Commitment & Gratitude

Last night, Carol and I talked about our wedding rings while in bed. Of course, she didn’t have hers on again.

“You need to remind me when I have my purse on me! That’s where I put them when I take them off.”

She only plays volleyball one evening a week. She can take them off before and put them back on later. I told her she can at least where her wedding band at work.

This second “wear your damn rings” discussion was much lighter in tone but I could feel the angry beast in me, just below the surface. That nasty, confident, controlling, strong, heartless bastard side of me has been given a name since I started this blog. I call him Joe. Assigning it a name has made me far more aware of when I’m at risk of shutting down and being cold toward Carol.

I kept my inner Joe at bay by steering the conversation from “wear your damn rings” to the physical appearance of our wedding bands.

“Could we have gotten plainer wedding bands than these?” I asked.

“Yeah, they’re pretty basic. We should get new ones,” said Carol.

That threw me off. Committed enough to invest in some new wedding bands? These kinds of statements are still so jarring. I probably doubt her level of commitment because I’m so in doubt of mine.

Last week, Carol told me she had two things to tell me.

Firstly, her counsellor said Carol doesn’t need to see her anymore. I was taken aback. All I could see was Carol slipping into old patterns after being away from counselling for a while.

“So, you forgive yourself then?” I asked. If the answer was already ‘yes’, we were going to have a problem here.

“No, but she believes I’m on my way to forgiving myself.”

Good answer.

“She said I’ve been giving her all the right answers to her questions and that she can still see me in the future if needed,” Carol added.

“What do you think about that?”

“It makes me a little nervous and I told her I’m not quite ready to stop going yet. She said it’s okay that I see her a little bit longer.”

I thought that was a good answer too. She’s been going through a downward spiral over the last 6-7 years. She mostly hid her beast too but every once in a while, she’d lash out at me. Over time, she treated me worse and worse with each lash out, peaking with the Incident. I could picture her starting the descent again over time, and one day I’d discover her doing God knows what with God knows who, all because I had a surgery or didn’t fold the laundry properly.

“The second thing I have to tell you, remember last weekend when you told the kids that you’d all be cleaning because I’d be cooking the dinner?”

“Yes…” I had remembered this because I made it a point to give the kids a speech about it and because of that, it was in my mind enough to mention it in my blog following that weekend. If it weren’t for the blog, that little moment would probably already be lost in time.

“Well, I told my counsellor about it and she asked if I thanked you, but I couldn’t remember if I did. So, thank you. I really appreciate it.”

“You don’t have to thank me,” I said, “it’s what I do. It’s part of being a family.”

“I don’t know if you did things like that before and I just didn’t notice, or-”

“I did. Maybe not as much? I don’t know, I don’t really notice because it’s just a part of life. It’s normal, no need for ‘thanks’.”

Signs of the dark cloud that covered her life here. What did she think I was doing? I have fought hard since my diagnosis to be a productive, helpful part of the family. Was she blind to it all? Yes, I still had problems. Issues connected to trying to cope with her outbursts and distancing, but I never stopped being a helpful husband who made it clear that parenting, cleaning, cooking, and maintenance are shared responsibilities. There are chores that each of us seem to gravitate more towards but very few chores are exclusive to either of us, aside from a few things.

I used to joke with Carol about a chore-related incident after one of the babies was born. I can’t remember if it was after Sam or Sarah. One day, Carol went to the kitchen to clean and sterilize all the baby’s bottles. She came back from the kitchen a few moments later.

“Huh, I was going to clean the bottles but it turns out I already did that last night,” Carol said, puzzled.

“Carol, I cleaned the bottles,” I said. “Wait, do you think you do all the housework and forget about it while I just sit around doing nothing?” I laughed.

I was joking with her but maybe there was some truth to that.

So, is there a point to my post other than reminding myself of a few things that Carol said lately? Maybe.

It’s clear that she took me for granted and had a distorted idea of who I was and what I was doing over the years, whether it be her own short memory, Rick’s influence, or a combination of the two. She is now making an effort to notice my contributions to the household. Do I have to make sure she notices? Does she pay any attention when I show gratitude for what she does around the house? Do I show enough gratitude? Things to think about and pay some attention to.

She is also making statements of commitment. It’s good for me to notice these. Maybe one day I’ll even start to believe them.

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