Do you want to know a secret?
Sometimes I don't know what my own brain is thinking.
(I know what you're thinking, but just hush. Let me at least pretend that was a secret.)
Most days when I go to write a post it's not because I have something to say, but because I need to know what I'm thinking. (And here you thought it was all for you.) I can't understand my own brain unless I write it out. I have all these thoughts and stories tumbling around in there and I know it's trying to tell me something important but dang if I know what it is, and so I tell myself, "I need to write." And (usually) by the end of the post, I go, "Oh. That's brilliant." And I can clearly see what it was I was trying to tell myself.
(I try to put heavy emphasis on the "brilliant" part, as it makes me feel marvelous.)
This morning I am walking around my house with my hair in a messy bun feeling a little lost. Walking from room to room but not seeing the breakfast dishes on the countertop or the unmade beds or the piles of hair ties and smeared toothpaste in the bathroom sinks, because I know I need to write and sort the mess in my head first. I tell you this to give you fair warning. The rest of this could be a bit sketchy. Then again, there is a very good chance it will be brilliant. (I don't know about you, but I suddenly feel marvelous.)
Last night David was looking at me across the pillow. I had my arms folded across my chest in lieu of words. I was making a point, see? He ignored my arms and sent me a message with his eyes and then I smiled, despite myself.
He said, "Do you know what I'm thinking? I was sending you a message."
I said of course and rolled my eyes because I always know what he is thinking and he should stop being surprised at that.
"What was I thinking?"
"That you wanted to kiss me."
He laughed because I was right of course.
I said, "First tell me about your day."
"And then we can kiss?"
And then he told me about his day. One of the worst in his career. And we talked for a couple of hours. As he talked I repented. Because he hadn't come home to dinner and a smile. And after a day like that, he deserved to.
As he was winding down, he said, "And then I came home and,"
I interrupted, "And there was no dinner on the table."
And he said, "I didn't need dinner. Just comfort."
That is what marriage is after all. Comfort in the wilderness.
Yesterday morning I was in the kitchen making Ethan's lunch. I drew a picture on his paper lunch sack. (Our little tradition, a stick-figure message for him in the middle of the day.) He looked at me and said, "I'm glad you're here, Mom."
I grinned at him and said thanks.
He said, "Dad could keep us alive, but I'm glad you're here."
I wasn't sure if I should feel happy or sad at that.
Last night after David had exhausted his story and rehearsed his sorrows I was quiet for a while. He turned out the lights and it was dark in our room. I said, "If our life was a musical I would sing you a song right here."
I sang the first verse of "Tomorrow" from Annie. Yes, I really did. And he didn't stop me, so I kept going.
"When I'm stuck with a day
I just stick out my chin,
I stopped then, fearing I had gone too far. He kissed me and said, "You didn't do the chorus."
We sang it together then. I'm not even kidding.
In the middle of the night, the house quiet and still except for our soulful tribute to "tomorrow," which would surely be better than today. We belted out the last line and even slowed down the last notes for a big, emotional finish. And then everything was quiet again, and the air was heavy and full like something important had just happened.
David thanked me for the serenade and we smiled at each other even though it was dark.
Both of us, I think, comforted.
And now, another not-so-secret secret. I've been struggling the last couple of months for purpose and place. And how to navigate my new world of long, quiet hours. Struggling to feel useful and joyful and necessary, to find meaningful work.
Perhaps I am here only for the comfort now. Perhaps it is as Ethan says, that they could all keep themselves alive but it's good I'm around anyway. For comfort. For stick-figures on brown paper bags. For serenades by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin in the middle of the night. For my ear and my heart, rather than my hands. For comfort in the strife.
And you know, it's not a bad job.