This was a mistake.
Standing in the busy store.
Watching the signs.
I realize this was a mistake.
Skin flushing, damp.
He runs his hand across his face commenting on the heat.
In my sweater I know that modulation is the issue, his body unable to regulate temperature.
A distant look in glassy eyes, there is thought of escape. Overwhelmed and over sensitized he is uncomfortable. Agitation unsuccessfully masked on familiar features.
My own body becomes hyper aware of the shift. Listening as his breath quickens, becoming shallow. Where there should be casual process there is struggle. Chest moving in an unsteady rhythm.
His head tilts side to side, self soothing. Trying to overcome the burning that is slowly lodging itself in his core.
He knows too.
We should have gone home.
We should leave before his body fails him. I pause to consider my words, consider suggesting I come back on my own. It’s not a problem. I’m happy to do it. For love and reason and logic let me help but I realize that will feel critical. The place where concern would be welcome is gone. Without seeing it go I know that it will not be back today.
The line moves slowly, we are still waiting.
I stand calculating the minutes it will take to leave the space, willing myself to relax. Reaction is no help. Compassion, find compassion and remember.
Next to me I hear an angry sigh.
The expected language mumbled under his breath as the interaction between customer and clerk is prolonged.
I shift my weight to run my hand down his back. Feeling the tension.
Moving closer I can smell the slightly bitter scent that I have come to accept, fear, despise?
We have stayed too long. This is taking too long. I struggle to let go of the defeat I want to wrap myself in knowing what will come next.
Agitation expands to anger as adrenaline begins to choke.
Heightened senses. Heightened emotion. Swollen muscle still expanding, panting in breath. I notice the dampness of his shirt, I stare as the dark V spreads and am quiet. Experience has taught that communication is not support. Support is not welcome. Move through the line. Move out of the store. Take the steps to home, into the quiet and safety he will accept. Understand. Remember.
Eyes closed he struggles with control. I know his system is overwhelmed. His stomach is ill, he may need a bathroom. I glance around, looking for options.
He hates me right now. He hates me because he needs me. He hates me for my healthy body. Quiet logic and rational concern. He hates me for every small annoyance that is magnetized and multiplied by the imbalance of hormones crushing his independence and self-control.
I take a breath, body loose, face passive. Kindness is not welcome. Tenderness too much to accept in battle.
And it begins.
Like a script that I would happily burn, the onslaught of words grasping for control. The cry for compassion. The demand for ignorance.
My husband forgets himself. The kind, loving and supportive man I have known since childhood forgets his character and in the face of his struggle froths a bitter, ugly heart.
A tired heart.
The line around us grows uncomfortable as we reach the register. Watching in confusion as he throws items from basket to counter, from counter to basket. Aggressively stating his case.
What I am. What I should be. What is wrong. What should be different.
He uses words I have become hardened to.
Words that cut me to bleeding the first time I heard them.
The first time was not all that long ago.
He takes my space. A form of aggression and disrespect. I know that is his limit, he will break himself finding that boundary. He has and it broke my heart. I also know that behind the aggression there is need. He’s pressing in. Feeling himself spinning he needs my will. My reassurance. My stability.
In that there is a humbling trust.
He needs me to know.
He needs me to see it’s beyond his grasp to stop. He wants me to help him stop.
He hates that he needs me. He holds onto his behavior like a lifeline resenting the lack of control, twisting his need into my expectations and resetting the conversation again.
Management is paying attention.
An angry man. A large man. An unpredictable man. I’m not uncomfortable with the intrusion. I understand.
Another customer catches my eye. Unhappy. Disturbed. Not understanding my measured calm and quiet replies in the midst of a pressured storm. Well worn responses countering expected outbursts. My confidence is out of place. My steady reassurances an odd response to the vile words being thrown like weapons.
No one watching the belligerent face of my attacker would guess he’s a poet, gifted in life. No one would guess that he has loved me well for twenty-five years. That he loves his children. That our life, on a normal day is sweet.
I smile my appreciation to the would be saviors and quietly shake my head.
I am okay. There is no danger. My heart is equipped. In the aftermath I will struggle. Staring at myself in the mirror, accessing the words. Weighing and judging myself, perhaps to harshly but in the moment this isn’t beyond me. I will not bruise and bleed. I am not the victim of this exchange.
Something is wrong. It’s hard to miss but without experience it’s hard to see.
Occasionally there is in the crowd a look of compassion. A fellow warrior. Another wailing wall for a loved one’s confusion and pain. But today there is just us. In a busy store. With a cart full of groceries and the discomfort of a public scene.
The shaking heads of judgment.
Judging his actions. Judging mine.
Men want to intervene. Impose control where they see a lack of control. Women look away. Uncomfortable. Sometimes anxious in the face of masculine rage. Often disgust settling on their faces.
I am weak. Permissive. Trapped.
The assumption is a boulder thrown into the privacy of our labor. That there will be violence. That I am appeasing as we dance through finishing our chore.
I don’t resent it. It is logic. A logical response in a logical world to an illogical situation.
Here is what I have learned.
Disease has no logic.
It has no compassion. It considers no feelings. The right or wrong of behavior.
It is simply burdensome.
Taking prisoners without concern.
What the world doesn’t see in the awkward raging of a powerful man is the fear and pain that come with loss of control. Blood sugar crashing. His body shutting down, they overlook the shaking of his limbs as anger. The grey around his lips well disguised by his words.
They don’t recognize the embarrassment of loosing motor function as he begins to slur his words. They will not witness the grief that will come when he relives in humiliation his uncharacteristic actions.
He is a man who has chosen kindness.
Disease is unkind.
Removing inhibition and logic it reverts him to a less chosen state.
Replacing a hard won voice with words from the past. From a childhood that left him for less.
His conversation in these moments a compulsive recital of long held wounds.
I am not the cause. I am not the voice. I hate the voice. I love him.
I love him and I can’t help him. I can’t help him and I hate that.
I hate his disease. I understand his disease.
Diagnosis is a tyrant, a mistress. Taking minutes and affection unjustly claimed.
It twists his commitments and pillages his energy. Wielding pain and grief.
Destroying a marriage. Stripping it naked and leaving it bare and exposed.
Only in rooted strength does relationship survive but it is forever changed.
I am committed in life with two men.
One capable, kind and generous. A well spoken giant with strength of character and a clearly focused mind.
One petty and resentful. Counting the cost and delighting in my pain. Shifting the blame of confused choices and simple mistakes in his own embarrassment. No sense of responsibility. Accountability an unaccepted word.
I choose to love both.
Not to live in fear, or be made small by my choice but to fight.
For my husband. For my friend. For the hope of the life that we are creating and a future lived with less pain, more kindness and an abundance of joy.