Monday, December 3, 2012

"Side Street" Spouses

A long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time.  ~Anne Taylor Fleming 

“Her mind traveled crooked streets and aimless goat paths, arriving sometimes at profundity, other times at the revelations of a three-year-old." 
-Toni Morrison 

As I drove my overly-medicated self to the Dr.'s office last Thursday, I found myself taking back roads and side streets to get there. I chose this because I did not trust myself on the freeway. For some reason my meds decided to kick my ass that day and I was not feeling particularly alert or energetic enough to brave the Houston freeway. I felt lethargic all morning, my face had acquired the numbness of a cold winter's day (it was 78 degrees outside), and my head was swimming. All I had been able to do that morning was stare at the wall and zone out or sleep. 

So, of course, the responsible adult in me decided to take side streets half way across town. Which fortunately, in Houston, is quite easy to do. You really don't need to get on a freeway to get anywhere...except perhaps Humble...but I've never been out that far so I wouldn't know.  

As I drove through each stoplight and pothole (the main disadvantages of taking side streets in this town) I realized that I wouldn't know half of those roads were it not for my husband Lupe. He is notorious for taking side streets wherever we go, And I say "notorious" because HE does it at the most inconvenient times, like when we're in a rush to go see a movie. Or when we're already late to meet friends for dinner. He says it's because he's avoiding traffic and it's "faster." I used to argue with him about his "it's faster" defense, but I have found that I'm better off keeping my mouth shut and avoiding a raise in my blood pressure. Besides, it's better to get there late rather than never. 

Although, I am usually annoyed by his "side street" route taking, I found that I was uber thankful for this habit of his on Thursday. Because without him and his frustrating habit, I would not have made it to my Dr.'s appointment on my own.  

While at the doctor's office I thought about how the side streets we often forget to take are like the spouses/partners of those of us who live with chronic illness/pain. (Of course I think these things, I'm a writer) Those of us who are ill are the major freeway, always hustling and bustling. So much going on with pills, prescriptions, appointments, allergens, pain, progress etc. etc. Our spouses/partners (if they are good to us) take care of us, support us and love us despite it all. They celebrate our pain free days with us, and comfort us during our darkest nights. 

BUT, after all is said and done, what about them? We must not forget that they too have goals, dreams, heartache and hopes for their own future. That they too accomplish so much on an every day basis and it is our responsibility as a spouse/partner to celebrate those accomplishments in whatever way we can. We cannot risk losing our marriages/relationships because it all becomes about us all the time. 

For example, Lupe is an accomplished writer and a great teacher. On his best days he is getting published or being asked to read at a local University, or coffee shop. I do my best to celebrate these successes by attending the reading or baking his favorite dessert. If I don't have the energy to do either of those I send a simple congratulatory note on Facebook or via text. It's not much but he knows I'm listening and I care. 

On his worst days, he feels like a failed teacher or an incompetent writer and sulks by playing video games or fishing for compliments. So, I give him compliments, don't complain about the endless hours of Left for Dead game playing and again I bake something just for him. I give him hugs despite my self-proclaimed claustrophobia and strong aversion to hugs. (Because sometimes he squeezes too hard and my tender muscles ache and hurt when he does that) 

On his great days and horrible days I try to not bring up Scleroderma, or the side-effects or anything about me. I realize, during those times that the chronic illness freeway is closed and our marriage MUST take a detour on the side street of his life/his needs in order to survive. 

In my mind, I hear the GPS lady saying "recalculating...recalculating" and I know what I have to do.  

I change our usual route and head straight for the back roads and side streets,  and in the end I am always happy that I did. 


  1. Woman!!!! Its RED DEAD REDEMPTION!!! I don't sulk. I stand defeated. Get it right!!! HOUSEWIFE!!!!

  2. I love this!! great, powerful, touching read. thank you