The Day I Learned to Listen
It's not uncommon that you're quietly minding your own business on Facebook until the little sidebar scroll notifies you that your friend commented on someone else's status, right?
That's how trouble starts. In this case, it was trouble, embarrassment, hurt, anger, growth.
The sheets that warmly enveloped you now jarringly alert your senses. You're too warm. You're too cold. You're too sweaty. It's morning and you don't want to get out of bed. It's not because you're tired and that makes you uncomfortable and these sheets which masquerade as comfort are now unbearable and unfriendly.
It's morning and you don't want to get up. Your mind is groggy and crystal clear. You don't want to get up, for today is another day for opportunities of failure, at least you've been led to believe. Another day of not doing everything right. Yesterday you spent hours on a new recipe. It didn't matter, though. It was no longer hot to serve when he got home hours later than expected. And, it's not the way he likes his meat cooked. And why was the kitchen a mess when you were home all day? You got the kids to calm down, but their childish hoots and hollers were unacceptable. Can't you control your children? You look like a mess. Couldn't you at least pretend to want to look presentable?
You're a beautiful family, everyone says. Picture perfect. Your house, a magazine spread. Your kids, gorgeous and full of personality. You, stunning. Him, successful. You're the white picket fence. Everyone say so. Everyone fawns, you're perfect. They're envious. You're silent. You nod and smile when appropriate. You speak in gracious tones and acknowledge how lucky you are to those peeking in. Further and further away you recede.
You tell yourself you've failed because you've been seasoned to believe you have the dream. You tell yourself you need to do better. You need to bend more. Your family's happiness comes first. It's your job. You're the glue and you can't fail.
But you're not the one failing. You've never been the one failing. It is not your failure when someone chooses to break their promises to you. It is not your failure that life is full of mess and unpredictability. It is not your failure when someone fails you. It is theirs, and theirs alone.
The breeze from your bedroom window travels across your body. It's a cool jolt. The tiny hairs on your leg prickle. You don't want to get up but you do. Because you're strong. Because it's never too late to take control. Because this is your life and your happiness is out there.
You get up.
*For my friend <3 I love you.
The letter I wish I could send
Dear spouse of my friend,
Tonight I heard my friend's tears again. Her sadness. Her loneliness. Her anger. Her frustration.
I heard once more about your emotional and verbal abuse. Your selfish comments, dripping with condescension. Your inability to be a spouse; to respect your wife, let alone a woman. Your inability to be a decent human being. Your inability to put someone else beside yourself first.
Sure, you apologized, eventually. You always eventually do, as though an apology absolves you from every horrendous, derogatory remark that leaves your mouth. But, you don't change because deep down, you don't think you're wrong. And so the cycle continues.
You continue to be selfish. You continue to make your wife, my friend, cry. You continue to turn a blind eye to the wonderful woman you have standing beside you.
Let me tell you about your wife. She's kind. She's caring. She has an amazing sense of humor. She is a fantastic mother. She thinks about you. She worries for you, even when you've sought to put her down. She's strong, stronger than you give her credit for, considering you think it's manly to belittle and beat down. She believes in you, or who you used to be anyway. She works at your marriage, something you've long neglected. She is tender and patient. She doesn't take your bait and respond in kind. She looks for a reason, but I'm sure there won't be one that truly helps ease her.
I know the reason: you are not worthy of her. You are not worthy of a relationship in which you do not participate in. You are not worthy of someone who gives their all while you give your none. You are not owed a partner to berate and insult and take your anger out on.
One day you will wake up and the space in which your wife used to lie will be empty and cold. And you will be worse for it because she is sunshine and magic and warmth. It would serve you well to understand this reality before it is yours, because sooner rather than later, she'll have had enough. Her strength that you overlook will lead her right out that door. And she'll find happiness without you.
But I can't send you this letter because it's not my business.