On this day of my second maternity leave with an infant and a toddler I had managed to make dinner. Between the screaming, the nursing, the wiping, the entertaining, the exhaustion, and the boo-boo kissing, with baby in sling I had skillfully juggled a baby, a toddler, and a kitchen knife the way only 2nd time mothers can do.
I felt like I actually had my act together and was so ready for my husband to walk through the door so that I could enjoy my perfectly-timed-between-feedings glass of beer, eat dinner, and have an adult conversation in 20 second bursts between child interruptions.
He walked through the door with the mail and gave me a kiss like he always does. And then he opened an envelope and started cursing. What?! We had been billed for taxes based on the assessed value of our lot and not the value of our lot AND new home so, SURPRISE!, we owed them (whomever they are) a few thousand more dollars.
I'm not sure my husband had all of this figured out in this moment, but he was irate and confused about the surprise bill and stormed off into another room to call the mortgage company, "I'll be right back, I have to figure this out."
This was not how I'd imagined our evening. My heart sank as quickly as it had risen when he walked through the door. I stood there, paused, with my boppy around my waist, a baby strapped to my body, getting ready to sink into the dinner chair at the set table to simultaneously nurse the baby and feed myself.
In a last ditch, and desperate effort to calm him down I said, "I don't think you're going to get a hold of anybody after 5. Why don't we just worry about it tomorrow?"
I ate dinner alone while he attempted to handle the situation. Nope. I take that back. Alone would have been better. I ate dinner juggling with no chance of extroverting. I was fuming.
Blame. It's the easiest route to take in this moment.
He's ruining my evening, right?
If HE would just calm down...I could have a nice evening!
And then the superiority kicked in and I wanted to teach him a lesson: "No amount of anger will change this situation by tomorrow, there's no point in feeling this way," which is basically saying, "You shouldn't feel the way you're feeling," >> a guaranteed fight starter.
In this moment I realized my happiness depended on his behavior: If he would just behave another way then I could feel better.
Years before I had committed to getting off the emotional roller-coaster that you ride when your happiness depends on another's behavior...or anything outside of yourself for that matter.
I had decided to take radical responsibility for my own happiness.
The seething desire to blame and teach him a lesson didn't mean I needed to lash out on him, it meant I was making him my problem and solution.
In this moment, I must admit, really letting someone have it can feel SO GOOD. It's just that I was clear that except for the tea-kettle-like release of tension it didn't ever get me more of what I needed .
So, what did I need?
Ugh, I needed a calm evening. I needed intellectual stimulation.
How could I give that to myself?
By the time my husband came out of the back bedroom I had cleared most of the table and surely and calmly began strapping my 2-month-old in his car seat (I skipped the beer, people).
Super surprised, he said, "Where are you going?"
I smiled gently, "I need to go for a while."
He, a little panicked, tried to explain, "But I'm not mad at you, I...."
I tried to be clear that my leaving wasn't about teaching him a lesson, "I know you're not mad at me. You have every right to feel the way you're feeling. I just need something else tonight. I'll be back in a little bit."
^^I statements out the wazoo.^^
I made room for both. It didn't have to be my way, and it didn't have to be his way. I made room for both.
I clicked the wide-eyed baby into the car and hit the nearest drive-thru ice cream place. I popped in my newest book on CD and drove on country roads for over an hour. I think we may have even hit up Target after he woke from his evening nap.
What about my husband? He had time to feel the way he needed to feel. By the time my son and I got home he had already put our oldest to bed, was folding laundry (one of his chores) and greeted us with a smile. He hadn't made any progress in finding a solution to the problem, but his feelings had naturally subsided.
He got to have the feelings he needed and I got to have mine.
And THIS is what I spent years being reluctant to believe: when I honor my feelings everyone wins.
And as I'm typing this I can hear your objections. What are they? What if you were your only problem, project, & solution? How does this make you feel? Angry? Free? Empowered? Irritated? All of the above?
Really, what are you thinking?
P.S. Feeling like you've lost the spark and aren't sure how to get back on track? I created a 1-hour(ish) online Training for Busy Couples. It's a love offering from me to you at a fraction of the price of my hourly rates. CLICK HERE to learn more. Emily (an AWESOME yoga instructor in St. Louis) attended the training and here's what she had to say: