Today began in the dark of yet another Pacific Northwest rainstorm. I walked to the front porch to plug in our Christmas lights (today is January 21st) for it seems to help us plow through the gloom of the unending sound of pouring rain and darkness at seven in the morning. In other states we would have been labeled “white trash” at worst or plain odd to have lights on, but in this part of the country in an El Nino year it is a relief to see light in any form. I actually feel like I am helping my neighbors with our lights that I sometimes leave on all day.
It was maybe fifteen minutes after I handed my husband his coffee with foamed milk and a smidge of cinnamon that I remembered and said, “Happy anniversary, I love you.” We smiled, and I said, “Oh, we would have been at the bridal brunch this time 39 years ago.” We sighed and we returned to our computers and regretfully, I tried to sign into the I Cloud.
Five different passwords made that long skinny rectangle shimmy in a defiant squiggle. “I hate this!” I harrumphed, and Dan said, “I can’t begin another morning like we did yesterday. Give me some time.” I hadn’t even expected that that would bring a sentence of possible help. It has become a normal part of my trying to leap into online banking, taxes, and health care reimbursement. The final straw was last week trying to print off photos on a Rite Aid computer photo counter when the word, “unreadable” came on screen. I miss knowing how to do things that were easy before.
I went upstairs to dress for yoga knowing that I probably wouldn’t go because I have this blog to write about sex. Not just sex, alas, but “Sex?” And that question mark changes everything about the topic of sex. Sex is difficult enough to address without adding a question mark.
How many kingdoms have fallen, careers dashed, marriages ended because of sex? In some ways the word ‘sex’ likely should never be written without including a question mark.
Now, the time was pinched and so much for going to yoga on my anniversary. We weren’t even going out to dinner on our anniversary. We don’t want to. Who wants to leave the house at night in the pouring rain? I like our warm kitchen with candles, a fireplace, and the beauty of lights outside our window. I like wearing pajamas for dinner!
When I came downstairs in yoga clothes with a small hope of “home practice” today, Dan had my computer. “What’s your I-Tunes password?” I looked over and he was working on setting up “One Password” on my computer. Oh my goodness. My love language is “quality time.” Immediately I said thank you and that this was the best anniversary gift I could think of since I’d been hearing how this One Password program could make my life easier.
Let me just say, within fifteen minutes things were not working. My husband was stymied with how Safari Outlook was not reacting like his Gmail account had and things nosedived. When he began to be uncertain with what was happening, I felt tears begin to well up, fear surfacing and the daunting music of the “Jaws” soundtrack began reverberating throughout my body. “I hate my life,” I quickly said, (and then asked forgiveness for that outburst, because I seriously believe there is power in the spoken word).
I stood up, took a breath and said, “I can’t think clearly. This is traumatizing me.” I left to get my yoga mat but before rolling it out, I returned to the kitchen and began fixing his breakfast. “I love fixing eggs,” I said. “I know I can succeed. I love doing laundry, I know I can succeed!” I said other things affirming I am a functional human being, and I made Dan laugh and I made myself laugh. In fact, we couldn’t quit laughing. And the gloom and fear fell away.
“Dan, remember when you wanted to go sailing? I knew twenty-eight knots of wind was too strong for our boat and our skills. I knew that, but you wanted to go and I knew I’d be miserable if you went out alone and had fun. So I went with you. We almost tipped over. It was the last time we ever sailed together in that boat. But I went, and I am so glad we are in this life together. And I feel the same now with passwords mixed up, and you knowing how to do this on your computer, but not mine. I am scared and I don’t like this. But we can do this. We can live this life.”
And that’s how I feel about sex! I miss what was so easy. I miss the mystery of the first time having sex. I miss our young bodies that were strong and reactive. I miss the muscle, the strong bones, and the vitality of organs in their youth. I miss the hope of conceiving during sex. I miss sex at any time of the day or night. I miss the arousal that came with the monthly cycle of being female. I miss the fun of quick and an unexpected sex that caused surprise and laughter. I miss what once was and is no longer. It seems the “in sickness” part of the “in sickness and in health” portion of our vows we spoke is showing up too often.
