Monday, November 10, 2014

Better Today

Last night I was sitting on the couch, watching TV and surfing the web.  My Wife was telling me a story or asking me a question and I responded with an answer of “OK”.  I am not even sure what she said or why I thought saying OK was an appropriate response.  When she pointed out that I could not have listening because my response made no sense I immediately went on the defensive.  She retreated to the bedroom and went to sleep while I remained glued to my computer and in the opposite room.

As I sat there alone I tried to go through what she might have asked or said and why I would have responded with OK.  I racked my brain and could not figure out what had just happened.  I am sure every guy has been in the situation before, I know this was certainly not the first time I had done something like this.

A little background, my Wife and I have been together for 21 years and married 19, we have 2 kids(18 and 14) and stay pretty busy with both work and taking care of the family matters.  While I am a bit older we both married pretty young and had our first child 4 days after our 1 year anniversary.  This left us little time to really grow together as a couple as we were almost immediately submersed in parenthood and all that it entails.

But I digress, so there I was, still sitting in my spot on the couch trying for the life of me to figure out what she said so that I can somehow justify my completely appropriate response.  Then it occurred to me that I am looking at this all wrong.  Instead of questioning why I was not listening in the first place I am spending time trying to validate my response. 

I just dismissed the most important person in my life without regard.  When did I become that guy?  What steps along the way lead me down this path?  I used to be the sensitive guy that could stay up all night listening to her fears and triumphs and share in her joys and sorrows.  I used to be a romantic, hell I once surprised her by picking her up in a limo with her bags packed and we were whisked away to a bed and breakfast for an evening away from the kids.  Now a romantic evening out is dinner at a crappy chain restaurant and then back home where we sit on opposite ends of our sectional couch and play on our tablets/computers while the TV plays back recordings of missed sitcoms.  WTF!

Sure we share a lot of fun together.  We both enjoy going to football and basketball games.  A night out with friends while watching a game is fun as well.  However, have I missed an opportunity to connect deeper with someone that has meant so much to me over the past 20 years because I have been inattentive?  We have often talked about how much we love each other and I don’t question that for even a second.  I know without question that I love her with all my being.  So how is it possible that a person I care about so deeply can be so easily dismissed?  Well if I knew the answer to that it would not be 3AM and I would be sound asleep.  Instead I sitting here alone still trying to not only understand how I got here but how I find my way back to where I was.

Soon our kids will both be gone and we will be alone together more often than not.  What will we do together without the kids as a buffer? What will we talk about?  It’s easy to assume that we will talk about our day at work or what the latest headline is.  Small talk like that is engaging for a period of time but what then?  We used to talk about deeper issues, what drives us, subjects that were real and emotional not water cooler talk.

When I had this epiphany my knee jerk reaction was to immediately go wake her up and apologize.  I have apologized before, it’s not that hard, right?  Then I wanted to write down what I was thinking so that I could make sure I got it right.  As it turns out, not much to make note of.  “Hey honey, sorry I was being a complete asshole by not listening to you, blah blah blah”.  Really?  Not worth the words written much less spoken if I am not really examining why I ignored her in the first place.  So I started writing this post because somehow this is way better.  Maybe because it’s late, speaking to an imagined audience is an easy way to convey my message to her while remaining somewhat detached from the speaker so I can still be objective.  I am beginning to ramble so I will get to the point so I can get some sleep.

I love my Wife with all my heart and soul and because I love her I am going to make a concerted effort to understand how I got here and find my way back.  I don’t think I am naive enough to believe this will be easy as it has taken me 20 years to become an asshole.  My goal is to be better today, hmm, that's got a nice ring.  Of course now comes the hard part.  Where do I start?  How do I put my thoughts tonight into real measurable actions tomorrow so that I can be “better today”.  I know one thing, I won’t ask her, I believe there may be word count limit to a singular blog post.  Haha.  Wait, does that count as insensitive?  Dammit, did I mention that lack self awareness also.

Perhaps a simple list to start. 

  1. 1     Start Listening, seems simple enough right?  Not really, when I say listen I mean truly engage in the conversation.  Put away the distractions and make sure she knows that what she has to say is important to me.

This is harder than I thought, I seem to be stuck on #1 since that’s what this was all about.  Got it…
  1. 2.    Stop trying to lead the conversation.  WTF does that mean?  I know, like most men, when she begins to tell me a story my immediate reaction is to figure out how to dissect it, begin breaking it down and then guide her to a point where I can offer a resolution.  I have no idea how to stop doing this yet because I do this for a living as well, solving problems that is.  So guiding people to a point in a conversation where there is a defined issue, solution with a measurable outcome and steps to monitor progress is part of who I am.

  1. 3.     This is an extension of #2 but I need to stop playing devil’s advocate.  If she is just venting then I don’t think she really cares what the other persons perspective is and certainly does not need me to suggest that her logic could be very well be flawed.

  1. 4.     Don’t be critical.  Just because I break down everything I do into their smallest possible parts looking for the flaws and then consider how it could have been more effective had I done something different does not mean anyone else enjoys this.  Without question I am very critical of myself and I consider this healthy and only serves to improve myself.  If you are reading this post then you are probably catching the irony at about the same point in this post that I just did just now.

  1. 5.     Avoid assumptions.  The reality is that we have been married for a long time and I know that it’s easy to be listening to a story and begin to make assumptions where it’s going based on prior experience.  Because our brains are wired to process data faster than we can verbalize it I believe we space out a bit once we have determined were we believe this conversation is going.  Now instead of listening to the whole story I am already working on my response.  Got to fix that somehow.

Phew, 5 things was harder to come up with than I would have thought.  I think this is a good start and I don’t expect to wake up tomorrow morning after what will now amount to 2.5 hours of sleep.  I am a living breathing creature full of flaws and this list is organic as it should be.  I would expect some improvement and regression over time.  My goal each morning is to be “Better Today” and will be my mantra moving forward.  The realist in me knows that it will not always be attainable but as long as I am making sure she knows I love her and I do care then I figure there is no down side to this effort.

Love you always darling and know that I while I don’t always say it in words or actions my heart still flutters when I think about how much you mean to me.

It’s late and I am not proofreading shit tonight.  I am also aware that this post has nothing to do with physical health but it is completely possible that by improving our emotional well being I may parley that into some physical improvements.  Mind and Body, right?  Time for sleep.