Someone once told me that there is no joy greater than the joy of giving
Sometimes, all it takes is a little time to put a cherished relationship back where it belongs: close to our heart. After almost a decade of marriage, I have been going through a shaky stage where I was beginning to feel envious of couples who walked past me on the road or sat in restaurants, looking deep into each other’s eyes, holding hands and laughing at some shared joke.
With the both of us in very busy jobs- his IT sector job which keeps him away from home for almost 14 hours a day and my writer’s life either chained to my desk or travelling to meet people- our marriage was a bit frayed at the edges. I had grown up with this image of marriage where every day the two people in it expressed their love to each other, in a hundred different ways- love notes stuck on the fridge door or inside his lunch box … you get the drift…
Sadly, it was turning into just my romantic Libran heart’s fantasy. The real deal was different, not because we did not love each other, but because we simply did not have the time to tell each other that we did. And so, our marriage became boring and my dreams of cosy evenings together turned into something else: two people in a room with nothing to say to one another while a million unspoken accusations and thoughts ricocheted off the walls.
I had been told by older friends but never believed it when they said that long-term relationships become like that- a bit boring because of the predictability of it and that it was no cause for concern. Romance is only for the first couple of years at best and then it is just two people living together out of habit, one of them said. I was unwilling to live that way.
I did everything, even the red negligee routine- but the love and laughter I hungered for evaded us. My gentle-hearted spouse was beginning to sag under the weight of expectations. Mine. Not his. It was nobody’s fault. I wonder how all those page 3 people manage their hectic social life after a hard day’s work. After 14 hours at work there was nothing in the world that could make my husband take me out for a romantic dinner, play or a late night ice cream. And, there was no way I would smile and take this imagined slight on my chin. I slunk round the house feeling persecuted, pretended to work late night, jabbing angrily at the laptop in our living room and basically made sure there was any common space where we could heal our marriage.
Then, last month, he had to undergo a surgery that, doctors said, would keep largely confined to his bed, for 8 to 10 weeks. It put the fear of God in me. I have never had to look after anyone but myself, and our daughter who could have helped is away in another country, studying. Suddenly, the spectre of our insulated nuclear family came to bite me in the backside.
I was unprepared to see him being wheeled away on a stretcher, unprepared for the feeling of loss that engulfed me when the OT door closed after him and unprepared for the frightening silence in the room while I waited for them to bring him back after the surgery. In the few hours in between, I managed to put a lot of things in perspective. And when they did bring him back to the hospital room, my heart broke a bit to see him silent, unconscious and moaning in pain.
Please God, spare him the pain. Let him get over this so we can rebuild our lives together all over again, I prayed silently, willing the God that I never believed in, to work his magic. And He did. It took eight very painful days in hospital before my husband’s wounds started healing but it was also healing time for our relationship. Away from the distractions of people, our laptops, mobile phones and work pressures, we rediscovered the togetherness that we had lost somewhere along the way. And because we suddenly had time together and no choice but to stay put in the room at all times, we re-discovered the pleasure of talking to each other about films, books that we read and actually planned holidays that we want to take together.
Someone once told me that there is no joy greater than the joy of giving. I have discovered that over the last few weeks as I brought my husband home and settled him in. It is like having a baby all over again because he is almost completely dependent on me and miraculously, just like we women are with our babies, I have found joy in looking after him just like I nurtured our daughter all those years ago. I never thought I had it in me, but in the last 3 weeks I have given him breakfast in bed, organised lunch, dinner, teatime snacks, made sure he has his medicines on time, sat holding his hands or massaged his legs when he is in pain and tucked him into bed at night, without once grumbling or even wanting to. Some nights we sit giggling in front of the telly, watching Comedy Nights With Kapil without even an iota of guilt about the late hours. Afterwards, I raid the fridge and we indulge our sweet tooth and I can see him glow from all the attention and the togetherness.
And when I go to bed, I slip easily into a deep sleep, content that I am, finally, able to return the tender loving care and nurturing that I have always taken for granted from him. Sometimes, it just pays to wear your heart on your sleeves. Ask my father. He talks to the dozens of rose bushes in his backyard every morning. On the days that he goes out of town, my mother swears that the roses practically wilt and droop without his loving touch….
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