My husband was sick this week. I mean, the kind of sick that took him completely out of commission for at least three days. Head pounding. Throat so swollen it looked like he has a double chin. When he wasn't in bed I found him wrapped in a blanket and laying by the fire to "get warm." (Think sad, raspy whisper.)
His chain-saw like snoring and general germ fest sent me to the guest room in search of a good night's sleep. He finally found some leftover pain meds from a recent root canal that "took the edge off" a bit. (Kinda like that drug they gave me while I was in labor. Edge, what edge?? I was falling off the cliff!)
When I told another guy that Scott was down for the count he said, "Oh, mate -- he's got man flu!" (The guy's British. Everything sounds believable when delivered with a British accent.) I rolled my eyes. Say what?? Yeah, the guy says this is a real thing. Men get hit harder than women. Reeeeaaaaallly.....? Insert another eye roll.
Anyway, you get the idea. Unkempt, unshaven, unavailable. Generally S.I.C.K.
I have two choices as to how to respond to such drama. (I know, I know...he is legitimately sick.)
I can either:
A. Leave him to his own devices and say, "Bummer, dude. Catch you on the flip side. And please don't slide within a 3 foot radius." or....
B. Enter in and take care of his pitiful, I mean, very sick little self.
Listen, we have four kids in three schools with no bus system. Shuttling their hineys back and forth to school is practically a full-time job. Not to mention, a couple of those children apparently need me attached to their hip every afternoon as they plod through homework, "Mom, can you puh-leeeze help me with this???" (I should just record my answer, "Have you read the directions?? That's a grrreeeaaat place to start." I smile. They sigh.) And let's face it, that laundry isn't washing itself. Email, text, voicemail, groceries. Blah. Blah. Blah.
No, taking care of a sick husband is not on my preferred "to-do" list. Or is it....?
I just finished a novel called What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. The gist is this... Alice Love hits her head at the gym one day and passes out. When she "comes to" she thinks she is 29-years-old, madly in love with her husband and pregnant with her first child. Imagine her surprise when she finds out she has lost 10 years of memory. (Channel "Days of Our Lives" amnesia plot.) She is, in fact 39, has three children, and smack in the middle of a nasty divorce. With a decade of memories gone, she has to piece together what has happened and figure out who she has become.
Unfortunately, her sweet, innocent, wide-eyed 29-year-old self is none to impressed with what appears to be her bitter, stressed-out, uber-busy 39-year-old self. WHAT HAS HAPPENED?? She wonders. I'll try not to spoil a perfectly lovely read (I'd definitely recommend it!), but the answer isn't as much soap opera hyperbole as it is just plain LIFE.
Alice and her husband are experiencing what is, unfortunately, the reality for SO MANY of us in the middle years of marriage and parenting. Too many demands, not enough time. Neglect, busyness and general self-centeredness have taken over to the point that it is destroying their marriage. No one person is entirely at fault. It is two-sided at nearly every turn. And unfortunately, the kids are also a mess. The stress has affected the entire crew.
You can't help but read this book and find bits and pieces (if not more) that hit way too close to home. I found myself rooting for the 29-year-old Alice to prevail and get her husband back. I wanted to see her ditch her new boyfriend and work towards repairing her marriage and family.
And then I wondered, "Have I become like her in any way??"
Scott and I are approaching our TWENTIETH (WHAT?!?!) wedding anniversary. I seriously CANNOT even believe it. I'd like to think we are more in love now than we were twenty years ago. At the end of the day, I believe that is absolutely true!!! But it is only and entirely because we REFUSE to let the craziness of life swallow us whole. That -- and we believe God's light can reach even the darkest situations.
Truth be told, I am the chief offender of letting life completely stress me out. The change of seasons (which happens often in Colorado and at this stage of parenting) generally cause enough anxiety for me that Scott and I could just press "play" on a conversation that might as well be on repeat. Every few months or so, I look at my calendar which seems to be like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors begging, "Feed me, Megan!"
And so I feed it.
I say yes to things I should probably say no to because I feel guilty if I don't. Somehow "busyness" is worn like some twisted badge of honor in our culture. Apparently, in America, we think that siestas are for sissies. BUNK, I tell you! But do I take them???? Not that often. WHY?? Because, who would I be if I just rested every once in a while? Honestly. It's ridiculous.
