A few months ago my daughter and I were playing with Legos. We were talking and laughing, building towers and castles and flying airships, when suddenly the mood shifted.
Scratch that, my daughter’s mood shifted — because her structure was a bit too top-heavy. She had pushed on a purple block a bit too hard and broken her tower. Immediately, she became angry. She threw a handful of pieces. She pushed through her castle’s wall.
“Hey, hey, hey,” I said. “What’s wrong? What’s going on?”
Of course, I knew the answer. I was sitting right beside her. I saw the whole incident unfold, but I waited to hear her words. I wanted her to speak.
“It no working,” she whined. “It broken!” She stomped her little feet in frustration. She went to push the rest of her tower over.
“Sweetie, it’s OK. Don’t get upset.” I grabbed her hand and a block. “Look, we can fix it,” I paused, “or we can make something totally new. It doesn’t have to be the same.”
After a few moments, she settled down and seemingly agreed, as she went to work on a new building. But as I looked at the pile of blocks scattered across our kitchen floor, the power of my words struck me, and the power of the moment struck me. You see, in an instant, my daughter was able to move on.
She was able to accept the fact that sometimes things fail, sometimes things break, and sometimes things fall apart. And then she was able to move on. She was able to “pick up the pieces” and embrace the unknown, and if that wasn’t a metaphor for my own life, I don’t know what was.
Well, the days, months, and weeks leading up to this moment had been unstable — at best. Personally and professionally I was doing great. I was healthy and happy(ish), and my heart was soaring. But my relationship was struggling. My marriage was on the rocks, and my husband and I were contemplating divorce. Heck, we were talking about it. I was making plans. And while we had begun marriage counseling, I was still guarded. I was still on edge.
I was still certain things couldn’t work — we wouldn’t work — because there were too many mistakes. We were too damaged, and we weren’t the same. Our love and relationship wasn’t the same, and I honestly didn’t know if I wanted to fix it anymore. I was so despondent and downtrodden I honestly didn’t care.
But the second I said these words to my daughter — these simple, silly words — something changed. Something clicked. And while playing with Legos with my daughter, I realized things didn’t have to be the same. We didn’t have to be the same. Sure, we could fix us — I mean, there were many, many things we had to fix — but we also had a chance to make something new, and to rebuild our relationship from the ground up.
The thing is, love is hard. Relationships are hard. Marriage is hard. Damn hard. And it isn’t for the faint of heart. Sure, marriages can — and should — be celebrations of life, love, happiness, and joy, but with the good comes the bad. (Sorry, this is just a life fact.) And it is then — in those dark, trying moments — that you will be tested. Your relationship will be tested, and the strength of your marriage will be tried.
Marriage takes constant work and compromise. It takes humility, sacrifice, and more than a few “I’m sorrys.” However, even then things aren’t perfect. Even then, one of you will screw up and even with the most open and understanding heart — and the grace of a saint — you will fight.
The pot will boil over, and someone will get burned.
But that doesn’t mean your relationship can’t work, and it doesn’t mean your marriage is failing. Even the strongest have to fight for it. Even the strongest couples have to work at it, and sometimes that work simply involves being malleable. Sometimes that work is simply to accept the way things are and not lament the way things used to be.
So thanks, Legos. Thanks for reminding me that while things in my life may falter, fail, and break, they are things I can handle. I just have to be open to newness. To change. And to the fact that things will not — and cannot — stay the same.
No matter how much we wish, hope, or will them to.
For more from Kimberly Zapata, visit Sunshine Spoils Milk.