Dan finished his omelet and we sat back on the couch close to each other huddled with the computer on his lap. Each stroke of keys brought more frustration and confusion. He didn’t quit; I didn’t panic. The touch of his thigh against mine felt arousing. His refusal to throw in the towel felt life giving. Is this sex? Is this touch and connection sexual? Whatever it is, early in the morning, wherever it leads later in the day, I know this: I need to be open and curious to what it means for me to be sexual until my last breath. Sex? Oh, yes.
Becky Allender lives on Bainbridge Island with her loving, wild husband of 38 years. A mother and grandmother, she is quite fond of sunshine, yoga, Hawaiian quilting and creating 17th Century reproduction samplers. A community of praying women, loving Jesus, and the art of gratitude fill her life with goodness. She wonders what she got herself into with Red Tent Living! bs
I love the featured image of the boat. It’s romantic and evocative. I am glad you enjoyed “breakfast”. xo
I know! I really liked that boat picture too! It reminds me of my heart….it can easily get off course and I am grateful that Jesus sets me straight every time!
I trust that your efforts to stay on course will serve as an example for others to follow. xo
And, I am afraid that sounded flippant … I veer away from what Jesus would want me to do, feel, say, live, etc. often. And is hard to stay on course and it takes fellowship, prayer and most of all grace …. total grace.
Tension, uncertainty, intrigue, frustration, sensuality…life with hope. Such beauty written here, Becky. Such beauty!
Thank you so much. You encourage me.
I love all of this entry. It reminds me of the steadiness of love and relationship as age creeps into our marriages. There is such beauty and hope here as we settle into the goodness of what was and what is today. I believe it is what keep the spark alive. Thank you!
Thank you Mary Jane! Ah…that spark! Is it not so precious and life giving? We are fortunate women indeed.
So life giving to remember and repeat the words of past life and celebrate the life that now is.
The goodness and the struggles are what make life “real” and “we can live this life” ! Loved your words, insights, memories, your you !
Thank you so much Elaine. It is good to know that our experiences are common and we draw strength in our humanness and in our bodies that are always changes and cause us to turn to gratitude no matter what.
Becky, this brought tears to my eyes. My marriage will be officially “dissolved” at the end of this week, and I believe so much of it revolved around my struggles with intimacy from a wounded past. You and Dan are to be applauded for staying the course. Your vulnerability, again, is such a blessing. You make me want to be BRAVE!
Oh, oh, oh….I have sat still and stunned and sorrow-filled after reading your kind, so kind, reply. The fact that you could enter my story, write with tender kindness at such a time you are facing reveals JUST HOW AMAZINGLY BRAVE YOU ARE. I do not know who you are, but I have prayed already today countless times for you….mercy and strength and love I send to you wherever you are. I am so very sorry for your heartache.
Your words give all of us permission to see how God changes us and grows us and gives us “new” old bodies. The journey of marriage is about all of it…thank you!
Thank you Cindy! It is all about that and often I truly do not give myself the grace to remember or believe that. You said it so well. Thank you.
Becky, wow..there is something about this post that moved me to tears as well. Perhaps your commitment to stay engaged with your heart, despite the brewing frustration, and not run out the door with your yoga mat in hand. Perhaps the sometimes routine, but meticulous love of you making Dan’s coffee exactly that way he likes it with a smidge of cinnamon or his love for you in his tenacity to figure out the “one password” program. Perhaps your words about grieving a time where your bodies were flexible and youthful and how that leads me to questions of my own losses related to my sexuality. Perhaps your desire to search for a sparkle of light on a dreary, dark day that was your anniversary. All in all it sounded very romantic. Thanks for sharing your heart.
What a “giver of blessing” you must be. Thank you. Thank you. It is an odd and vulnerable thing to write and put this out into the web! I never know if I connect with people and it is easy to be contemptuous with what I end up with. So thank you so, so much!
You are so dear! Sex? Yes, I agree totally. Thank you for your artful storytelling. Tears & smiles mingled . Love you.
Ah….it is always a sweet tender joy to hear from you. Our lives intertwined so long ago in our newlywed year in Florida. Your love of Jesus and your aliveness to life, I have never forgotten. Thank you Laura!
