I hate it when Larry is angry with me. I hate it because Larry is slow to anger, so if he gets angry with me I know I’ve really crossed the line.
Today, I clearly did. There were, of course, mitigating factors - not enough sleep, the stress of facing a deadline on project I never wanted to start in the first place, and a myriad other building irritations. So I was already stretched pretty thin when - before I’d even had my coffee - Larry peevishly reminded me that I’d not done something he’d specifically asked me to do the day before.
I could just as easily said, “Oh, sorry, I’ll get to it today.” But, no. Instead I got irate and pissy with him, ignoring his cloudy look as I slammed the cupboard door, which in turn caused him to raise his voice and warn me that Enough was Enough, that he’d had every right to be irritated and that I had no right to start in with what he calls “the attitude.”
I hate being talked to like I’m five, even when I act like it. When I announced I was going for a walk, he didn’t try to stop me and I was so angry I didn’t bother to change out of my nightgown. Instead, I just put on my slippers and grabbed my wrap - the soft green one I knit last winter - and stormed out.
Nikki, who usually follows me everywhere, slunk away as I went past. You know you’re putting out some seriously bad vibes when your own dog doesn’t want to follow you.
The field behind our house was still soggy with dew. The hem of my gown was soon soaked with it and snagged on the stubble of cornstalks left over from the last harvest. A black snake and I startled each other. It zipped off and I slowed down, deciding to watch my step or risk stepping on something more dangerous.
My eyes scanned the edge of the field, assessing the trees until I found the friendliest looking one. Sitting underneath it, I wrapped my shawl around my shoulders, hugged my knees to my chest and cried.
I don’t mind crying in front of my husband if I’m sad over something like a movie or a disappointment. I hate crying in front of him if I’m angry. Larry’s unmoved by angry tears and the only thing worse than crying is crying and being denied comfort. Or being told outright that you have no one to blame for your tears but your own foolishness.
It’s also a matter of pride, which is something I need to get past. But old habits die hard and my residual pride still clings to me, like chips of paint on a refinished cabinet. I can live with the pride, though, having been cleanly stripped of much worse vices. When I met Larry I was as mercurial a young woman as you’d ever want to meet - rash, conflicted and hell-bent on my own destruction.
It’s amazing what habits you can shed when you are in the company of someone who refuses to tolerate them. Larry has always been able to settle me when no one else could; if we were a chemical compound, he’d be the stabilizer. I’d be the element that - if left by itself - would have exploded and taken out a whole city block. Over our years together his presence has tamed the wilder part of me and made me less afraid, less defensive, more grounded.
When I look back on who I was when we met, I often wonder what Larry saw in me. I asked him once and the answer he gave moved me to my very core. He said, “I saw incredible potential.”
That’s why I was sitting under the tree crying. Because as tough and independent as I like to think I am, I still value my husband’s approval. And it hurts when I lose it, even temporarily, for I know he expects more of me. Larry gave me my first lesson in redemption; together we’ve built a life to be proud of. For that I am grateful, even if I’m not always gracious.
When I walked back to the house, Larry was about to leave. He didn’t say anything, didn’t kiss me goodbye. He told me he’d be home for lunch and trusted I would be calmer by then. I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down to think, separating the knotted up threads of stress that made up my tangled ball of anger, laying them out, and deciding more constructive ways to deal with them.
I don’t know how long Larry will be angry with me, but I’ll know how it will end. It will end later today as it always does, when - deciding that I’ve Gotten The Message - he’ll casually asks me what came in the mail, or recount some funny anecdote from work. I’ll respond just as casually, mindful not to betray my relief at the subtle signs of being welcomed back into his good graces. He won’t ask for an apology but he won’t have to. A little later, I’ll gladly give it.
But for now, I wait. And feel rather foolish. Don’t get me wrong; my husband - while a good man - is no saint. There are times when the shoe’s on the other foot and he’s wrong. But today it’s me so I don’t mind admitting it. Sometimes a little painful self-analysis is part of the lesson.
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