It's hard to be a good wife.
Especially when you don't always know what that means. When you practice selflessness and not being a nag and you try and remember to rub his feet more often than you'd like to, and you work on first and foremost being aware of his needs, and their needs, and the needs of what seems like the whole entire world so many days.
And then you have an argument about who should drive which car and you feel for a while like you've been had, like you're the only one on the whole planet looking out for you, for them, for what seems like the entire world, and it's. all. up. to. you. to do it all.
So you get fired up and it rises within you because somewhere inside you're afraid that what it really means to be a good wife is to always be pleasing and agreeable, even when he's wrong, even when he's dead wrong, because that concept makes your ears ring like they did another lifetime ago when your head was being smacked into walls by a different husband. And even though the memories are distant, the gripping anger rises up inside when you get afraid, because your value as a woman is attached somewhere in the folds of these words about gas mileage and seatbelts and who ought to make the decisions here, and you think, fists clenched, I just have to put my foot down. If no one else is going to look out for me, I'll have to look out for myself.
You're not afraid because he made you that way but because it's scary how fights can always seem like the end of things to a girl too used to getting left…how the brain can flesh out the disastrous destruction of this whole big life anytime the paint gets scratched, when the fading color starts to show.
And you stew and you steam and when it's time for bed, you stay awake awhile because you're still fuming mad, because nothing was resolved, because he's snoring with the Olympics on full volume and you hate the Olympics and you hate snoring and you aren't even sure how to verbalize what this is all really about, whenever you decide to speak to each other again.
So you breathe a lot and you think about perspective and grace and the benefit of the doubt. You remember that you're on the same team, even when it doesn't feel like it. You do what it takes to stop having the same conversation over and over again in your head, the one where you tell him off, where you really let him have it, where your words are so enlightening that he suddenly just gets it and agrees with you and everything is happy and wonderful again.
Instead you study the state of your heart, you figure out where all this is coming from. You remember that he was up before the sun today to take a side job for extra money because the family needed it, and he's sleeping because he's dead tired from lifting bags of concrete all day, on his day off. You remember how your legs looked all tangled together while you chit-chatted only yesterday and recalled together all the wonderful things about life these days. You remember the babies you made together and how he kisses them on the forehead and nicknames them and sees straight into them the same way you do. You remember how happy your whole wide life is this season and how a few short hours ago, you were praising God for this marriage, for this man.
And you see from behind your fear that this really is just about gas mileage and surface semantics and not about control or power or upper hands. You remember that this is the man who has sat in hospitals and held your hand, not the one who put you in there. You realize that respect can sometimes just look like taking a different vantage point, stepping over the divide and into their court, even when his logic isn't clear to you.
So you sit in the dark for a few minutes and listen to the clock on the wall, how it reminds you of this fleeting life, of all that's not worth hanging on to. You graze all the sleeping babies' sweaty foreheads with your chapped lips and smell their hair and whisper goodnight. You tiptoe to the bedroom and wriggle the throw pillows out from under his arms, the ones he's all wrapped up on, the ones you made for your marriage bed that say "Mr." and "Mrs." on them.
And even though he won't hear you through his slumber, you whisper I'm Sorry and I Love You and you trace his wedding ring round and round because rings are so very fitting an icon for what marriage is really…round and round, swirl and roll and circle 'round each other. And sometimes it's a whirlpool of turmoil, but sometimes it's a band of strength or a halo of sacredness or a wreath of celebration or sometimes a belt, round and round, just holding this all together.