Oh Becky, the power of your writing is its credibility, and although I’ve not the legacy of a lasting marriage, I’ve enough sense to know that you speak truth. Beautiful, raw, El Nino PNW truth. And I bless you for that a thousand times over. Thank you, once again, for sharing your heart through words.
“I’m scared and I don’t like this. But we can do this. We can live this life”
This should be engraved on fancy wedding picture frames, for this is what it takes to stay married, no? A commitment to and a belief in this. Oh, and sex. Right?
Wow, Kelli! That is a great idea for a wedding photo frame. Probably, a few years later in marriage the words would be more credible! Thanks for your insightful reply. Get ready for that El Nino PNW!!!!!! So proud of you going after your dream!
Such a beautiful and vulnerable and messy subject to write about, and yet you did it in such a way, Becky, that made me smile on my own marriage and the various seasons of growing up and old and sharing intimately with my husband of almost twenty-four years. I marvel at how God has shaped and stretched and healed our sexuality, and how it’s ever changing, especially now that we’re in our mid-forties and our bodies aren’t quite what they use to be. I like “us” better than I ever have, and I love what we share both in the dark and quiet of our room, and as we pass each other in the kitchen and whisper words only a lover would understand. Thank you for causing me to reflect on all these things, to see with fresh heart what God has done and is doing in us, and to call it blessed. I can’t wait for my husband to get home from work so I can throw my arms around him and tell him how much I love him, and then, of course, we’ll see what where it goes from there. (winks) Thank you…
Oh I love this! “Thank you for causing me to reflect on all these things, to see with fresh heart what God has done and is doing in us, and to call it blessed. I can’t wait for my husband to get home from work so I can throw my arms around him and tell him how much I love him, and then, of course, we’ll see what where it goes from there. (winks) Thank you…”
What an encouragement your reply is. Thank you. It’s our reflecting back that often spurs us on to keep going!
Becky, I lOVE this. You offer such insight and hope into the rawness of a long-standing marriage, sex and the aging process. It’s a delicate subject and you invited us right in. Your words so capture the reality of marriage, sex and day-to-day living after the wedding dress is well faded and the wedding album a long-held memory. You remind me that I’m in a community of women who know the uncertain journey through sex, aging and marriage. Things are lost, but you invite me to hold gratitude for what still is and what can continue to be. Sex, Yes!! Thanks Becky.
Valerie you are so welcome! This February word….totally made me angry! Yes…so, so angry that this was our assignment. I brooded way too long and it was that horrible, fall on the floor panic and dread of living (I wish the Apple Genius bar would magically appear in my house when I am traumatized with having to live in the world wide web!) that allowed me to find away to write on this delicate assignment! (with a question mark!!!).
Becky – so much of this entry I could relate to! You have a way of touching others with your words. I loved the image of eating dinner in your pajamas – it’s the dreary darkness that makes us feel like we are somehow curled up inside a cocoon in our jammies. I hear mine call quite early in the winter months here in West Michigan. We get “lake effect” snow but we also get “lake effect” clouds and it is dreary many days in the winter months. It affects us. We need LIGHT! You wrote the part about your “lights” outside and your writing that it, perhaps, is helping the neighbors as well because we all need light. I’m plugging our lights back in!
Our bodies do change with age – you write so eloquently about that. I tell my husband I’m so glad and thankful we are growing old together. We both understand that our bodies are not what they used to be. But thankfully, they are still beautiful to each other. Your tenderness towards your man – powerful. Please keep writing. Words have power.
A quote I love is: “We read to know we are not alone” Often when I read what you and others write on this website, I realize that I am not alone. Thank you to all who contribute.
Dear Barbara! Wow! Thank you so much and I laughed out loud when you said you were turning your lights on now. Yes! This darkness is HARD. And that applies to our aging and you are so right….we are not alone and we have to know that we are not alone to make our way. Thank you for your encouragement to keep writing.
Thank you. Yep…the “real deal!”
