Last night, my husband finished a one-thousand piece Ravensburger Puzzle of Times Square. It was dark outside, so it was between 8 PM and 4 AM, I don’t know any more. He was very proud of himself and it took him two whole days. I was irrationally angry at him, truly. I was in a rage about how he had chosen to spend his time. The distance learning chart that our first grader is following has more colors than a rainbow and yesterday it included 17 activities. Not to mention, the amount of hurt in the world that he could have spent his time alleviating. Had he thanked a doctor yet today? Did he use our pre-schooler’s crayons to scribble a note of appreciation to our postal carrier? Has he walked the dogs yet? There is cardboard in the recycling that needs to be taken out. My home is literally a choose your adventure of urgent to-do’s.
I wanted to shout out at him and ask, “What have you done for the world today, Dave? What have you done for this family? Why aren’t you helping me? And OH MY GOD, why are you still here and doing that [email protected]#!’ing puzzle?”
As someone who has a tattoo that says “Be Kind,” I felt concerned about my feelings. So I texted my friend Josh who suggested that I get on the kitchen table and do a snow angel over the puzzle pieces. I laughed out loud at this image, my temper subsided, and I was able to go to bed. Now, David is alive and thriving this morning, proud of his intricate New York City scene puzzle, and I’m glad. I really love him and he’s the best person I know, for 15 years and counting. We’ll celebrate our 15th anniversary together in quarantine later this month and I wanted to take this small break from homeschooling/running a global non-profit/disinfecting things to write about how I intend to leave quarantine with Dave the same way I went into quarantine with Dave – married and on track to be worthy of my permanent kindness stamp.
Here are a few tips for you (and me) to survive this moment while communicating well with our loved ones.
When I was little, my mom used to tell me to use my words. She meant that in every way. She wanted me to express myself if I was frustrated or to yell if I felt like yelling. We weren’t allowed to curse in my house, but we got away with it because of a loophole. My parents are Romanian; my first language is Romanian. The first time that Dave came to my house, we sat around the kitchen table eating dinner and after we were done with what was probably a takeout meal, my mother asked my brother to take out the garbage in Romanian. He nodded his head in agreement, but kept sitting still while my mother eyed the overflowing bag of garbage in the kitchen. She started to do it herself and Duncan turned and said “Fac O, Mom”, which sounds exactly as you imagine it might. It actually means,” I’m doing it, Mom.” Dave looked up at us horrified, wondering what type of home had he stepped into that allowed children to curse at their mother? We all laughed and let him in on our bilingual puzzle. Now Dave’s and my children run around yelling “te pup” when I remind them that they can’t use potty words. In Romanian, te pup means “I kiss you.”
If you’re frustrated, if you’re sad, if you’re angry – however you feel – tell your partner. Tell someone. Dave didn’t have the tools to fix my emotions last night, even if he had stopped doing the puzzle, the way that he tied his shoes would have bothered me. The fact that I believed my emotions (and maybe he believed them) to be irrational didn’t matter, they were still valid and they still deserved to take up space and have a name. There are so many unknowns about this moment, I’ve decided that my husband knowing how I feel about him – in the good times and the difficult times – will not be another item on that long list of uncertainty. He might even take that information and do fewer puzzles, you never know. If you find yourself wanting to start the conversation, but not knowing where to begin, try Seize the Awkward. And if you find yourself in the position of not having anyone to talk to you about your emotions, please reach out to our friends at Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741 – there is always someone on your side.
Dave and I pass each other wordlessly half a dozen times a day, whether we’re on calls or running to make mac and cheese before my daughter, the queen, wakes up from her nap and declares that she’s hungry. I went to text him today to tell him that his lunch had arrived via a brave DoorDasher and I couldn’t find a recent text chain with him, which is also an anomaly of the past fifteen years.
Every time we’re in a hallway together, Dave opens his arms into a 6’5” wingspan. Sometimes I stand stiff as a board as he wraps his arms around me in protest because he did not come help after I insulted his puzzle (shocking, I know), sometimes I need the hug more than he does, and other times I just start crying into his chest. I hug Dave when I don’t like him. I hug Dave when I need him. I hug Dave when my kids are hanging on my shoe and asking for their 38th snack of the day. Those moments of physical connection are what steel me for the day otherwise devoid of the warmth of the physical presence of the people that we’re lucky enough to surround ourselves with.
Hug the people you’re quarantining with and if you’re alone, hug yourself. You deserve to give and get love, in this moment and always. If you have a little extra love to give, think about sharing it with someone else too. This week, I’ve been writing letters for Operation Gratitude.
First Grade Homework
Last night, our first grader announced at dinner that he had done all of his homework except for two final items. The two last items were to run six laps around the house and then give a compliment to everyone in our home. He then asked me if I had ever seen Michael Jordan in Space Jam and while I wanted to go down this rabbit hole with him, I chose to instead quietly wait for my compliment because I didn’t want us to change subjects. He took off on his six laps around the house and I stood on the edge of my chair, wondering what nice thing he might want to say to me. I had given birth to him. I practiced basketball with him. He had really great handwriting for a seven-year-old, which is thanks to my neuroses. The list was long and he could have spent a while complimenting me. He came back from his run around the hardwood of our home and started with the aliens in Space Jam. “Compliments,” I blurted out. He did mine last, staring at me as if we were having a meaningful moment and he was all at once filled with the sense of gratitude for all that I had done for him in short, enjoyable little life. He looked at my two-day-old Starbucks hoodie that read, “Coffee, Coffee, Coffee” and he said as genuinely as a child finishing their homework before video games can say, “I like your shirt.”
I’m suggesting that we could put more effort into our compliments, but what I learned from him last night was that we could all benefit from those two pieces of homework; move around a bit and give everyone in your house (including you) a compliment. I’m being much kinder to him today than usual, so we’ll see what small talk at dinner brings.
As for me, my compliment today is to my husband. Dave, I’m sure you married me thinking you’d split your time with me between our home, Delta, and New York City. No one should spend this much time together, thank you for putting up with me. Thank you for meeting me with kindness, patience, love, support, and humor. For this special anniversary, I will buy you all the puzzles but please do them out of sight until the world settles down.