Sometimes it can be hard to be honest.
I’m not talking about the little white lies we might tell a friend in a t-shirt that’s a little unflattering (but that you know is her favorite), or how we simply nod to the (opposite) political opinions of a coworker.
I’m talking about the kind of honesty that gets…well, messy.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m being a good partner.
I know how to be loving, caring, supportive, and patient (at least most of the time), but what happens when I need more love, care, support and patience, than I’m giving back?
My parents, and others in long-standing relationships, have often told me: “sometimes relationships are 50-50 but often they are 60-40 or 20-80.” The logical side of me understands this. If one of us is going through something particularly difficult or challenging, then okay, for a defined period of time one of us will give (or need) more than the other. But what if that difficult event is more of a journey vs. a discrete incident?
All of us bring baggage to our relationships – past experiences, for better or worse, color our present.
And some experiences are a bit more universal: childhood growing pains, lessons from previous relationships, etc. But what about when the baggage we bring is beyond the “standard size limits” and ends up being more of a checked bag than a carry on?
I’ve mentioned my back injury before in other posts, but the truth is, it has left me with lots of crap (for lack of a better word) to deal with, and by virtue of that, it has also left my partner with lots of crap to deal with.
Some days I just don’t feel well (sore, stiff, cranky because pain kept me up at night), and other days, I feel okay physically, but mentally/emotionally I’m upset (because I have to yet again, accommodate my life to my injury). Currently, because the personal injury lawsuit tied to my back issues continues, there are days when I just feel the downward weight of being unable to emotionally move forward with my life and start my post-injury chapter.
But now, I’m speaking for two. It sucks for me, and it sucks for Dan too.
On the surface there are things that I can’t do: I can’t dance for as long as or as well as Dan (which impedes on our partner dancing), I have trouble vacuuming my apartment or doing laundry without some pain, I can’t sit or stand for long periods of time, I can’t join Dan in rock climbing (something he really enjoys), and so on.
There are things that I can do, but only with adjustment: I can fly in a plane or go to an open-air concert in the park if I bring a lumbar support pillow, we can cuddle in bed if I’m laying flat on my back or on my side, I can drive beyond an hour at a time if we stop to take breaks and I bring my pillow, etc.
And there are things that I can do on my own: love Dan and communicate that as much as possible (in person, email, notes, by bringing him food or little gifts, showing affection, etc.).
I try to focus on the positives – without those, I’d be lost in the doldrums of despair. But it’s hard to know that in certain areas, I’ll never be able to meet Dan halfway, or maybe even 1/3 of the way. I want Dan to be able to love a better version of me; a me without this injury and all its physical and emotional baggage. I want to be able to give Dan 110% in all areas of our lives, rather than 100% here, 40% there, and 60% there.
But I have to realize that I am how I am. And that I do offer some really great things (love, compassion, support…) that make me, and our relationship, special.
I also have to admit that I have not always held up my end of the bargain.
I have to work harder at maintaining my own health and living up to my promise to be the best me, and the best partner, I can be. I haven’t been so great at this lately. I walk daily, we dance at least twice a week, I tried Pilates, I started going to Yoga, I am mindful of what I eat, and I get rest and shower, but I need to do more.
With a chronic health issue, I just have to accept that the minimum is not going to be enough – I am always going to have to try a little bit harder and do a little bit more. This idea makes me angry; I didn’t ask to be injured, it’s not my fault that I’m stuck with the back of a middle-aged woman for the rest of my life. I’m working through these feelings as I can, but it’s fair enough to say that I have to move forward as much as I can.
And tomorrow is too late to start being a better me.
I deserve a better me, and so does Dan. I’m not saying I’ll ever be able to give 100%, but maybe I can improve my 40% to 45%. Just maybe…and if not, I still have to try.
So I’m turned inside out and I’m being honest.
I wish I didn’t have this baggage, but I do, and I need to be responsible for it as best I can. And to that end, I need to realize that I can offer lots of great things, even if those things aren’t the same ones my partner provides me.
Life is a journey.