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For Your Marriage

Josh and Stacey Noem have been married for almost 20 years and have three children in middle school and high school. They blog about parenting and their adventures as a family.

Liberation Dance

Joshua and I are stressed out. We knew that preparing to transition the family would take a significant amount of planning and time. And it does. But it is trying to sell the house that is putting us over the top.

We have never before attempted to sell a house and it goes without saying that this is a horrendous time to do so. We knew it would be stressful. But we had never before experienced this type of stress so we did not necessarily know what to expect this stress to feel like. Nor what coping mechanisms would be most effective in dealing with it.

House-selling stress is unlike any other type of stress I have experienced. It is different than planning a wedding, “there are so many things to coordinate and figure out” stress. It is different than newly wed, “I think this is a blast but sometimes I wonder who I married” stress. It is different than parenting a newborn, “not enough sleep” stress. It is different than “first day of school for your first child” stress.

It is all-pervasive, “I almost never have a thought that doesn’t bring me back around to the pit of dread in my stomach that we will never sell our house” stress. Even if we are out and about in Portland, as we return to the house I see the “For Sale” sign in the front yard and it all comes sinking back to me.

That is why, last Friday, when Joshua and I had both accomplished a lot of random items on our to-do lists, and we felt pretty good about how we were getting stuff done and moving forward in at least some areas of the transition, I did the Liberation Dance. Nothing choreographed, mind you. More spontaneous gyration.

We had just gotten all the children down to bed. We walked down the stairs together and acknowledged that we were both feeling pretty good and notably not at all preoccupied with house concerns. We were both just happy to be at the end of a day of hard work and able to spend some time together. Even though our primary stressor is one big thing we cannot control, we had done all we could with the many little things we can control. It was a liberating feeling for our stressed minds.

So, I asked Joshua if we should do a liberation dance and then proceeded to demonstrate what my version of that would look like. It basically included some pretty awesome moves and I may or may not have used my arms to make the letter “L” (for liberation!) in the process. I know it was impressive…I could tell by how hard Joshua was laughing.

I encouraged Joshua to join in and frankly I can’t even remember if he did or if I just kept doing versions of the dance (with ever increasing use of my cool new “L” arm move). But we laughed and laughed. And it felt so good and freeing and healthy.

Thinking about it later, it reminded me of something I read recently. It was about how “humor heals” (in “Between Heaven and Mirth” by James Martin, SJ). He quotes Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.”

There are lots of times these days when I think of the house and have a distinctly downcast heart. This stress really does feel a bit like being slowly dried out and cracked around the edges. Truly the moments of joy and laughter feel like a balm for that stress, like water being poured on the parched earth of my spirit. So, I guess little by little I am figuring out the right coping mechanisms: some healthy doses of humor and laughter. And, again, some really awesome dance moves.