I am still suffering under a nasty cold that I've had for over a month, but that is not a story anyone would care to hear. More interesting is my husband, the enigma—my "handsome oppressor" and a first-rate goofball. I could go on in this way trying to describe with contradictory words (for example, both principled and devious) the kinds of adjectives he brings to mind. But no.
All I wanted for lunch was chicken broth soup. He wanted Mexican. But since tortilla soup was not even going to cut it, we headed to a favorite restaurant—a comfort-food place with a bustling lunch crowd. However, they were only serving clam chowder. We moved onto a second, yet more bustling restaurant: they were also serving clam chowder and something called beer-cheese soup. Yuck? So we moved onto a third, and completely empty, restaurant that did happen to be serving a chicken-broth based soup. We sat down and ordered.
And yes, my husband did give up on the Mexican food idea for me, and yes, that is also what is it like to be married to my husband, but no that's not what I'm writing about either. About half way through our meal Charles looked up and said, "Wow, this place has gotten busy!" Indeed it had, all the booths were filled. He then said this classic Charles thing: "We probably helped to pick-up the business by coming in!" (I'm not sure he used the word probably.)
So: we do things and they have a direct and immediate positive influence on others. This is what is like to be married to my husband, because he is always saying things—and doing things—in this way. Comments like this used to ricochet around me in their incomprehensibility: either this man was horribly pompous or merely ridiculous. I couldn't tell which. Or both? Inside my more comprehensible universe, if a restaurant crowd picked-up around one o'clock in the afternoon it was because that happened to be when people were hungry, not because we were seen eating there.
Here is a little story to sum up this difference:
A miserable-looking gent is sitting on the side of the road with a sign that reads help me. I walk by. I look at the man and wonder: is this is a man I should help? I consider my realm of influence; I try to gauge how much time and effort I have to give vis-a-vis how much he will need. Ultimately I decide to help (for the record, more often than not I'd probably just continue on my way). I sit down beside him and ask about his problem. I try to empathize. I try not to offer solutions but to hear him out. I begin to feel a little down myself, because his problems seem insurmountable. But I'm there and I can listen. I eventually excuse myself and tell him I will pray for him and will be by to check on him tomorrow. This all takes at least an hour.
A miserable-looking gent is sitting on the side of the road with a sign that reads help me. Charles walks by. He stops and says hello and engages in some light conversation. He reaches a hand down and helps the guy to his feet. He walks with him to the corner and points him in the direction of a coffee shop. Then he reaches into his pocket and gives the man a twenty and a comradely pat on the back. He goes about his day. This all takes at most ten minutes.
I used to think I was totally in the right, right? Obviously. But it's been eight years of arguing with Charles and blinking in disbelief. Lord God, it hasn't been easy to see things from his perspective, but I think I am finally getting it. I'll take that twenty, thank you.