The Detoxing Man is Capable (of love, of complexity, of listening)
My wife and I had a fight in the Cleveland airport just after visiting my home town for the first time in the winter of 2002. We had been together for only a few months at that point, and after the fight I thought the relationship was over. I was convinced that no relationship could withstand conflict because none of my relationships ever had. Somehow, she knew different.
She saw that what we were working on wasn’t an easy love, one that never made missteps or had bad days. Rather, it was a love that adapted and changed, one that grew to encompass more of ourselves rather than less. I became more capable in the moment after that fight because I understood that our love was not fragile. I could lean against it, depend upon it, and make more of it.
When my wife dedicated herself to nursing school after already having two of our three children, we were blind to just how much our world would change. We thought that after children, we could weather anything. But, as we put up the blackout curtains in the guest room to let her sleep during the day after her night rotations, it became clear that this was going to be a different season for all of us. The season asked that we shift our time, our responsibilities to one another and to the children, and the fundamental work of making our family run smoothly. She deeply invested in herself, in the new friends that she was making in Nursing school, and in the knowledge that she was capable of anything. During that season, I was more capable too. We became far more complex versions of ourselves, trying out new identities and telling new stories.
And yet, I feel as though I have only recently started to listen. Driving back from visiting my wife’s family in Kansas City this winter, there was a moment where we were talking about our health insurance. It is one of those mundane conversations about whether we should use a Health Savings Account or not. And as I argued against it because I didn’t like how administratively cumbersome it was, I realized that I was not listening to her. I was holding on to a notion of what I thought my role was supposed to be, unflinching and rigid in a “right and simple way of doing things.” And so I just stopped. I said I was sorry, and I finally heard her words, which made way more sense than did mine. In that moment I was capable of listening to something I had heard before, but never understood. I was capable of loving her, complexly, and listening to her, truly. Our family is better for this capability: A capability for growth.