Perhaps getting sick is one of the best things that can happen to you. Not because feeling like "death warmed over" is fun, but because sickness is our body's way of saying -- STOP IT ALREADY! You are going too hard, too fast, for too long. You need to take a break and reset this crazy train.
I have the most adorable friend who told me she bought an actual STOP sign to put up in her kitchen to remind herself to slow down. When she feels her jaw clenching and her shoulders tightening she knows it's time to pull out the sign and take a break. She even leaves a basket of magazines near the stop sign so she can grab one, sit down and take a twenty minute brain break. She says having things like: puzzles, mosaic tiles (gotta look into those!), or adult coloring books around make for easy, practical ways to SLOW DOWN and unplug if even for a minute. (NO -- trolling the internet does not count.)
Genius!! I told her I loved that idea and maybe I should do that too. (Click here for a fun grown-up coloring book!)
Recently, I was reading the story of Adam and Eve and the Lord impressed something on my heart. He said, "Megan -- YOU are Eve. I have designed you as a helpmate for your husband and family. You complete him (and them) in so many ways. You also carry a high amount of influence. I designed it this way. The question is -- are you using your influence for evil or good?"
The word "evil" sounds rather melodramatic, but this thought really hit me. As a wife and Mom, I am generally the "Chief Mood Officer" over my home. I am the puppet master. If I dip, they dip. If I'm joyful, they, well.... they are more likely to be joyful. Not fool proof of course, but definitely leads to a higher probability of receiving the result you're looking for!
Often times the "fruit" this world offers (success, clout, accolades, popularity, etc.) looks delicious and tempting, but is it wise?? Is chasing after this fruit what is BEST for me and my family??
The decisions I make today -- what I say yes to and what I say no to -- have a direct impact on the health of my marriage and family. Twenty years ago, I promised before God and a couple hundred witnesses that I would love and honor Scott for better or for worse, in sickness and in health...'til death do us part.
I don't want life between now and 'til death do us part (hopefully many years from now) to be full of stress and disconnect. Stress will come. No doubt about it, I just don't want to be the woman who ushers it in....
PS -- When I asked Scott if I could blog about him being sick, he said, "I really don't care what you do. I'm too sick to care about anything right now." Man -- I should have asked for more....
** Have you felt the stresses of life creep in and affect your marriage or family life? If so, how have you dealt with them? If they've gotten to an all-time high, what support systems do you have in place to counteract the stress and disconnect and get back on track...? In other words -- how do you rekindle the essence of your 29-year-old self without sacrificing the wisdom of your current "more seasoned" self??
I feel the stress of life affect my marriage when my husband actually wants to give me a hug and a kiss goodbye in the morning and I am so dialed into the buzzing of the day that the PDA seems like a waste of time! That's when I know I have blazed right past meaning into the zombie world of git-'er-done transaction only. Oh! I am so sorry that this happens but you're thoughts help me feel normal, Megan. I am thankful we have a place to look at something for what it is, what it has become and then to put a stop sign in front of it. I am excited about the challenge of infusing joy into my home and slowing things down a bit. Women really do posses that powerful ability to set the tone. Gotta run...I'm off to take a Purell shower after hearing about the germ incubation in the Nilsen household.
I am unequivocally the world's worst wife when it comes to sickness. I am all about ME and not wanting to get sick myself, so I almost get mad when other's get sick and cough and sneeze anywhere in a 6 foot radius of me. I will hold my breath if I walk past them in the hallway. I will rub Thieves Oil on any breathing life form or intimate object. Don't get me wrong, I am uber compassionate for the hurting and sick . . . until there is a germ in the same room as myself. Needless to say, I know what kind of wife I am in the middle of sickness. Terrible! As for the rest, I'm trying to figure a lot of that out. Am I a help mate? Sometimes yes an sometimes no. I feel like when I am just a person and not a wife and mother, (so basically when I am on vacation with just my husband) I am pretty fun and light-hearted. But throw in all the stresses of life, mothering, and wifering and I've got a LONG way to go. So, no advice here, but I do have some extra Thieves Oil, I can set out on your driveway tomorrow.