Lions and Tigers and Marriage by Amy Lefcoe, City Leader from Norfolk, Virginia
June was a stressful month. The final details of the July JWRP trip needed to be handled. There was fundraising to finish up before the summer. My oldest daughter was graduating from high school and I had to get two other kids packed and ready for camp. Finally, my husband and I were taking a 10 day trip together to South Africa at the end of the month.
I find that during months with lots of logistics, my husband and I don’t talk too much about anything other than the logistics. As a result, we become somewhat disconnected and then have a hard time reconnecting. Decisions that should be simple become complicated and we’re not having too much fun together. This happened to us in June and with the added stress, I was not in a good place.
There was also the part of vacationing together. We usually travel twice a year with the kids. We’ve been married 22 years and the last real vacation we took together was our tenth wedding anniversary. Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive. I was having the feeling I get when I think about sending my youngest daughter off to college. Sometimes I joke around and say that I’m going to start making a list now of what we’ll talk about once we’re empty nesters. Don’t get me wrong. I am very clear that I’m married to the right guy and I think we do pretty well together as far as marriage goes. It’s just that a lot of our conversations revolve around something having to do with the kids. In addition, we’re not the same people we were when we got married. Our interests have changed and the things we enjoyed doing together at some point don’t necessarily still hold true (we both still love to go to a baseball game). My point is – would we enjoy traveling together?
During our trip, we went on numerous game drives in Botswana and Madikwe. This is when you go out in an open jeep with a guide and drive through “the wild” (aka “the bush”) looking for animals. The driving itself was an invigorating activity filled with fresh air and suspense. It was so far removed from my normal life that it filled me with a wonderful sense of adventure. The beauty of the animals and their natural instincts which help them to survive, took my breath away. Hashem’s handiwork never ceases to amaze me.
My husband and I marveled at all that we were experiencing. There were nights that we were out in the jeep after dark and we would look up at the stars in the sky. The night’s canvas sparkled like a jewelry store full of diamonds. I had never seen so many stars in the sky at one time. The morning sunrise sent my soul soaring. We shared these moments like we did early in our marriage when we discovered mutual things we appreciated.
We’ve been home for three weeks and life is good. The wonders of Hashem’s world opened up a space for us to step back, breathe and remember each other. We laughed (a lot), we cried, we danced a little and slowly but surely, we let it all go. Last night we went to hear some music on the boardwalk and we’re really enjoying each other’s company. There’s plenty to talk about and only some of it has to do with our children. With the summer halfway over, the kids slowly coming home from camp and September on its way, how am I ever going to make this last?
There are certain things that have become clear to me as a result of my trip. I need to make time alone with my husband one of my top priorities. We can’t give up a date night just because we’re too tired to go out. Taking a real break from the kids, even if it’s just a couple of hours to shoot some pool or listen to a band, is therapeutic in so many ways. Next, I am committed to discovering new things that we can enjoy together. I have no idea what they are but I know they are out there and I don’t have to chase a leopard to find them. Maybe we need to buy the canoe we’ve been talking about for 20 years and go paddling together on the lake behind our house. The birds who hang out at our lake are just as beautiful as the ones in South Africa. I’m just used to them so I forget to notice their beauty. Or maybe I should finally buy that fire pit in Target this year once Fall rolls around so we can sit outside in the backyard at night together. The stars in my sky sparkle too. I just forget to look up.
One of my favorite verses in Tehillim (The book of Psalms) is “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad on it”. In his book “Growth Through Tehillim”, Rabbi Pliskin explains that we recite this verse during the Hallel prayer on the festivals. Every holiday commemorates special events in our history, each having its unique messages and lessons. We experience special joy and happiness on these spiritually uplifting days. However, Rabbi Pliskin continues, this verse has an even wider application. Every single day in our lives has been created by our Creator. Every day we can be full of gratitude for the gifts of that day and the opportunities it brings, so every day we can rejoice and be happy.
Marriage is an array of daily opportunities sent to us from G-d. We can grow spiritually and come closer to our Creator through the choices we make when presented with these opportunities. Marriage is not easy for anyone. However, the effort is worthwhile as the reward is great. Aside from setting an example of love and commitment for your children to follow, you get to share this amazing world the Lord has given us with the love of your life. What a gift.