From our beginning, M and I have always communicated. We’ve not always done it enough, appropriately, or effectively, but our willingness to keep at it has been our foundation. It’s the reason we’ve been able to travel this journey at all.
As we’ve traveled, M and I have had to unlearn just as much as we’ve had to learn. Some of the ways in which we used to respond to one another or attempt to meet the other’s needs were based on assumptions, unrealistic expectations, or on communications made behind the security of a wall, not yet able to be fully vulnerable, maybe even to ourselves. This open honesty we have now is still challenged with old ways of thinking at times, forcing us to communicate and unlearn as we learn.
Recently, I’ve been ill. I came down with the worst case of step throat I’ve ever had; it’s the sickest I’ve been in years. My throat was a little sore on Sunday and my temperature began to rise in the evening, remaining very high all night long, despite taking meds. By Monday morning, I knew I needed to see the doc and I called off of work for the second time in 11 years – I’m just never this sick. M got the girls ready for school, then he headed to work and I went to the doc. Here’s the thing….I felt horrible. Every muscle and joint hurt, my throat hurt so badly I could barely speak or swallow, and the thought of driving and going to the doc made me want to cry….but I said nothing. I didn’t ask M for his help. I didn’t tell M I needed him.
After the doc, I called M like he’d asked me to, and told him I had a severe case of strep. He asked me to rest and said he’d check in with me later. Here’s the thing….I was feeling worse and worse and my fever just wouldn’t stay down very long. I didn’t want to drive to get my prescription, walk through the store, go home and get all my shit in order so I could rest….but I said nothing. I didn’t ask M for his help. I didn’t tell M I needed him. I picked up my meds, went home, and went right to bed, where I remained. All morning, my fever would go down for a short while, then spike very high and stay. I just couldn’t get it to go down.
After lunchtime, I hadn’t heard from M so I texted him, asking him to bring me some Tylenol, because the ibuprofen alone wasn’t working. I told him I was cold and just couldn’t manage the fever. He told me he’d bring it home and asked me to rest. Here’s the thing….I’d laid there for hours, miserable, unable to get the fever to go down, freezing and feeling too terrible to even get up…..but I didn’t specifically ask him for help right away. I didn’t tell him I needed him to come home, that I didn’t want to be alone. When he did arrive home from work later in the day, he brought me the Tylenol and checked on me. My fever was 103.7. I took some of the Tylenol and he left me to rest so he could take care of dinner and things with the girls, then try to fix the washer. E, my youngest, checked on me for a couple hours while he worked. When he’d finished, M came back to check on me and tell me he’d tabled the washer repair until I felt better. My temperature had finally gone down some, so I went downstairs to try to eat some soup, but it drained me and soon thereafter I needed to go back to bed. All day long, all I wanted was M, and I just wish I’d had the courage to tell him, so I finally decided to take a chance and ask for what I wanted – I asked M if he’d come tuck me in for a minute. He told me he’d just thought of one thing he didn’t try on the washer, that it wouldn’t take too long, and then he’d be up. I said okay, went to lie down, and cried.
Last night, M and I talked this all through. From his perspective, he’d just wanted to give me space and let me rest so I’d get better, which is precisely the outward impression I’d have given him in the past, but inside I’d be screaming for his care and presence and attention…..HOPING he’d just want to do all those things I needed and wanted from him on his own. Except, that’s what I did on this occasion too. I’d hoped or expected him to know and want to care for me in the ways I wanted and needed, without me telling him what I wanted or needed.
I’m still learning to ask for what I need when I need it, while unlearning all those ass backward ways of thinking that makes it feel weak or leaves me fearful of rejection, because I do need him, desperately. I don’t need things, or distance, or grand gestures. I just need M, his time and care, guidance and protection. M is still learning to recognize my needs at times, while unlearning all those ways I’d taught him I was strong enough not to need him, or didn’t tell him I needed to need him. We are adjusting and evolving and fine tuning, realistically and honestly. Learning and unlearning and relearning. Here’s the thing….all of those things are necessary growing pains.