What He Said, What She Heard

He said, She said

“You’ve spent the whole day in that same spot,” Craig said to me Saturday night around 9.

The spot is my reading corner, a cushioned chair and ottoman beside the fireplace, bookshelves at my back, my computer or newspaper on my lap, a coffee or Diet Coke on the table beside me.

Craig was right. I sunk in at 6:30 a.m. with the newspaper, struggled for hours to design a new webpage (check out our new Art Library) and prepared for the discussion from the book of Genesis I was leading the next morning. At 9 p.m., the newspaper was back in my hands; I was determined to conquer the Saturday crossword puzzle.

Craig was also wrong. We walked three miles together that day. We ate dinner with our daughter and her friend. We cleaned up the kitchen together.

What was Craig really saying? Was he simply making an observation or was there a deeper message? Perhaps he meant:

  1. “You sat in that chair all day while I did all the work. I ran errands, bought groceries and made dinner. Why can’t you get anything done?”
  2. “After a long week of travel and going straight back to work, I’m glad you had a day to relax.”
  3. “I’m amazed at how you can focus for hours and not give up until you’ve worked through your problem.”
  4. “You’ve been working all day, and I wish you’d spend time with me. I’m lonely.”

My immediate thought – still, STILL, after years of knowing better – was No. 1: I was being criticized. Inwardly, I fended off the attack with anger: “I built the webpage you wanted for displaying your art. I planned tomorrow morning’s discussion because you were burned out and needed time away from leadership.” It was an instantaneous, fully formed defense.

Despite my thoughts, I responded with something like, “I guess so.” Then I returned to the puzzle, 20 Across, a four-letter word for “graceful genie of myth,” _ _ R I.

What fueled my internal assault? Why did I assume he was calling me lazy? How is it I blame him for the lashings I give myself?

Craig is naturally a doer. He readily helps others. He’s generous with his time and talents. I’m naturally a thinker. I readily sit and talk. I’m generous with my ideas and assessments. We know that and most times are comfortable with the other person’s way of engaging the world. The problem comes when I’m not comfortable with the way I engage the world.

If I feel small in the midst of his largesse, it’s not because of him; it’s because of me. It’s the voice inside me that says a good wife buys groceries and sets a welcoming table; she doesn’t get lost in an idea or challenging crossword puzzle. There was a time decades ago when he questioned the merit of me reading all day, but now he has more books on his nightstand than I do.

Craig is my greatest champion. The generosity he gives to others he gives first to me. He believes in me and my overactive mind, in the way it processes and analyzes. He loves to see me challenged. He wants me to be happy.

He shopped and cooked on Saturday because he saw I was occupied and knows I’d rather he love me by helping out than by bringing me a dozen roses. Plus he was hungry and couldn’t find much food in the house.

What he said to me Saturday was, “I love you.” By Thursday, I finally heard him.

 

Read other thoughts on love this Valentine’s Day at emilywierenga.com and her Imperfect Prose Thursday:

 

Comments

  1. Kate Seversen says:

    Oooh. Loved this. Guess whom I am passing this along to?

    • Thanks, Kate. In the next few months, Chris will see what our marriage looks like in real life and real time. It might not always be something that sums up nicely in 600 words.

  2. wow, i LOVE this Lee. i love how you processed the whole week and finally understood, and you didn’t judge him until you took the time to fully listen. what a beautiful post.

    • Of course, the event sounds much more clear-cut on the page than when it’s rolling out before me. I cut out whole sections of thoughts and narrative. Thank you for your encouragement.

  3. Loved. it. Glad you are home and hope you had a good time. Mom

  4. Great Valentine blog and how true.

  5. What a great last line, Lee.

    • Narrative includes both the what and the how. Most of us readers respond to what the story is about and pay little attention to how the story is told – unless it’s particularly compelling or annoying. As a writer, Erin – a very good writer – you most likely always explore the how. I consider it high praise that you noticed and liked my ending. Thanks.