Because I'm blogging again and feel a certain level of accountability to my readers, I've been on guard when it comes to my impatience, my anger level, and my road rage. And because that has all been kept in check or more honestly, suppressed, it's inevitable for all of that bad behavior to spew some place else. After all, we all need an outlet. I know a few who overeat, some who watch movies, preferably violent ones, a handful who cry, and a few, like myself, who take it out on the innocent.
"I said the Plaza on New Dorp, babe," I repeated, taking a deep breath. My family and I were on the road on a Saturday to do some Christmas shopping on a budget. I had heard about the 5 dollar and under store from my sister and since my Christmas List had close to fifty names, that store was going to be the one and only destination.
"There are two plazas in the area, babe," my husband also repeated, minus the deep breaths and the rolling of the eyes. "I just need to know which one."
"I said it, remember? I said it three times. The plaza where Aaron took Karate when he was four. Remember? Don't you remember the place? We took him there every Saturday for a year, remember? That plaza. I said it. Three times."
There are moments in my life when I find my own self unbearable and yet, for some reason beyond my own cosmic control, I keep plowing towards that despicable place until I've reached a point of no return.
My husband's jaws moved back and forth a little. He didn't say anything but kept his eyes on the road and continued driving. Now, you must understand who I'm married to. I probably subconsciously started this blog toward Virtue because I am married to that alien-from-outer-space-are-you-for-real man? I mean, my husband is Mr. Virtuous. I've refrained myself from writing about him so as not to incite jealousy from other husbands and perhaps other wives. Honestly, I've refrained from writing about him to keep everyone from gasping, "What have you ever done to deserve Mr. Perfect?" You would have to know him to fully appreciate what I'm saying and then you too, like some of my close friends and family, male and female, would sigh and say, "I want to marry him!"
That perfect man began signaling to make a turn into the wrong street away from that plaza "where Aaron had taken Karate when he was four years old for a year."
"Where are you going?" I said. "The plaza over there!" I was pointing now. "The plaza over there where Aaron took Karate for a year. Don't you remember?"
"Babe, I remember."
"Then why are you turning here?" Exaggerated sighs. Sucking teeth. Eyes rolling like an exorcist.
"You said to go to Dr. Broillet's office. That was the way to his office."
I had a rebuttal, of course. But even I can't write that rebuttal now because it makes me want to go back into the past and slap that nagging wife senseless.
My husband's face became grim, a rare occurrence and I took note of it. He kept driving, this time in restrained silence. I kept talking, like most wives who deserve a time-out chair. My husband finally spoke. I could think whatever I wanted to think, he said. There was obviously a miscommunication somewhere. And no, it wasn't true. He was listening. I was often guilty of the same thing--listening but not hearing correctly. I didn't want him to start listing my offenses.
I wasn't yelling. My voice wasn't even raised but my tone and my dripping sarcasm disturbed my 9-year-old son. He chimed in and echoed his Dad. Mom, it's not a big deal, ok?
We pulled in the parking lot and my mind began to race. I looked at my husband. This wasn't a matter of right and wrong. I had been demeaning, speaking to my husband like he suffered from cerebral coma. Over what? Over driving directions. Over a wrong turning signal. I had been under some stress at work and my patience ran extremely thin but my attitude was inexcusable.
I grew up in a home filled with constant bickering, sharp arguments and full blown fights. I never heard my parents apologize to each other, although perhaps behind closed doors they did. I grew up in an environment where saying "I'm sorry" and admitting you're wrong were foreign and uncomfortable. And the hardest thing for me to do, to this day, is apologize.
I looked at my husband again and thought, this was a silly disagreement. It was no big deal. But it could be a seed of resentment that I am unintentionally planting in his heart and should another disagreement come around, and of course it will, I could water that seed. I suppose that's how some marriages fail. A collection of small little nonsense that turn into a field of bitterness and unforgiveness.
"Babe," I said softly, holding back my husband's hand from unlocking his seatbelt. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for being so snotty. I'm sorry for having an attitude."
My husband's face relaxed. He looked at me, his eyes had immediately softened. He chuckled. "Yea, what's with the attitude?"
"I'm stressed!" I said, throwing my hands up in the air in an exaggerated, melodramatic way. My husband and my children all giggled.
Stress was okay, my husband said. He would like to be the stress reliever and not my punching bag. My husband is known for his "sayings" and I thought he would quote some famous phrase in French. But he didn't. He just smiled and shook his head at me. I apologized again and in a child-like voice I told him I wanted to be like him when I grew up. He was amazing. How did he become so amazing? He was my Mr. Virtuous.
My husband shook his head and got out of the car. Compliments make him uncomfortable. "Stop that nonsense, " he said. "We all just have to control ourselves and watch what we say."
And that's the challenge. Controlling ourselves and watching what we say. Relieving our stress in a healthy manner and not using the innocent, our espouse or children, as punching bags.
Thank God for a good man. Left on my own, I just might self-destruct.