Oh Becky, your writing always leaves me laughing and intrigued and quiet and aching to love the way you do. I am also reassured – I have lately been creeping toward discouragement that I am ‘the only one’ whose heart and body fades. Thank you so much for voicing all of this. And – – I have to say, I can completely picture you laughing your glorious laugh over those stove with those eggs!
Oh, thank you Jan. Where would we be without laughter and without knowing that we are not alone. Oh my goodness! It turned into a wild time of slaying Dan with “one liners” and having to run to the bathroom because we were laughing so hard. I hope heaven includes laughing wholeheartedly! Thank you for your kind, encouraging words, Jan.
Thank you, Becky. My husband and I haven’t been married 39 years (going on 17), but last night I went to bed with discouragement similar to what you’re sharing. Similar on several different levels. Thank you for your vulnerability. I was intrigued by your one liner title in the email that went out and was delighted to find it was you authored it, as I’ve been to several of Dan’s workshops, done a study or two, and his thoughts and writings have changed my life. The language and philosophy I’ve integrated from his work is helping me change others’ lives, too, as a musician, writer, and story lover. But today feels really hard – feeling stuck where I’m at emotionally in our marriage and not knowing how to even begin to change or allow God to change me. And that “today” has felt like too long of a “day” for us. Thank you for being vulnerable and for having hope. Even little “h” hope helps remind me of the fierce and wonderful underground river that is the big “H” – Hope. The river I go back to even when I don’t know how to alter my todays.
p.s. We purposefully each year leave one strand of lights up inside the house, framing the top of our dining room windows and the beautiful view through March, small white, frosted globes, specifically to speak light (and hope) into our dark PNW winter nights. We need it here, agreed.
Andrea, thank you for your heartfelt reply. I just finished praying for you after re-reading what you wrote. I love the love words you used, “But today feels really hard – feeling stuck where I’m at emotionally in our marriage and not knowing how to even begin to change or allow God to change me. And that “today” has felt like too long of a “day” for us. Thank you for being vulnerable and for having hope. Even little “h” hope helps remind me of the fierce and wonderful underground river that is the big “H” – Hope. The river I go back to even when I don’t know how to alter my todays.” Yes. Yes. Thank you for using your music, writing and stories for freedom and a path to Jesus and healing.
To be open and curious is quite the invitation. John and I discussed, only a few short weeks ago, our desire to grow in curiosity this year; to be curious as to why the other said what he/she said, what might be behind silence or anger and so forth, to not assume we know the reason. I’ve heard echoes of this invitation from you before but I’m slow to listen or maybe wasn’t ready. Either way, we are in for an adventure. We are so grateful.
Dear Shari, thank you for taking the time to write. I needed to hear what you wrote. I so often do not respond with curiosity, but with defensiveness. It is a wretched habit and stems from a young place as a child. But it is time to be rid of that and first breath, cry out for help to Jesus, and respond with a kind word that reflects curiosity and not attack! Thank you for searing this even deeper in my heart today. It is a very good and needed step to freedom and love.
What a great blog post, Becky. It is just so true that intimacy has seasons and they are not all the same – some breath-taking and some difficult… but there is such hope in your words…. thanks for being honest. we change, but intimacy continues to have the potential for growth… in such surprising and wonder-filled ways.
Thank you Ruth Ann for your response. I love your words, “wonder-filled ways”. What a challenge to be a wife, friend, sister, with “wonder-filled ways”. I think that alone will bring newness, hope and delight. I welcome those everyday!
Keep plugging in the lights! YOU are a light and bring light and offer light to places that can feel scary and dark. I love your words and the fact that you shared the backstory about receiving the assignment. Thank you for being a beacon of light on the path ahead. You are precious.
Thank you for your over the top kind words! I am touched and encouraged. Yep…always a back story, right? My prayer group had a fabulous time searching for and naming “the unsearchable riches of Christ” from Ephesians 3. “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen Becky and Julie with power through his Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith.”
Beautifully written. So true. There is nothing sweeter than to reach across the bed and find that precious hand reaching back. Thanks!
Oh my goodness, Linda Lea….YES. May we always know and remember this gift that might not always be…. Thank you for your very kind replay.
