Trying to be Scruffy

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I’m not sure why it caused me so much anxiety. It’s not like I had never invited folks out to my house before. To me though it seems that invitations usually had a “real” reason; birthdays, holidays, family visiting, open houses.  One does not simply invite people out just because! Yet there I was coyly asking a friend and his wife out for dinner at my house.

Two things took place this year that pushed me to this “out of my comfort zone moment”. The first was a somewhat of a News Year Resolution thing. I had come to realize that I know a lot of people. I see them at networking events and out and about. And they are more than happy to talk to me at the moment but once out of that situation we don’t communicate much. I don’t invite them to my personal events and they don’t invite me to theirs. Our relationship doesn’t go much beyond the surface. So I decided I would make an effort, a strong, dedicated effort to get to really know the people that I enjoy spending time with. And my hope is they will want to get to know me better as well.

The second thing that happened was a friend of mine (another networking friend that I’d love to know better) posted this blog on her Facebook page.  The topic was about having “Scruffy Hospitality”, not “I need to have everything absolutely perfect before I let people see who I really am” Hospitality. The author wrote about how he and his wife rarely invited people to their house, despite really wanting to, because of that fear of needing to have a specific perfection reached before an invite can be offered.

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These two ideas seemed to latch together in such a way that I couldn’t ignore it. So there I stood about a month ago, in the doorway to the office of a friend that I had gotten to know pretty well in the last two years or so. We rarely see each other outside of a networking event or at work yet we spent a lot of time having conversations, probably to the detriment of his business, and really getting along. I met his wife at one of the networking events and we seemed to click pretty well too. So they were going to be my guinea pigs, so to speak.

As nonchalantly as I could I asked him what his plans were for Saturday. He responded by saying he’s heading out of town and then asking what I was planning to do on Saturday. This could have been my out, but instead I jumped right in head first. I then told him that I wanted him and his wife to come out for dinner on Saturday.  I didn’t pause and went right into my reasoning and he didn’t object to the idea. So we found a day two weeks later and put it on the calendar.

As that day got closer I began to negotiate with myself about which chores I should do. I found I was making excuses to clean places that I would normally not clean: “Oh, I spilled milk now I must wash all the cupboards; “I need to mop because we have some grease ants coming into the house”. It went on like this for a week. In the back of my head, though, I knew I had to let things go. I had thought I should make my OCD list of things I really wanted to clean but “chose” not to so I could have a true “scruffy” party and then present it to them. That made me realize how ridiculous this whole thing was making me. Not only was I failing at hosting this “scruffy” idea but I was really stressed about this dinner plan. WHY? Why was this so hard? So, I started to think it through. And I realized that trust played a huge part with the idea of being who you are on a day in and day out basis in front of someone else. It’s one thing to show up at an event or party or someone’s house away from all your closets, laundry, kids, kids’ toys, stacks of papers; and be yourself but completely different to be who you are in your environment. It was a huge leap for me to trust people coming into my home and seeing that my kids had drawn on the walls and I hadn’t painted over it yet. Or that I don’t have any photos on the walls, or that I haven’t recycled in two weeks, or that our carpet is remnants because we haven’t had the time or money to replace the carpets our dog ruined while his kidneys shut down for a year straight. It all is having a trust that those people won’t come in and judge, or ridicule or even use what they see to gossip about me later. It was trust and fear. I needed to let go and let myself trust people and let go of the fear about these incredible insecurities I have. I didn’t realize that would be so hard for me. It’s easy when I hide all my insecurities behind a closed door or a dirty dish in the oven, but to purposely leave the stains out so the guests can see the real me was terrifying! The whole situation put me in a very vulnerable state. And yet I knew deep down inside that few people really would come to my home and judge me, especially people I like and who I think like me as well. As my friend at one point said to me; “I think you’re over thinking this”.

So I did it. I had “Scruffy Hospitality” and it was great. We sat at the table and talked over a plate of vegetables and ranch dressing. We created a lovely meal together and even the burnt burger was consumed. We shared stories, had a nice swim, and watched the kids play with the dog. It was a good night and I really hope it was mutual!

So it may happen that sometime in the future you get asked to come out to my house. And when you get here and you notice the floor’s not swept, there are some unwashed dishes and maybe even the lawn’s not mowed, I hope you realize that you are the beneficiary of some O’Meara Scruffy Hospitality. It’s not that I was too lazy to clean up for you, but instead I chose to leave my home in a state that’s more reflective of the true me and that’s what I want to share with you.

Twenty-Two

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Today I have been married for 22 years. When my husband and I started out we had incredible odds against us. We even had family members placing bets on when the divorce would occur. See, we created a child together after only dating for about a year. We then decided to live together to raise our child together. I wasn’t employed at the time and my husband was working at McDonald’s. We struggled with funds and I was able to get state assistance. When we finally did get married I was already pregnant with our second child. We decided on a Catholic wedding where we were told we couldn’t wear white, could only have immediate family at the service and since it was Lent there could be no flowers or other decorations. We were also told that we couldn’t get married in the main area but instead we had to have the ceremony in the side chapel. Essentially they didn’t want us having the perks of a respectable couple. We were to be ashamed of our state and be thankful they would marry us at all. Of course that didn’t sit well with us and we went to speak with a pastor that had been kind to us but had moved to a new church. At once he scoffed at the conditions we told him about and insisted that we were doing the honorable thing and trying to be a good family. He agreed to marry us and would talk to the pastor at the church we had planned to get married in.

File1714As you can see we were properly married in the main church area with over 150 family and friends. Bride, groom and first child were all spectacularly adorned in as much white as possible. It was a lovely service and Father Phil will always have a special place in my heart.

