I know a girl. She's got babies and a husband and a full time job. She's got a house decorated for Christmas, clean bathrooms, and a dinner schedule. She checks homework, wipes baseboards, and makes grocery lists in her head. She juggles doctor appointments, farming seasons, and sports season calendars. Her showers are interrupted by a five-year-old, her heart was splintered when her husband told her she was left wanting, and sometimes, there's a snot smear on her blouse at work. And at any given moment, hiding behind her picturesque, practiced, forced, fake smile, is a narrative that runs through her head:
I can't do this anymore.
This isn't love.
I want out.
So far out.
Out of the corner.
And she's not the only one. I look out across the ocean of faces every day and I see them - women are barely holding on. Beams of light diminishing in the face of spouses that half love, half care, and half try. Diminishing under the weight of volunteering for clubs and leagues and groups and committes. Diminishing in the onslaught of a society that pits a woman against herself with photoshop, social media, and apps on phones that are quiet, secretive, ticking timebombs for marriages.
She's tired, this girl I know.
In her bones.
She's exhausted. You can only really tell by the puffiness that surrounds her eyes from the lack of sleep and the lack of anyone around her to fill her bucket back up ... Her spouse simply chooses not to notice. It's easier that way, I suppose. Takes less work - especially if her spouse is as busy as she is.
It wasn't very long ago that I said I wouldn't get married again until I had it figured out - until I had it nailed down. Until I could point to a place in my own failed relationship and say, "Yes. This. Right here. This is where it all went pear-shaped."
Turns out - the answer was right in front of me the whole time.
It's paying attention.
Just three words (four if you count the contraction).
It's the noticing of the puffy eyes, or the lack of sleep, or the dinner being pushed around on a plate.
It's the noticing of sentences being cut short by laundry or the oven timer or a text message.
It's the noticing of how her boss treats her at the company Christmas party.
It's the noticing of how she rubs her neck as she walks up the stairs.
My goodness, we're busy, aren't we? All of us. Calendars bursting and Christmas is coming and also? We are not perfect people. We are not meant to plow through life. We are not built for break-neck speed.
We are meant for deep breaths and hand holding. And we are meant to live this life as witnesses to one another.
I'm probably not the person to hand out marital advice. In fact, on every single cute-wedding-advice-thing I come across, I write, "Keep separate checking accounts!" because #mytruth. But I've been observing the married couples in my own life for two years now - wondering, questioning ... how it all went totally wrong.
The wives I know that complain about their marriages are not complaining about things that are wild and out of control. I have no friends that are living in immediate danger.
I do have friends that are raising babies, raising money for classrooms, cooking dinner at night, folding and putting away all. the. laundry, and then going to work the next day with ironed pants and big, shiny, fake smiles and eyes that just want to shut for just ... one ... more ... second.
And the friends that I know? The ones that are like kids in Wal-Mart jumping up and down in front of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (day in the life of my kid) just begging for some kinda something from their spouse? An eyebrow raise. An interest. A head nod. A, "I sincerely want to know how your day went," kinda question?
Somewhere along the way, that sort of begging has been labeled "needy". And damn if that doesn't just suck a little. Needing acknowledgement isn't base. It's not annoying.
It's the difference between The Girl I Know staying.
One piece of acknowledgement from The Girl I Know's husband - one simple, "I see you. Tell me about your hard day and I'll listen - not to respond, but to just listen," would leave her stunned. But it would rekindle some of that faith she's lost in him.
I'm not saying I got all the answers, guys.
All I can really offer is what I've lived and what I see every day -
I see women working their asses off. On all fronts. They're like traffic cops - arms spread, whistles in their mouths, quickly shuffling everyone everywhere.
I see women that are doing the hard work - the good work. Every single day. And they're good at it. They're built to be good at it.
I have a friend that stopped by tonight and she sighed a heavy, deep, burdened sigh and said, "I just want to feel like I have a partner. Someone that makes me feel safe."
And I thought -
That's the secret.
Let's do more of that.
. About Moi .
I love, love, love flannel sheets and I am really passionate about lists on post it notes and most of the time I'm sad that no one else is as excited as I am about Diet Mountain Dew. I also adore run-on sentences.
He saw her before he saw
anything else in the room.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
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