This morning I sat in my car as tears streamed down my face; wending myself away from our home. Numb from the heartache and the profound disconnect between the goings-on of daily living and the sadness I feel about our lives right now. I reach for the volume and turn up Adele’s harrowing voice belting out “Hello.” Her ache relieves me from my own tired aching. I turn it up louder. There is a hollow heartbeat in the drumming of that song. It’s faint but steady. If you turn the sound up loud enough you can feel it gripping your own heart’s dependable rhythm and unburdening it from its post for barely a moment. I seize the moment. Latch on to it. My moment. And another. As I hit repeat again and again. Unencumbered from myself for a blissful moment.
“Hello from the other side … Hello from the outside … There’s such a difference between us … And a million miles … “
My car vibrates with the volume cranked up to the max. My heart has lost its own beat as I surrender to this song. Its music and Adele’s voice “… A million miles between us … Hello from the other side.” All I can say is, Yes. As I sing with her. Tears falling. It feels that there are a million miles between me and my husband. No one talks about this. The fighting that goes on when vulnerability and fear are at their apex. When sickness has saturated the very fabric of our beings and we know no other way of living anymore. It takes up space like an unwanted houseguest that just won’t leave.
“I’ve forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet …”
We both feel misunderstood. Unseen and un-held. All of this is greatly compounded by the fact that we have very different coping skills. He proceeds with life-as-normal at all costs. I fight the urge to be paralyzed by the pain. A sure-fire trigger from my childhood — living with the pain of sexual abuse but being expected to proceed with life-as-normal: “Do not let on to the abuse. You are not abused.” For me this is the mind-wrenching disconnect that I cannot employ. I did this already and I can’t pretend that life feels okay when it’s not.
Rob continues to ride his bike. He swims. This morning — after a seven-hour infusion yesterday — he woke hours after I did and greeted me in the kitchen with his workout clothes on. Singing. My jaw dropped and instead of being supportive I let vulnerability and fear get the better of me. I cried out, “You cannot get up to help with the kids?! I’m sick with this awful cold and was up all night … and you cannot get up?! But now you’re going to swim?!” And the shit, as they say, hit the fan. Because honestly it’s easier to fight about petty things than feel the real stuff. Fighting is the grand distractor.
Rob works long hours and takes on more cases. He proceeds at full-speed-ahead because doing so enables him to feel that he is okay despite his all-consuming pain. He gets to feel that he still has a say and is still calling the shots in life’s driver’s seat. If I sit back and really hold this in my heart and head, I know that if I had a spouse who fell crippled by his disease, I would in truth be terrified. I want him to fight and to be strong. But the other part is that I can’t explain how this completely messes with my mind. How can you be in so much pain that you can’t even work a zipper, and yet you can go for a swim? And even as I ask this question, with some space between us and some distance between our morning’s fighting, I deeply understand it too. I do. Just as he understands my confusion. He does.
It is the discrepancy between our coping styles that leaves me rattled and alone in my fear. Like I’m yelling out to him through bullet-proof glass, sobbing and calling out in anguished, muffled screams he cannot really hear. He can see me but he can’t reach through the glass to embrace me.
“Hello from the other side!” We have miles between us. “There is such a difference between us!” Our love acutely binds us and we are intertwined within the very framework of our life’s foundation. I have lived more years with him than without him. But the disconnect in our coping styles is leaving me winded. To me, we feel like fragments of ourselves as we trek along the same route but on different paths. Sometimes we intersect. Usually at the end of the day when we sit and reconnect. Careful not to unpack our backpacks completely. For fear we will alienate each other too much with our heavy burdens of misunderstood-ness. Like magnets that have inadvertently been flipped and keep repelling each other as they desperately try to connect. Like that.
“Hello from the outside … ” My heartbeat will resume its own rhythm. Even if it needs the distance to find its cadence once again. For now I’ll just blast Adele and hold on to hope. And love within the difference between us.