One morning last week, I hastily tweeted a reply to this viral tweet while I was still half asleep:
I didn’t think much of it until I saw so many people liking and retweeting it. It’s by far my most viral tweet ever. Thankfully, it’s not something totally dumb, although the small typo bugs me.
Fast forward to earlier this week and I received this writing prompt from a memoir-in-flash course I’m working on:
Can you recall an incident/event or scene where you know someone else close to you has a very different version from your own? If you can, use your imagination to tell the story from that person’s perspective.
It was an opportunity to write something from my wife Allison’s perspective about a time when I totally dropped the ball instead of holding it and talking about it. It’s written as if it occurred roughly a year ago. We have come a long way since then with the help of therapy and improved communication.
I hope you enjoy it.
I keep telling Lyle what’s wrong, but he’s not listening. Well, he’s listening to me, but he’s not hearing me. He’s hung up on the details; the who said what and when. But that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that I’m struggling and I need to be heard.
Every day, I wake up at an ungodly hour, the sun not even scaring the horizon, to a crying two-year-old daughter with a disability. I have to give her four different meds, prepare her tube feeding, and try to get her back to sleep. When she’s finally down again, I know I have thirty minutes—or an hour if I’m lucky—to feed myself and fire off some work emails. I’d go back to sleep, but this is some of the only quiet time I get all day.
He, on the other hand, sleeps through all of this. I know he stays up late to give our daughter her meds in her feeding tube in the middle of the night in the hopes that it’ll help her sleep a little bit longer. I know he fills up all the meds for the following day. And I know he cleans up the kitchen before he lays next to me in bed. I know all this and I appreciate all he does.
But I’m running on fumes and I just want him to acknowledge it.
I wonder if this house would run without me. Would our daughter be fed on time? Who would rock her to sleep when he gets too aggravated? Would the laundry ever get done? Would he ever cook for himself or just eat out all the time?
Every time I bring up my frustrations, he picks apart what I said or how I said it, instead of seeing that I’m barely holding it together. I spend my days on the edge of either tears or rage and I just need someone to see me. Acknowledge me. Hear me. Hold me.
I struggle with expectations. When people don’t follow through on what they say they’re going to do, I take it personally. Intellectually, I know my response is irrational. No one does it on purpose to spite me. Everyone has their own stuff going on in their own little world, even him.
That’s why it hurts so much more when he does it; because I want to be included in his little world. We share a life and a home and a bed and a little girl, yet it can feel like we’re far away from each other. Closed off and cold. I don’t want to be this way. I want to feel the closeness and the warmth that I know is underneath the surface.
And now I see my daughter wiggling on the video monitor.
I don’t know how I will muster up the energy to make it through the day, but I know I will. Somehow I will find a way to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even though I’m spent.
Hey there, it’s me, Lyle, again.
In these types of moments, I remember my jaw tightening and feeling like I was being attacked. I would immediately get defensive and protect my ego. My knee-jerk reaction would be, that’s not what I meant or I didn’t say it like that, neither of which is helpful. Now I try to validate Allison’s feelings and point of view first, even if I think she’s wrong or overreacting. That diffuses the tension and shows her I’m hearing her and I care.
I’m not perfect, but I’m miles ahead of where I was a year ago, and I attribute much of it to that simple analogy we learned in couple’s therapy. I can’t recommend couple’s therapy highly enough. It’s a vital tool to help you learn how to navigate one of the most important relationships in your life. Go sooner, rather than later. Don’t wait until a small problem becomes a bigger problem.
P.S. Writing this newsletter has helped me considerably, as well, which I wrote about in a recent piece called I broke up with my therapist.
Someone else’s words to read:
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Thanks so much for being here.
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This is a lesson I have to learn over and over again. This is great, Lyle. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Lyle, for sharing this vulnerable piece. It's a good reminder of our human fallibility. We can work on it if we have the tools and support. Thank you, again. I'm looking forward to reading more of your writing.