Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

The County Fair commitment is completed, and we’re still standing. That’s a good thing; because the way it looked a couple of weeks ago, not only might we not be still standing at the end of the fair, but we might not even be married. Long-term relationships…they are anything but easy. Sometimes it’s hard to say whether we love each other or hate each other. The line between the two gets to be so thin it’s almost invisible through bifocals…

Two weeks ago, I was so done with the battling. I need peace and comfort right now, and my own home was not providing that for me. Quite the opposite. Strife—spoken and unspoken—has haunted us since months before we closed the restaurant. It was in fact one of the reasons we closed the restaurant. But, as it turned out, closing the restaurant did not instantaneously make things all better between us…surprise! When preparing for the County Fair stirred up all the bad juju that swirled around us in the last few months at the café, I knew I simply could not do it anymore. I told the husband that, after our August event, I was going to need to get away for awhile.

That was a desperate move. But I felt like I was in the same place with him as I had been with my sisters after my dad died. There was so much sadness, so much hurt; we couldn’t talk about it, couldn’t work it out, and couldn’t ignore it. The only thing I could do was to take myself out of it; because being in the middle of it and trying to fight my way out wasn’t solving anything. We moved away; eventually, time and distance did the healing work of which our own clumsy hands were making such a mess.

So it has been with the husband and me. Since trying to talk about our issues always degraded into accusations and bitterness, I did the only thing I could think of to do: I wrote him a letter. It said a lot of things, but ended with:

“We…chose every day, for many years, to be the one upon
whom the other could always depend. But right now, we are not choosing that.
We’re choosing to hurt each other, to chafe at the bonds of our relationship, to
concentrate on the bad and forget the good. And talking about it, working it
out, does not appear to be an option. Perhaps we need some distance. Perhaps
time away from each other will help us see what there is to come back to. I
think it may be our only option. Because what we have going on right now is not
the way I would choose to spend the rest of my life. Would you?”

Which brought about the actual conversation. Wherein I told him that I had not been kidding when, in the weeks just before we closed the café, I mortally offended him by talking about going on a retreat or going to Europe without him. Because, as our most recent behavior indicated, I really did need to get away. And he was one of the things I needed to get away from.

“Where will you go?”

“I don’t know. Not to live with my sisters. I’m not dragging them into this. And I don’t have any money…”

“So what are your other options?”

“Maybe I can get a seasonal job somewhere that offers room and board. Or I can look into a volunteer opportunity. But I just need to…go.”

The conversation mostly ended there. He went to bed. And I stayed up and cried for a few hours.

But going forward, there were some noticeable changes. Subtle, but definite. During the fair, I was an exhausted, stressed-out mess. The husband, to his credit, did his best to support and relieve me. (Had he done otherwise, I’m sure we would be headed for divorce court. But I appreciate it, nonetheless.)

And then came my birthday. Upon which he completely stunned me by taking the day off to spend doing whatever I wanted to do. You have no idea what a concession this was for Mr. “My-Job-Always-Comes-First.” I woke up yesterday morning at 5:45 (the time he’s usually heading out the door) and there he was, snoring at my side. I gave him a shot with my elbow and said, “Hey…aren’t you supposed to be going to work?”

He said, “No. I took the day off. I’m your present!”

Wait. What’s that sound? Is that a flock of pigs flying overhead?

We didn’t do anything extraordinary. He didn’t take me to the symphony and then wine and dine me at an expensive restaurant. He didn’t pop a box of diamonds out of his pocket. We just…hung out. With my sister and her husband, no less, since they were passing through Portland on their way back from a trip to the Midwest.

It was special, though. Special that he knew this was the one thing he could do—the one gift he could give me—to let me know he got it.

I still may be striking out on my own for a couple of days, weeks, or months after our event in August. But…I think there may be hope for us yet.


  1. Good man! Getting it means more than people realize.

  2. One day at a time. I'm glad you had a great day with a little help.

  3. Well well well. Some of my most favorite days have been days like this one. Simple. Pleasant. I hope you have more of them.

  4. Not only did he give you his time today but he gave you a reason to feel a glimmer of hope. That's a wonderful gift!