We are Golden State Warrior fans. My husband fell in love, admiration and empathy with this basketball team this year. We watched them climb their way to the top carrying a record season with them. Nathaniel’s heart was in each game, his mind was expectant of a win every time they played and his spirit hoped with unbridled enthusiasm that the Warriors would win the NBA title. Because, it would have been such a shame to watch them come so close to an amazing culmination of a breath-taking year to then lose the title.
On the night of the NBA Finals, Nathaniel had recorded the game. He turned it on and paused it while we got the kids ready for bed. I got up to check if an incoming reply on Facebook had appeared yet. It had not, but what was posted all over Facebook was the score of the game. The Warriors had lost (good game Cavs!). I was filled with anxiety, unsure how the next painstakingly long three and a half basketball minutes were going to play out in our living room.
The kids were back out, on the couch, my husband was pacing the floor and I was curled up in the rocking chair nervously praying. I prayed not for the Warriors to win, I already knew the end. I prayed, instead, for my husband. I prayed God would soften the blow of the loss and I prayed Nathaniel would be able to move on and not harbor the impending loss of the game and sadness for the team. I prayed three times. I know God heard me the first time, but the extra prayer time, the communication with God helped quell my anxiety. I stayed in this communication instead of allowing myself to be sucked into my husband’s nerves and super high empathy.
While I have zero competitiveness in my body and can’t fully understand why a sporting event loss can bring upon depression to many adult men, turning some into insufferable children because of a set of scoreboard numbers; I do understand empathy. Which is what my sweet husband was overwhelmed by this particular evening.
Nathaniel used to say phrases like, “They should have won!” and I would always retort with something like, “Why, it’s (say it with me…) ONLY A GAME!” Or, “Either team could have won tonight.” But, no, no, no…to a man, to my man, so much more goes into the win or loss of a game that justifies their use of the word, “should”. I have finally come to learn and appreciate the nuances of this word.
At the loss of the game Nathaniel sank quietly into the kitchen, where he paused. He was silent, we were all silent. The boys and their daddy were sad; I was an exposed nerve wiggling about. As he rejoined us moments later and ushered the kids to bed I began to fold away my exposed nerve.
The kids were tucked in, prayers said and foreheads kissed. I went to the living room and Nathaniel went to the bedroom. Eventually, I made my way to him and softly asked what he was doing. “Erasing the game from the T.V. so I don’t have to see it again,” he said as I sat on our bed watching him erase that game and move on to speed watch two soccer games in ultra-fast forward. I remained silent, though passing thoughts popped up in my head.
Tell him; It’s just a game!
NO SHUT UP!
Tell him; They should have won.
NO SHUT UP!
Tell him; When you feel better come get me.
NO SHUT UP!
Ask him; Are you going to be like this all night?
NO SHUT UP!
So, I shut up! I held my tongue in these quiet moments for once in our marriage. Normally, no matter what I said it would have come out snotty and with disdain, been taken wrong and would have most definitely incited an 11:57 fight (check out that blog post). I felt in that moment he was on the brink of drowning in an ocean of empathetic sorrow and if I jumped in to save him now it would have ended up being on my own terms, my way of saving not his and I would have sunk him. So I stood on the edge of his frailty with a life jacket in hand and waited for him to reach out.
He asked me what I wanted to do next and I said whatever he wanted to do; “What will make you feel better?” I asked. I told him I was sorry for the loss, he welcomed the condolence and then we went to the living room to watch mindless T.V.
About thirty minutes after The Loss the quiet tension finally began to crumble, like a sheet of ice on a pond. It was noticeable, shifting the air in the room back to breathable levels. The night flowed along normally from there.
In a phone conversation with my mom, the next day I told her of the events from the night before. She, in her infinite wisdom, said in light of what I would have normally done, “Don’t run away holding the life jacket. Stand strong and save yourself first so you can then save him.” She is brilliant!
I would have normally let anxiety override me, therefore causing me to focus only on me because I know me the best and when I am awash with anxiety I can become not a nice person. Normally, I would have grabbed my life jacket and his, run away and hid them both!
What was different this time? Why didn’t I jeopardize anyone’s life? How come I did not follow suit and flip out? Because God intervened through Facebook. Yah, I know. I read it…I wrote it. Sounds dumb to me too….but I think it’s true!
Had I not stood up to check Facebook I would not have seen the score and I would not have prayed for my husband. God, I am convinced, has quite the sense of timing and humor to use Facebook in our relationship in that way on that day, which happened to be Father’s Day….a holiday. Holidays are typically stressful for me/us and we do not usually make it out of a holiday unscathed without a fight. But this holiday God intervened. He tossed me two life jackets; one to put on and one to give to my husband.
In your anxiety filled moments are you like the old me; The Life Jacket Hider? Or are you like the new me I am becoming more familiar with; The Life Jacket Giver?
Let’s not run away holding our spouse’s life jacket. Put yours on first, breathe deeply and then hand a jacket to your spouse.