Before I met my husband, I went through a terrible breakup a little over a year before.
Granted, I was 15 (going on 20) at the time — and yes, teenagers do fall in love, for real. I won’t say much about this person, because it’s really not the point, and we have both moved on in life and found people better suited for us. However, I’ll never forget the feeling of loneliness that happened after the breakup and lasted, well, until I met Tom.
Having gone through that desert, I firmly told Tom that I would “never get married, and never have children”. (The account of how we met can be read here.) It was my way of putting up a boundary around my heart to protect myself from feelings from abandonment, loneliness, hollowness, and sheer insanity. I knew how dependent I could be upon a relationship, and I never wanted to feel those feelings ever again. I hated myself for entertaining such hurt.
It was Tom’s calm response to my defense, â€œI understand. But, I want you to know that I like spending time with you and that if thatâ€™s all youâ€™re willing to give me, Iâ€™ll take it,â€ that got through to me and gained him entrance to my fortress.
Yet, here I am. Feeling the feelings that I was trying to protect myself from. He’s still alive! We’re still married! It’s just that my soul’s so happier when Tom’s around.
When the fortress walls go up, it’s hard to even let my kids in. “What do you want me to do? There’s no blood on your cut! Go AWAY from me and PLAAAAAAAAAAAAY OVER THERRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEE!”
Today was the most beautiful day. It was in the 70s, and there was just enough breeze to stimulate the senses, but not enough to lose a hat. The children played in the freshly mowed yard (thank you, Andrew!) while I weeded and planted all day. (My friend Debbi from church calls weeding, “exercising dominion.” I like this. I chanted this in my mind, sounding as if casting the Patronus Charm, while I pulled the stubborn ones.)
I’d be enjoying the moment when a moment of inspiration would occur:
“Maybe we could go out on the motorcycle tonight!”
Oh yeah, Tom’s not home.
“I’ll call Tom and see if he wants to do burgers on the grill for dinner.”
Tom’s still not home.
Thomas (who was also inspired by the day, building forts and practicing “swords and crossbows”): “You don’t understand mom, the guy had this special power and he could…”
Me: “How about you go talk to….shoot… never mind…”
Obviously, someone is missing.
It’s not that I am ungrateful for Tom’s job! In a time of economic recession, we are still on our feet. Sure, it’s in a humble way – my furniture has holes in it, my dining set is completely mismatched, we have a hole in our porch, we can’t run the vacuum and the fans at the same time, the trim is peeling, and we live with “features” (like the few remaining windows with weights in them) from 1910, and we all have beds that are either broken or are too small for our bodies – but we are not starving, and we’re happily living within our means. I am very thankful for a job that stimulates my husband’s beautiful mind. I am thankful for the co-workers who have become close family friends.
By the way, I know all the “right answers”:
“Be thankful your husband has a job.”
“It could be worse – your husband could be in Iraq for a year with your brother in law.”
“Stop complaining – there are many single moms out there who are under a lot more stress than you.” “You need to be more dependent on God, and less dependent on your husband for happiness.”
“You’re obviously not praying/trusting in God enough to be feeling this way…”
These are the thoughts shame me as the tension builds up and I am short-tempered with my kids, when I am tired the next day from avoiding going to bed until I collapse, when I must call a babysitter just to run errands, when I am the third wheel while spending time with couples at church picnics, when I feel like I can’t breathe I’m so overwhelmed.
Fear gets the better of me and I worry that something terrible will happen, as punishment, to put me in my place.
My natural tendency is to just push forward, and “do the next thing”, as Elisabeth Elliot would say. Only I think I do this on my own strength more often than not. I don’t know how to move from relying on my strength to God’s strength. I don’t want to just cope, I want to suffer well! But, prayers asking the Lord to work in my heart end in me crying for my husband.
The smell of his skin left when I washed his pillowcase. (Washed sheets. After I finally crawled into bed last night and found that my baby’s crawling around on the bed earlier in the day left a nice surprise for me – the inside gel chunks from a diaper seam that opened up. Artificially congealed pee, all over the sheets, all over my black night gown.)
He’s still alive. He’s just been bleached out of my bed.