Remember that time Daddy and I owned a bakery? I’m pretty sure you remember, you still ask about it, occasionally. We told you that we closed it down, but we never really went into detail. We didn’t tell you either about how that particular moment in time impacted our marriage. Perhaps we didn’t want to burden you with our problems, or because we didn’t think you’d understand, or perhaps because it was simply too hard to talk about it in the midst of our confusion. However, it’s been a year, and we’ve picked ourselves up… and I’m ready to share with you about what went down about this time last year and how our marriage survived it.
Early 2020, your Dad and I finally worked up the courage to admit that our bakery business of seven years wasn’t doing well. And what do you know, admittance is the first step to recovery, because after that, our sales went up by 120%! We were cleaning up and setting the business back on the right track. We were on a winning streak. Everything we were doing seemed to be working and we became more confident in thinking ahead. We had been living week by week with a “wait-and-see” mentality, that we forgot what it felt like to actually have forward planning. But since things were looking up, I was confident to prepare for Hari Raya and I had stocked up on supplies.
Then, the pandemic hit. It didn’t take a month for everything to come tumbling down. The mall traffic was so slow and we were left with only 10% of our usual daily sales. After about a couple of weeks of daily excruciating pain, the mall closed indefinitely.
I was paralysed. I couldn’t move. I didn’t know what to do. Your Dad, on the other hand, looked like he was made for such crisis situation. His dominance really shined through, and in a good way. He made the call and we closed our shop. We ceased operations and let go of everyone who worked for us. We returned supplies to the suppliers who wanted to take it back, and we paid off whatever we could afford at the time. In short, we called it quits and took a little break. Everything happened so fast that there wasn’t any time to contemplate anything.
I should be relieved, but actually, that’s when the challenge began. “What’s next?” I’m sure it was a question Daddy and I wanted to ask each other, but never dared to. For the first time in our thirteen years of marriage, we discovered just how much uncertainties could impact our relationship. I have to tell you that this wasn’t our first failure. It wasn’t the first business that we shut down. It also wasn’t the first financial struggle that we had to face. We have had far worse days, but this time it felt different.
Fear makes uncertainties feel worse. Especially as we spiral downwards in our own thoughts.Tweet
We never talked about it either. I think that we basically avoided it… big time! Because the more we talk about it, the realer it’ll get and the more tense we’ll become. But, in the spirit of looking at something to get out of these terrible times, this was a great time of discovery: Daddy and I have very different ways of processing things or managing stress. While I fall into panic and, driven by fear, bury myself in my work until I’m too tired to do anything else, my husband has an entirely different coping mechanism. He looked relaxed and unaffected. He threw himself into his card collecting hobby, uploading them on eBay for sale, and avoided people whenever he could. Unfortunately, that also included me.
Being in quarantine allowed us to be physically close to each other, but our hearts were miles apart.
We didn’t talk about the hard stuff. Heck, we didn’t talk about anything at all, basically. Especially our feelings. We mostly kept things to ourselves and reduced our communications to technical things like who’s gonna do what and other daily operational things around our house. Feelings have been thrown out of the windows completely.
I don’t know if you feel it too, but as I am writing this, I realize just how unhealthy our marriage was. But on the other hand, I also know that was what’s best for us during that particular time, as I was confused myself as to what I was feeling. Was I afraid? Or was I sad? Or was I simply spiraling from panic? I didn’t know what I was feeling, so what was I supposed to tell my husband without muddying things up even more than they already were?
All the pent up feelings wasn’t good for me though. I needed an outlet. So, I turned to the one person who I knew wouldn’t turn me away, who would make sense of all the things that didn’t make sense to me, who didn’t need me to articulate my words properly for him to understand. I turned to Jesus.
I don’t ever wish that you’d find yourself in my situation someday, kids. But hardship is inevitable in life … and with that, in relationships too. So, please allow me to share a few things that I learned to do during those times.
- Pray it when you can’t say it.
I found myself excusing myself a couple of times during family time to briefly escape to the bathroom to just pray and cry. Mostly I didn’t know what I was saying, but it always gave me the relief that I needed.
When I couldn’t talk to my husband, it was comforting to know that I can always talk to Jesus. I didn’t have to articulate my words properly. I didn’t have to structure my sentences. I didn’t even have to make sense. God wouldn’t judge me and we wouldn’t end up fighting.
I learned to pray for myself and for my husband. Even when I couldn’t talk directly to each other, I could always tell God what I was feeling inside. I prayed for strength and I prayed for peace.
2. Capture every thought.
Fear makes uncertainties seem even worse, especially when we’re in a downward spiral of negative thoughts. We need to be actively aware of the thoughts that runs through our minds and fix our minds on thinking about what is pure, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. No matter how smart or how innovative a person is, he is incapable of producing peace. Peace come from God, and God alone. Peace can only be obtained by drawing nearer to Him.
Praying and capturing my thoughts helped me to help myself. And after a few weeks (yes, it took a while) I grew the courage to actually speak the words to my husband.
- Break down the communication into layers.
Overwhelming problems of such magnitude (on our own scale) can rarely be solved overnight. Most of the time, they’re like onions. You gotta peel them off, layer by layer. There’s a good chance that each layer is going to make you cry too! But you can’t think straight when you’re all wrapped up in emotion, so choose a specific topic to talk about, agree on the objective, stop when it gets too hard, and try again the next day. It’s going to take a while, but don’t give up. You’ll get there.
- Understand each other.
I won’t ever forget what my friend told me at the beginning of all this. She told me, “People project differently in different situations.” It’s true. Your Dad and I processed this time very differently and we had different coping mechanisms too. I realized that this wasn’t the time to parent or macro manage each other, because we weren’t each other’s parents. We were each others team mates. And team mates should fully trust each other during this time.
- Agree to be fearless… together!
Most days when I didn’t know what to say to your Dad, I remember at least managing to say, “God’s got this, babe!” and I remind myself to not fear.
Don’t fear. No matter how the world is trying to persuade your fears, stay fearless, because God’s got this!
I want to tell you that a year after this happened that your Dad and I have successfully put all of this behind us, but the truth is, peace is a daily struggle. We’re in a really good place in our marriage. We’ve basically processed our feelings and we’re able to talk about it with minimum emotional outburst. Except when we talk about how good God has been in our marriage and in our lives… because his faithfulness does bring out the waterworks. And you know what? That’s a great thing.
I hope that you can learn a thing or two from us, kids!