact in a healthy way with my emotions. You can read my prior blog post here.

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Now what? I had emotions, I did not suppress them, but now what was I supposed to do? Well, I had to start learning what to do.

Ashley was a huge help to me in navigating the messiness of emotions. One thing she always told me earlier in our marriage, when I would try to convince her that she should not feel a certain way in a situation, was that emotions are valid. Regardless of the situation, your emotions are valid.

But, your emotions may not be proportionate to the situation. I came to realize that there were situations in which I rationally knew the strength of emotion I was experiencing was not proportionate to the severity of the circumstances.

Emotions that tend to be classified as “negative” are often tied to negative cognitions. Thoughts like, “I’m not good enough,” “I should have known better,” “I’m not lovable,” etc. What happens for many of us is that there are events in our lives that affirm these negative cognitions in our brain. An event happens when you are 4, then 8, then 11, then 17, etc. Your brain has connected all of these events. My counselor used the word picture of train cars linked together. Now, when you experience an event that brings up the negative cognition, “I’m not good enough” for example, the force of all of those train cars collide into your current event.

Ashley and I were at the mall one day. We were both in a store looking at items and then I turned around and she began leaving the store with the kids without telling me. I became extremely annoyed with Ashley that she hadn’t let me know that she was ready to leave. I realized that my level of emotions was not commensurate with the situation and I started thinking about it. Why did I have such a strong reaction?

I realized that I had a fear, or negative cognition, that “the people I love will leave me.” There were seemingly simple events that happened in my childhood, combined with my personality that influenced that fear. Later, in 8th grade, my first real girlfriend, and first girl I told “I love you,” left me. Then, early in Ashley’s and I’s marriage there were events that made me think that Ashley would leave me. These events compounded in my brain to make such a simple thing, like Ashley leaving a store without telling me, elicit a big emotional response.  

Your emotions are valid, but maybe they are not proportionate to the circumstances. Part of discovering more about yourself is recognizing these times. When you do, you can look back on your life and ask the question, “Why do I react this way when this happens?” The answers may surprise you. These instances are an opportunity for you to learn more about yourself and for your partner to learn more about you.

For Ashley and I, these conversations revealed things about each other that we never knew. It is helpful as a partner, to know why your partner reacts the way that they do. It allows you to be more understanding the next time it happens. It also allows you to make little or big changes to help your spouse. Regardless of the severity of the emotions, your partner is responsible for his/her actions. However, if you can make loving changes to help your partner, you should.

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Now, when Ashley and I are in a store together, she comes and tells me, “Hey I am going to be over here.” or “Hey I am heading to the next store.” It is a little thing, but it is a way that she tells me that she loves me and is considerate of how I feel.  

It can be scary sharing with your partner your most deep-seated fears, like “I’m not good enough.” It takes vulnerability to share with your partner the events in your life that piled up to make that fear as strong as it is. Above all, it takes trust. In sharing these things, you also reveal to your partner how they can hurt you the most.

Sharing is scary, but it creates intimacy. To be intimate, you must risk being hurt. So take that risk; and, as a person who hears the fears of your partner, never betray that trust, it may take you a lifetime to earn that trust back.

-Tim

Waiting For Death

So about a week and a half ago, I got a phone call out of the blue that my great-aunt had died. It was completely unexpected and we were all in shock. I feel blessed to be able to say that I was actually sad and felt the loss of my great-aunt. I have 4, and we are all close. I don’t think many people can say that. Saturday was the service, Tim and I packed up our Tribe and headed to Tucson to join the rest of my family. As I sat through the service, we heard from many family members about the life and impact of my Aunt Marilee. It was so beautiful. The whole family then made pilgrimage to her favorite steakhouse, “Lil’ Abner’s Steakhouse” in Marana, where we continued talking about her: swapping stories, tears, and belly laughs.

For better or for worse (but usually for better) my family is very close. Sometimes it’s a fine line between close and invasive, but usually we all get on well together, and as our matriarchs have said in so many words over the years, “We are Crawfords, and we sing.” And that we do. One of our traditions is to “sing Grace” instead of “say Grace” before a meal. We gather and someone starts us off in The Doxology. We always begin the first line, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” in unison. Then by the next line, “Praise him all creatures here below,” we have broken off into 6 part harmony. I don’t say this lightly, we sound incredible. I will have to record this sometime for you to hear. By the time we reach the end, “Amen.” half of us are beaming through tears as we all look around at each other. Someone always says, “Now THAT was GOOD!” and then we eat.

At some point during the evening, one of my cousins, Susie- whose mother was my Aunt Marilee, and I were having a conversation, when she made a wonderful point- “How come we don’t do this when the person is still alive? Why do we have to wait until their gone to gather and share and remember?” It’s tradition, I suppose. But she made an excellent point.

We have to start doing this more, to affirm and cherish those we love, before they have moved on. I always like to think that those who have passed can still hear and watch over us. I always wonder how surprised they are at the funeral hearing all the nice things people never said about them while they were still alive. Why does it take waiting until someone is on their very last breath, or until they’ve passed, to say these things? We should be saying them now. I am guilty of this just as much as anyone else. I never told my Aunt all the things I admired about her. I hope she felt as loved and appreciated as she was.

So then, why don’t we actually just come out and say these things? I think it’s because it requires a certain vulnerability on our part, we may cry, we are afraid of looking silly. I think another reason is because we often spend way more time looking at all the positive attributes of a person after they die. While they’re alive, we spend more time looking for ways to criticize them. That would be cruel to do after they die, so we do the opposite. But what if we left out the criticism all together and only looked at their strengths while they were still with us. What if reflections of other people wasn’t saved for the funeral. Can you imagine the life we would breathe into our marriages? If instead of saying things like, “Why can’t you just pick up your dirty underwear and put it IN the basket?” or “Well, you never have the laundry done on time anyway.” What if instead we found ways to affirm them even when we were frustrated.

Child psychologists have found that positive reinforcement carries more weight than does negative, when you’re trying to raise them. Focusing on what they ARE doing right, instead of where they mess up. But why confine this to our parenting? Aren’t we all children at heart? Don’t we all still need and crave affirmation and love? Whether we want to admit it or not, we do. If we are going to love our spouse unconditionally, it’s going to be a much smoother road when you’re able to shift your focus from everything that is wrong with your person, to all that is right.

-ASH

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