Jeanine told me last night I have been so calm lately. Almost too calm. She’s never known me to be like this.
I said I’m not afraid anymore.
The global horror of child abuse is beyond her imagination. The personal reality across the table, excruciating.
I am calm. I keep pausing through the day, checking for the familiar panic in my chest. The adrenalin rush of anxiety. It’s not there.
On our way out to dinner, we started to argue in the car. Not anything serious but Jeanine said, I want to stop having this discussion. I poked at it two more times. She said, I want to stop. I mean it.
I’ve never been able to stop before. I had to hash it out, pull it apart, understand it and have a deep connection to the source of it. Because I was afraid. Of something. Afraid of losing Jeanine, afraid of not being good enough, afraid if I didn’t know every detail of why I would be sideswiped. Caught by surprise. My fear was universal.
I lived with panic inside me I did not understand but obeyed.
I know why I’ve been so afraid. Terrified. The boogey man is out of from under the bed. What once loomed large, shadowy and unknown is now real. A photograph of a broken man with desperate needs. He cannot hurt me anymore. I’m not afraid of him, or the tent or the tiny apartment. It will never happen again.
Jeanine said stop. I did. Finally. I was able to shift gears. Change topics. Smile. It was almost an out of body experience for me. I looked for the panic- still nowhere in sight.
We talked over dinner. A little about neighborhood drama de jour. I asked her if she had anything to say about what I had been writing lately. She did. Cautiously. Her response to the journal entry was very different than mine. She felt unappreciated. Misunderstood. She was and is a passionate person. She feels I’ve been trying to change her for a long time.
I said that made me sad.
And it did. Not because I haven’t appreciated her, or supported her passion, because I know I have. Over and over. I didn’t have to be right; I didn’t have to be good enough. I simply said it was sad. That’s a horrible way to feel in a marriage. And I meant it.
I didn’t try to make it better. No flailing, self-absorbed attempts at being understood. It wasn’t about me. It was about her. Her feelings. Her place.
I listened. Weapons down. Open heart. I simply listened.
We have to take a break from the fighting until after the holidays, she said. I agreed. It was not fair of me on Thanksgiving to ask for her to consider a separation. I know. I could not stand the fighting. I did a very old response to feeling backed into a corner. I was wrong.
She eyed me over the table. I know she doesn’t trust it when I say I was wrong.
Cease-fire until January, okay?
Do you really feel like it’s simply a truce? She asked.
I honestly don’t know. Doesn’t matter. The kids matter. It’s their time of year. We can wait. Might be good for us.
She agreed. Still suspicious. But she agreed.
Zachary told me this morning the countdown had begun- 24 more days until Christmas.
We are officially going to be good from now on, he said confidently.
Uh… really? Yesterday wasn’t so great.
But today is December 1st. Now it counts.
I raised an eyebrow. You think? Chasing your brother with a hockey stick yesterday doesn’t count?
Nope. Not gonna happen anymore.
And then he gave me a giant hug- very unlike Zachary, Mr. I’m My Own Guy- and went to pack his bag for school.
Is it a cease-fire or have we moved past another major hurdle? I don’t know. I know I’m going to be as thoughtful as I can in the next month. I’m going to focus on the kids, the celebration of family and friends. I am grateful to be alive and healthy.
A quiet calm has settled inside me, like the first snow of winter. A white blanket of cold covers old wounds, freezing them in place. In time, each one will need to be uncovered, held. But I can choose when and how to do the work.
I’m not afraid anymore.