Location: Austin, Texas
Music: “That’s right, you’re not from Texas” by Lyle Lovett
Meal: Grits and Quail, no butter spared (do I need a weigh in along the journey?)
The landscape once again shape shifted before my eyes and West Texas vastness turned populous…well as populous as small town Texas can do. Peach Orchards dotted the farmland canvas and I stopped to pick up a fragrant basket for my host in Austin.
“Austin,” my host Stevie said, “is a place where the Texas non-religious come to find God.” Stevie had graciously offered me his studio to stay at while I was in town. The studio was small, without central AC, and sparse except for piles of philosophy books covering floorbaords. Humidity I could deal with. Staying among the illiterate would have been a challenge.
Stevie, a mental hospital worker, and I talked about the art of listening. So often we listen with an agenda, a bias, or a feeling to promote ourselves, that we miss the other person’s story completely. I had been guilty of that most of my life. Now, however, on the open road I was discovering the beauty of just letting people talk, uncovering the depth them slowly without any preconceived direction. And not only am I finding other people’s stories far more interesting than my own, but now their stories are becoming my story.
I left Stevie to meet Amy for dinner. I had heard about Amy for years, but didn’t officially meet her until we both donned burgundy taffeta bridesmaid dresses at a mutual friend’s wedding. Amy exuded warmth and I was eager to get to know her outside of the tales and taffeta.
With shining eyes, Amy opened up the door to her house and three children ran up (the youngest still naked from bath time) with smiling faces to greet me. Amy was a long haired southern gal wearing a dress that revealed a figure amazingly slender for having multiple children. After dutifully playing show and tell with the giggling clan, Amy whisked me away to an Austin dining experience called “From Farm to Trailer.” We entered a parking lot where multiple aluminum kitchen equipped trailers sprawled around outdoor picnic tables.
We chose a communal one and awaited our plates of cheesy grits and BBQ quail—trailer style.
“I know what you heard about me must have sounded terrible” Amy said. On paper, Amy had a sad southern story that is easy for outsiders to chide.
“Young Woman marries Man”
“Woman and Man have Baby”
“Man cheats on Woman (while Baby is 1 year old)”
“Woman falls in love with Man’s Best Friend”
“Woman becomes pregnant with Man’s Best Friend….before divorcing Man.”
Most people would stop listening here to pass their judgment. But the beautiful part of the story is the ending.
“Woman and Man’s Best Friend Get Married, have more children, and live happily ever after.”
Amy described herself as someone destined to be a mom. “I am not a career person. I really have the housewife personality—it makes me far happier than being in a job. Plus I was totally baby crazed! Especially after meeting Bobby (her current husband).” Bobby, unlike Amy’s first husband, is a perfect fit for her. Number one, he adores her. And secondly they both have the same communication style, which Amy says is crucial for marriage. “On our first date, when it was obviously we were falling for each other, I passed him an Eckhart Tolle book and said, ‘I propose a relationship. But a new type of relationship—one where we are aware, we communicate, and we grow from each other.’ ”
Although Amy understands that many people achieve personal growth while single, she believes that really powerful growth also occurs when you are in a relationship. “There is always someone else there, daily stress times two, their personality, their needs…you have to learn how to check your ego and manage it all successfully.”
And naturally one learns even more when having children. Through children’s eyes we are able to see a whole new world and take delight in pleasures so simple we forgot they existed. However it isn’t all an amusement park. “Having children is the most beautiful thing…but it is a sacrifice.” Amy mentions that when you have babies pulling on your hair, pooping on you, running you ragged, your personal time diminishes, and mustering up energy to be feminine is increasingly daunting. “Many housewives’ only daily outing is to Costco and why would they dress up for that? However you HAVE to –you have to put forth the effort—for yourself, for your husband. You have to stay a woman!” Although it is hard to stay at the tiptop of fashion while juggling three little ones and a budget.
Amy recalled an event where she felt girliness calling, went shopping, and proudly bought a trendy shirt that she coveted. “But after I bought it and wore it, I saw a 20-something girl wearing it in a totally different way! She had it tied differently and with an undershirt….. and I instantly felt like an old lady misinterpreting the trends! I rushed out to subscribe to a fashion magazine so that I could educate myself on the new styles. But when the first one came it had an image of a woman wearing something impossible. Some high waisted, billowing pant thing with strange embellishments and tapered ankles. I threw the magazine at my husband in exasperation and said ‘Bobby—what IS this?! I cannot do this!!” Amy laughs.
Despite any fashion faux pas, Amy seems to have mastered the art of marriage and children. “They key is to not forget yourself and your husband! “ Amy mentions that many women let themselves go or forget their spouse at the expense of the children and tasks. “You cannot do this,” says Amy. The hours from 6-8 are what Amy calls a “hoopla” in her house. “It’s a mad rush of dinner, cleanup, bath time, bedtime. I feel like Bobby and I are in a relay race and we are passing the baton to one another. But no matter how stressful the time, I always ensure I make eye contact with him. And then, after the kids are in bed, it’s our time.” Amy tells me that if you just have the “hoopla” than you don’t have a lot to base your marriage off of. “I don’t know why people don’t talk about sex—it is crucial in a marriage—especially with children. It is the glue that will keep a couple strong together through it all.”
I wasn’t exactly the type of person that needed to be convinced of the merits of sex, but I was quite happy to know that contrary to some beliefs, it doesn’t end at marriage. Perhaps I am the commitment type after all. And that surprising thought would be enough to occupy my mind on the next leg of the journey. Thank you, Amy.