Friday, November 4, 2011

Love is... being willing to say when you've been a jackass

Believe In Goodness by Rob Ryan
I love my husband. There's no question. Even when I'm mad at him, I still love him. But that doesn't mean that I always demonstrate my love. That I exemplify it 100% of the time. No. It does not. I wish it did. But I'm human. And therefore a lot of crap gets in the way of my full expression of unconditional love.

If love were the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop, I licked away the hard shell last night, exposing it.

Wait. What? A Tootsie Roll Pop? Love is the center of a Tootsi--
I know. Terrible. But just... what I'm trying to say is... sometimes the actual experience of love is hidden. Or covered up by hard, crunchy layers of... of... humanity?

Moving on.

Here's what I want to say...

Last night I saw something about myself I didn't like. Something ugly. Something that I really didn't want to own up to. Not at all.

Does that ever happen to you? You're hit by the reality that you're not as perfect as you thought you were? I know. Crazy, right? But it happened to me. Last night. Well, the truth is... it happens all the time. All. The. Time. But last night was a big one. Big enough for me to share on the blog. 

the ugly truth
When it comes to my wonderful husband who I love so much, I often lack compassion. Or said another way... I can really be a heartless witch with a b. When the appropriate response would be compassion, I demonstrate annoyance and callousness. When he needs me to be gentle and kind, I become unfeeling. I said it was ugly, didn't I? It's U.G.L.Y.

the incident
Okay. In order to put this into context, we need to go back a few weeks to the moment when Bob walked full force into Malcolm's Radio Flyer cart. Barefoot. There was a sharp scream from the kitchen. Followed by a flurry of profanity. And then limping/hobbling. Followed by silence and focused breath. Breathing through the pain. Then...

"I broke my toe. It's broken."
My response?
Not, "What can I do?!"
Or, "I'm so sorry!"
Not even, "You poor baby."
No. What I said was, "You didn't break your toe." I did get him some ice, but it was more like, "Here's some ice. Put that on it and you'll be fine." Okay, if I'm being really honest, the tone was more like this: "Put this on your damn foot and stop complaining."

Yeah. Cold. I know. Horrible.

His foot hurt really bad for a few days. Or more. Like a whole week. And then he kept walking into things around the apartment. And instead of showing sympathy, I would say things like, "Stop walking into things." (As if he were doing it on purpose.) And, "You need to be more careful. Watch where you're walking." As though I'm so perfect. As if I've never accidentally walked into anything or injured myself in a dumb way. As though I didn't break my toe by accidentally kicking the door jam while running to the TV to catch the start of an episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." (It was before Tivo, okay?)

Anyway, fast forward a few weeks. Bob's still in pain. A lot. He's having a hard time walking. There's clearly something going on with his foot. He has an x-ray which shows nothing. He goes to the acupuncturist who says that it's clear that there's been some trauma to his foot. The acupuncture helps to an extent. But then he carries some furniture out to the curb and aggravates it again. Now he can barely walk.

So he puts it in a bucket of ice to bring down the swelling. Have you ever stuck your foot in a bucket of ice? Not fun. I had to do it for a stress fracture in high school. I can attest to the incredible pain. But instead of commiserating while he's sitting there with his foot in the bucket I say:
"Just breathe through the pain."
Good advice. However, the problem here is what I'm thinking in my head: "Suck it up, for God's sake."

At this point you might be asking yourself, "What the hell is wrong with you, Steph?!" Well, I'm getting there. Because last night it all came to the surface.

the breakthrough 
I was pissed off because Bob couldn't help me around the house. I mean, he barely could. I asked him to help in spite of his injury. So he's hobbling around, picking up toys. And I feel like he's hobbling to make a point. To make me feel bad for asking. All I can think is that he's really milking this.

What I won't even consider is perhaps he really is in too much pain to be cleaning up the apartment. I don't want to accept that. Because if that's true, then it means that I'm a terrible person for making him help me. But I can't stop feeling like I'm now stuck doing everything. Everything! I am throwing such a pity party in my head.