Well I can totally relate to interactions like this, especially when it comes to technology…SO frustrating. I laughed out loud at your reciting your success at cooking and laundry! What really stayed with me, however, are your poignant words about what has been lost or changed or become less predictable or consistent about your sexual relationship. You held both the difficulty along with the awareness of arousal from simply sitting next to each other so beautifully…it feels appropriately hopeful.
Dear Janet, thanks for how you read. Your comments reflect how deeply you take in what is written. I do hope this is hope for the journey. It really is a good companion (Hope) to the decreasing our bodies will endure as we age. It was a funny moment exclaiming the things I can do without “fear”!
Oh Becky…thank you for this peek into your world. The honesty, the warmth of the real life struggle, the hope found in the simplicity of the moments. I want for moments like this to be accessible to my heart year after year, where I too can be present to feel all what is happening and allow for the arousal that is there in those moments. Sex?….yes. Grateful.
Thank you Tracy. Keeping the heart alive comes in our sorts of venues and exercises. I trust your heart is in the best shape of any heart I know. This year’s topics for writing has stepped things up, I would say!
Becky, there are but a few that can express so honorably and beautifully the tension that comes in acknowledging and grieving the loss of youth, while simultaneously celebrating the changes that come with aging and how that interplays with sex the way you have. May you continue to be captured by and expectant of sweet surprises until your last breath.
Thank you Melanie. Ah, it is a hard assignment we have been given as human beings to do. I seriously don’t think I have ever celebrated a change that has come because of aging. So, you have left me with a challenge to ponder. Thank you.
This article was life-giving to me. First, I, too, miss easier days. I also run from a husband when things get hard and I become fearful.so you reminded me of what is true. We are in this together, we can work it out. Staying close is helpful. But the greatest help was reciting truth out loud. I found myself speaking and believing lies, and then caught myself and began reciting scripture. My day changed, i walked in confidence. Thank you for your transparency.
Dear Cindy! Life is hard. And it is scary. And aging raises the bar in many ways. I am grateful that this was helpful. I am grateful you found your footing, your strength, and your whole heartedness to take authority over your life and your husband’s. I do think that staying close in love and faith is the very best way, but not always easy! Bless you for your reply. I have found being transparent and telling stories of shame and failure are ways to not be held in shame or bound with being a loser. We are all more alike than we realize. It is our connecting in our humanity that gives me hope and deepens love in the gospel.
God gave me a tremendous gift today in receiving this blog post (and the link to Red Tent Living) in the Allender Center email blast today. I attended Dan’s conference on Telling Your Story last spring, and I was so moved by it. I had no doubt he was married to an equally fascinating woman. As a 50-something woman in the 12th year of my second marriage (we have a Valentine’s anniversary too!), I so often find myself wishing my husband and I had met sooner — when our bodies were younger and mine more attractive, when we could have possibly had children — and grieving that. It seemed to me that our anniversary celebration was much side-lined and curtailed this year, and it was so easy to fall into the trap of thinking the thrill was gone. But your experience of Dan’s care for you and your computer is also so apropos to us. My husband shows his love in every love language, but especially in the language most foreign to me –taking care of technical issues such as the computer.
It made my day to read so many of your blog posts, as well as those of the other authors on this blog. I will make RTL one of my most frequented sites for all the encouragement, perspective, and wisdom. I would love to meet you one day!
Dear Catherine, thank you for taking the time to reply. I was deeply touched by what you wrote: “I so often find myself wishing my husband and I had met sooner — when our bodies were younger and mine more attractive, when we could have possibly had children — and grieving that. It seemed to me that our anniversary celebration was much side-lined and curtailed this year, and it was so easy to fall into the trap of thinking the thrill was gone.” I can only begin to imagine the wishing that you had met your husband when you were younger and your desire to have had children together seems so real I can almost taste it. I just prayed that your living in the now will transcend what was not and that your heart and hope will be restored and the celebrating an anniversary will still be a celebration even if a bit late. Blessings to you and your husband this day.
Sex almost always begins in the kitchen… and those lights are blazing on our back deck all year long. Love you Becky. Blessings to you and Dan.
You are a wise one and I laughed out loud with your sentence about your blazing lights on the deck all year long. Think I need to invest in some of those. Thank you.