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“Funk, if the world is gonna keep crashing and burning, I’m letting our relationship burn too. Let’s see what ‘Us’ rises from the ashes.” I think my husband swallowed his tongue.

You know how a deer looks in the headlights—trapped and frozen—well, that’s how Funk looked when I delivered those words. After 43 years, my man was quite happy continuing as we were. Not me. Funk’s always said the phrase “leave well enough alone” is like fighting words to me, and for once, he was right about something. Too many resentments had piled up, and with the pandemic having us holed up 24/7, I was done sweeping things under the carpet.

And so we burned.

Man did we burn. With the passion of our beginning years, and the knock-down, drag-out fights those years brought with them. Back then, we went to therapy to learn how to argue, yet somewhere along the way we’d forgotten to ask the questions that led to resolution: What are you thinking? What are you feeling?

It’s easy to see our downward progression.

In 1985, our first child was born, and by the time we added all the others, there wasn’t time for those questions, what with taking care of everyone else’s needs. Next, the mayor’s office in 2007. The long hours. The stress of trying to do right for the long-forgotten in Kansas City. The strain of not giving in to the usual pressures of the office. The escalated strain from a pissed-off Establishment who were working overtime trying to take Funk out, and all because he’d tied their hands to the “free money” they’d been taking from the city’s coffers, i.e. from the backs of tax paying citizens.

Who has time for relational issues when you’re wielding those hefty swords?

Fast forward to 2011 and a new norm had taken root in our marriage. Turns out, raising children never ends, and being a do-gooder comes with many costs. Funk was out of office, but we were still tired. Still avoiding issues. Conversations that mattered weren’t happening. There was tremendous financial catching up to do. Our marriage was operating at a deficit, and what should’ve been little annoyances became raging wars.

Hence the burn in 2020.

Sometimes it takes allowing things to fall terribly apart to welcome in a new level of gorgeous.

Accepting the risk, Funk and I rose—straight into a New and Better Us. I was dreading Christmas this year, but we made a beautiful holiday for ourselves. I chatted on the phone with loved ones, including friends of 50 years. Visited my family’s gravesite and felt their spirit as I threw flowers on top of them, thanking each for the gifts that made me who I am today. I DIDN’T cook! Yay! At dusk, Funk brought home pizza and ice cream—all my forbidden foods! —and after lighting the space with candles, we dined in that beauty, listening to my father’s favorite Christmas album. The music brought on a bit of melancholy, so I asked my husband the question I always ask whenever my soul needs lifted, “Funk, tell me something good,” and the bastard actually came up with something that got me excited, and even outlined how we’d make it happen. Next, we opened a surprise package from our son. Rounding out the day, we switched the music over to Credence Clearwater, and with the candles glowing, my husband and I danced to that southern, bluesy, swamp music, my spirits lifting even higher.

High enough that I remembered my manners.

I thanked Spirit for showing me that “different” doesn’t have to mean awful. And filled with gratitude, I prayed for love to be sent to those who didn’t even have one person to celebrate with.

Here’s to you if you’re risking not leaving well enough alone. If you’re allowing something awe-inspiring to rise from the ashes. If you’re paying forward the reward that comes from that hard work, by lifting others up who need a dose of love.