(photo via Life in Balance )
I started 2012 off with a bang. And by that I mean, I had emergency surgery on my gallbladder. I woke up on the morning of my birthday completely out of my head and asking for cookie cake.(So, in retrospect I guess I wasn’t completely out of my head.) My girls brought cookie cake to the hospital, we sang Happy Birthday, and I wore yoga pants tucked into my new birthday boots as I hobbled right out of the hospital.
Oh, and one little tidbit I left out: I made Stevie call my pastor to see if he’d come pray with me before my surgery because it would be JUST LIKE ME to die on the operating table. I did not. But I wasn’t taking any chances.
My mom and sister decided to stay with me for a few days to help with the kids and my recovery. I love the women in my life. They know what needs to be done and they do ten times more than that. I can only imagine the relief Stevie felt, knowing that my women were here to care for me—to look after the kids, to make the food, the fold the laundry, to keep things running like a machine. I saw the relief in his eyes when he collapsed in to his man-cliner and tilted back to watch a few football games. Now, don’t get me wrong, he made the obligatory trip to the bedroom every few hours to check on me, to see if I needed anything, to see how I was feeling. He rested knowing that all my needs were cared for and those ballgames weren’t gonna watch themselves, so back to the man-cliner he’d go, with a song in his heart and a spring in his step.
After 3 days of this routine, I came unglued.
You can blame it on anesthesia or the pain meds wearing off or my general tendency to come unglued every six months, but I was on the warpath and I had the man-cliner in my crosshairs. Now, before you go envisioning an all out scream fest, you should know this about me. I can get steaming mad. For exactly 12 seconds. Then, I collapse into a weepy mess and the words I’m wailing can barely be understood.
What I tried to say was, “I CAN’T LIVE ANOTHER DAY WITHOUT YOUR EMOTIONAL SUPPORT!”
What it sounded like was the high pitched yelp of a coyote in the grips of a mountain lion.
Either way, I was ALL CAPS and Stevie’s worst nightmare was about to begin.
The words were so mutilated and mangled by my tears that he asked me to repeat them. To say it again.
So, I yelped it out louder.
At which point, he took his iPhone out of his pocket and started surfing the internet.
Oh, yes he did.
Do you understand the gravity of this situation? Did he? I think not.
I briefly composed myself and did the angry snivel and then spit out the words, “What. Are. You. DOING?”
He glanced at me above his readers and answered me like he was answering a question about Adrian Peterson, “I just googled emotional support. What does that even mean?”
Um. Okay, if you need to google emotional support, mister, then we’ve got a problem. And we’ve got a problem that could possibly be too big even for Google.
THEN. He proceeded to read aloud from a list on a random page on the internet the 10 Ways To Emotionally Support Your Spouse. There were things like always acknowledge your spouse when she walks in the room, touch each other often, listen deeply to your partner, speak in a loving tone and remember to smile.
Halfway through the list, I started to sob BECAUSE, why has my life come to this? I’m on the brink of an emotional break down here and all we’ve got are ten cheesy ideas from Google. Is that what we’ve come to? I’d even take Dr. Phil over Google on this one. The drama in my head was at an all time fever pitch.
All I could do was sob uncontrollably.
And, he did what he always does when I come apart. He held me close and told me how much he loved me and that he was sorry if he wasn’t giving me what I needed and that all I needed to do was tell him and he’d do it. He said all he ever wanted was to make me happy. He said, “Don’t you know how much I love you?”
All the anger and hurt melted away. The sun streamed through the cold January air into the bedroom window and I remembered what is so easy to forget. This man loves me. He walked through fire for us. He is strong like an oak tree and faithful like the seasons. The only thing that predictably makes him smile is babies and he tears up at EVERY baptism. He would fight for me to the death. And he lives his life for us in the most heroic and ordinary of ways. Sometimes, I have to come apart in order to remember.
Over the next few days, he upped his emotional support game LIKE A BOSS. Every time I passed through the living room— like, I don’t know, 750 times a day—he made eye contact and gave me a little two finger wave. As in, I see you. No, really, I SEE YOU.
Then, when we talked, I could tell he was trying hard to listen deeply and gaze into my eyes. His efforts were valiant and flawless.
I think it was the pleasant tone of voice and frequent smiling that finally pushed me over the edge.
I cried UNCLE. Okay, you’re off the hook. No more emotional support. It’s driving me crazy. It’s not even you. You never smile like that. Smiling is my job. Why don’t you go back to stone face glancing over your readers with mischief brewing under the surface, because that’s the you I know and love.
Yeah, that you.
No, more like that one.
See how fake smiling could totally ruin that handsome face?
So, the moral of the story is this. Life is hard and there are so many things to grieve over and cry for. But, there are also SO very many reasons to laugh. Sometimes, there’s even a reason to completely lose your stuff and howl like a coyote.
But, whatever you do, don’t take yourself too seriously. Marriage is hard because we’re all so darn self-centered. The key is confession, forgiveness, dying to self, giving the benefit of the doubt, and plenty of good old fashioned laughter.
I’m learning to let Stevie be who he is, even if Google searched emotional support is not his game.
He reminds me how much I am loved.
And for that, I am so grateful.
FYI: My spiritual memoir, All the Pretty Things, is now available for preorder. Keep your receipt number to claim your preorder bonuses once they are released!