I even say to Bob: 
"I feel like all I do is take care of everyone else and no one ever takes care of me!"
What I wasn't admitting even to myself is that I was looking at Bob's injury as an inconvenience to me. And I only saw how it impacted me. It put me out. It made my life harder. But there was no way I would ever admit that. Because that makes me horrible. Instead, I attempted to cover it up. Which didn't work. And I took my seeding resentment out on Bob.

AGAIN... I didn't know I was doing that. I really didn't know. I knew that I wasn't being nice, but I didn't see the extent of my utter lack of compassion.

Last night I saw it. Crystal clear. I'm not even sure what it was that had me see it. Maybe the sight of my injured husband hobbling around while I barked orders and complaints at him. I saw myself from the outside. Like a fly on the wall. I finally saw myself. The lack of compassion. The cold heartedness.

What did I do then? Thankfully, I owned up to it.
"Bob," I said meekly.
No answer.
No answer. He's clearly ignoring me.
"I'm too pissed off to go to bed right now!"
He assumed I was going to tell him to just go to bed since I had already said a few minutes before. I suggested he just go to bed. Not in a nice way. In a "You're doing me no good anyway" kind of way.

And so I respond:
"I'm trying to apologize."
Not the best start. But I had to begin somewhere.

I continued:
"Here's the thing. I'm noticing that I have a really hard time being compassionate towards you and I don't know why that is."
Bob's look said it all.
"Ya think?!"
"I have been trying to cover for the fact that I've lacked compassion towards you but it's not working."
Again. His look tells me that this is not news to him.
"Here you are injured for weeks. In pain. Suffering. Frustrated because you don't even know what's wrong with your foot and you don't know when it will get better. And I'm completely unsympathetic."
"Even worse than that. I've been annoyed by the fact that you're injured. Your injury has been annoying me. I've been a total jackass. And I'm so sorry."
"And I promise to work on it. I want to be better at this. I really do. I'm so ashamed by my behavior."
The more I owned up to my behavior, the more I saw it. And the more I realized how awful it's been for Bob. I don't know what it is that has me withhold compassion when he needs it most. I think part of me just wants things to be normal. Life as usual. And so I don't even acknowledge the problem. As though not acknowledging it will make it not so.

At some point when I was expressing how I didn't understand WHY I'm so lacking in compassion, Bob said, "Because you resent me."

I couldn't deny it. It was yet another ugly insight. One I didn't want to be true, but when I looked honestly, I had been resenting him. Unconsciously. For what, exactly? Well... I'd been feeling unappreciated and ignored as a woman. Romance has been non-existent lately. And I've felt like we're more like two beings occupying the same space than two people in love. I've been craving more attention from Bob. I've been wanting him to go out of his way to express love and romance. And I have been resigned that it would happen. That resignation led to resentment, apparently.

And this ugly insight led to a really wonderful conversation about how things have changed since we've become parents. We both talked about what we can work on individually and as partners.
"We haven't been on the same page," Bob says.
He's right. We've been more focused on ourselves than on each other or on our partnership. And it's both of us. We can both be doing so much more. We agreed that we can start by really being PRESENT and IN THE MOMENT. And make an effort on a daily basis.

It was so awesome that we saw this last night and instead of getting angry and storming off or fighting, we calmly talked through it. We stood in each others' shoes. And in the end, our love was present. It was palpable. We got to the chewy center!

bad news/good news
You've heard of bad news/good news insights right? This insight into myself was bad news because it's such an ugly thing to see about myself. But good news that I actually and finally saw it. Because now that I SEE it. And now that I have owned up to it to Bob, I can actually impact it. I can call myself out on it. And I can ask for help.

Love is a lot of things. Sometimes it's being willing to say when you've been a jackass.

Tonight while we were having dinner on a date (After our conversation last night, Bob arranged for a babysitter and a last minute date night,) Bob said, "Compassion is letting go of being right even when you know you are." Letting go of being right... even when you know you are. To me, that's love. And so powerful.

I love you, Bob. Thank you for being my partner in every sense of the word. And for loving me through the ugly.

What do you do when you see something ugly about yourself? 
Do you own up to it? How?


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