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From there my husband found a better job working cable installations. Quickly he moved into a programming job which was his college program. Within the year we were moving to Virginia. This adventure provided the perfect environment for our little family to become very self sufficient. We really had no one to count on but ourselves.

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Through the beginning until now there have been lessons learned. So in honor of 22 years I will list my ideas that I think have helped my husband and I stay together this long.

  1. Forgiveness. As hard as this is, if you cannot find in your heart the ability to forgive a long term relationship becomes very difficult to achieve.
  2. Do not attack the weaknesses of your partner. Everyone has those insecurities; do not ever use those to go after that person. As angry as you are, using this technique will cause an incredible amount of damage to the relationship.
  3. Remember why you got together in the first place. As a photographer I have a continuous slide show of photographs that keep to the forefront the life my husband and I shared.
  4. Do what’s right for you. My husband and I spend a lot of time together. We always have. We often have friends and family that try to get us away from each other, sometimes even using phrases like “you need a break” or “separation is good for a couple”. There are no words to tell these good intentioned people that we like each other and want to spend time together. Very rarely do I feel I need to be away from my husband. That’s what’s right for us. Up until a few weeks ago I have spent every night in the same bed as my husband for the last 15 years. That’s what we like. Do what’s right for you and your spouse.
  5. Say I love you. It matters. I don’t say it enough but I know it always makes a difference when I do.
  6. Say I love you in actions. My husband has quite a few little things that he does that he believes shows me that he loves me. Some examples are chocolate, a movie, sitting and watching TV with me.
  7. Be respectful of your spouse’s parents. I love his parents and he loves mine.
  8. Watch out for the typical marriage breakers; money, rearing children, chores. These things will cause stress. Figure out compromises. Figure out the rules. Take the time to delve into these before it’s too late.
  9. Find a hobby that both of you are interested in. It’s easy to know what you like, but what does he like? Find things to do together.
  10. When an argument does happen use your “I” terms. This is a technique that counselors will tell people, use phrases like; “when you say that it makes me feel”. Keep the argument from your perspective. When you attack, the other person goes on the defense. If you make statements about how you feel, there isn’t as much defensiveness.
  11. Do your chores, but do his too, and vice versa. Even though I am dish washer and laundry and he’s trash and shoveling, there’s no reason I can’t do some of his and he can do some of mine. I have no trouble helping him shovel and he has no trouble helping me with dishes.
  12. Be supportive of each other. There is nothing worse than being excited about something but having no interest or support from my best friend. If there isn’t support, find out why.
  13. Watch out for the green eyed monster. As much as a couple wants to be secure in each other, jealously can put a wedge out there really fast. And it might not always be opposite sex situations. Jealously can appear with jobs advancements, relationships and friendships and other simpler ideas. If you’re in competition with your spouse someone will feel defeated at some point
  14. Don’t go to bed angry. Unfortunately I can’t do this one. When I’m tired I need to go to bed. However, I think the point really is, if something is bothering you talk about it! Don’t let it linger or grow into something bigger than what it is. Even if it’s dumb, talk about it. Sometimes the dumb thing is just a tip of an iceberg that wasn’t really evident until the conversation progressed.  You might think you’re mad because he leaves his stinky socks on the floor, but that might be covering up the feeling that he doesn’t respect you.
  15. Be truthful, always. This is my pet peeve. I truly believe being honest on all matters is the only way to have a solid relationship with anyone.  I don’t go around telling my husband every thought I have but I don’t lie to him if he asks me something. And if something happened that I feel he should know, I tell him. I am not a fan of “apologize later”.
  16. Patience. I kind of suck at this one too. My husband is really good at waiting for the exact moment. I’m a rush, rush person. I think his way is much less stressful. He lets things have a chance to work out on their own.
  17. Know how the other deals with frustration. I like to vent. When I get mad I have to let some of it out or I will explode. So I rant. I spew junk until the boiling inside stops a bit. This makes me work. My husband keeps it inside. He becomes very quiet and won’t really have a conversation for a long time, sometimes weeks. Then I have to poke at him to get him to talk. I’ve learned this method after many years of failing at it. We’ve actually gotten to a point where I can ask if there is something he needs to talk to me about. It’s a much calmer process. I still spew. He doesn’t like it but he knows that’s how I need to do it. He patiently waits until I have it out enough to talk.
  18. Celebrate the holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. These days were important. It’s your job to keep them important.
  19. Don’t let pet peeves ruin you. I am still really working on this one. There are things that my husband keeps up with that no matter how much I complain about it, he still does it. I only recently realized that he loves me and he knows how I feel yet he keeps doing it. It must be important enough for him to risk having me be mad about it. I’ve decided to back off my stubbornness and see if I can see why it’s important to him. That’s the least I can do. I might not ever totally like it but I shouldn’t always be the bitter voice accompanying it. I should let him have this. It certainly won’t kill me.
  20. This one’s for the guys. Your wife likes intimacy to be more than the final goal. They like hand holding, soft kisses, hugs, dancing, cuddling, shoulder (feet, back, legs) massages, and really anything that reminds them that you care. They will be more willing to get to the nitty gritty if it’s accompanied with some of these other forms of intimacy.
  21. Laugh. Make each other laugh. Laugh together. Laugh, laugh, laugh.
  22. Pray together. As a Christian the idea that I can have this relationship with this other human all alone seems silly. Almost everything on this list, I’ve prayed about. I’ve used the guidelines from faith and religion to create the boundaries of my marriage. I think that has kept it strong. I love God above all things because he has given me my relationship with my husband. He gives me the strength to be a good wife and gives my husband the strength to be good to me.