Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Slings and Arrows

 My husband may call himself a practical realist.  On a bad day I may call him a pessimist: a tendency to see the hole, the missing, the lack, the undone.

The truth is, he sees those things with an eye to fill, to replace, to provide, to complete. He makes a mental note of them (frequently aloud) and is often completely baffled when my insecure side takes his noticing as a personal criticism.

But it can be a vicious cycle. He wants to keep track of the things that need keeping track of. I don't want to be invited into his mental to-do list when my own (shorter) one seems overwhelming enough. He shows his love by being conscientious and vigilant.  I feel his love when he drops everything and puts people ahead of tasks.  He puts people first by doing the behind-the-scenes tasks.   

After hosting a recent game night at our house when I had finally figured out how to fit the clean-up into one night (instead of letting half of it spill into the next morning because the dishwasher was full), I was overly pleased and proud of myself.  We've done it!  Well done, Team Brown. We can get up tomorrow to this sparkly loveliness and be inspired for the new day.  

Bill's happy, of course.  He has helped with the clean-up and deserves to feel  proud, too. But instead of sharing my effusive self-congratulations, he offhandedly says, "Man. This floor. It is really taking a beating."

Every surface of our kitchen looks like it is getting ready for an open house tomorrow and he has his head down looking at the floor. I perceive this casual, uncalculating observation on his part as a flaming arrow of criticism and discontent. It wouldn't lead to a quarrel if it made sense.  (Just so you know that I don't think I should be taking his comments that way, or even letting them push the pendulum so hard.)  

Something inside me breaks.  Out come the "fighting" words we were warned about in premarital counseling: "You never," "You always," "I'm sick of,"

And the second half of each of those sentences feel like the most true, valid, and pertinent points of the evening.  Even when he wants to explain.  No.  I've got this verbal barrage going and it may be on semiautomatic. It's like an old magazine of ammo we should have dealt with years ago, but seems to keep getting refired when we least expect it. Unkindness shoots both ways. 

Do you ever find yourself here?  One minute you are both fine and happy, and less than ten later you are both feeling like you'd rather crawl away and nurse a few wounds?

It's a horrible feeling.  We can find solidarity to face "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," but it's a lonely night when the slings and arrows are from ourselves.

But like I told you, my husband is a practical realist.  So when the drama-emotional-hyperbolic side of my brain starts to take over and I fear that the chasm our unkindness has created may be an uncrossable divide, it will be he who calmly says, "We're going to get through this.  We can make it.  We've got work to do, but don't give up on me.  I'm not giving up on you.  Because you're still my Jode, and there's nobody else I'd rather do this with."

Marriage: it is a beautiful gift, a sacred union, a comfort and a joy.  It is also sometimes a bitter struggle, a painful humbling, a sharp reminder of the worst parts of ourselves we want to conceal, and the most demanding work we voluntarily sign up for.

In the end, I'm willing to keep at it.  I keep asking for God's help. I keep muddling through and on.  Because he's still my Bill and there's nobody else I'd rather do this with.

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