My husband, a 28-year-old dreamer and pursuer, successfully defended his dissertation last week. He wrote a 5-movement symphony and 150 corresponding pages of comparative analysis. For two hours, I listened as he discussed his decisions before a committee of his professors; it was at turns an invigorating meeting-of-the-minds and erudite peeing contest.
By 6 p.m., my husband’s committee co-chair shook his hand and said, “Congratulations, Dr. Klug.”
I’m married to a doctor! A doctor!
After we got home, announced the victory on private and social messages, ate dinner and put the girls to bed, we sat down to relax. I was cozying up to watch Body of Proof, when Greg touched my arm. “Thank you for working so I could get my degree.”
I muted the TV and looked at him. “You’re welcome.”
The messages on Facebook are still coming in; people congratulate not just Greg, but me. It feels strange to be congratulated for someone else’s accomplishment.
I asked Greg why the praise would go to us both, and he guessed it was that people recognized I had put my dreams on hold for his. In a sense, they were congratulating me on the life that I will live henceforth.
Hot tears came up, but the familiar burn was different than normal; it was satisfying to hear that people may recognize my sacrifice in detouring from my dream life in Arizona to move to a not-so-dreamy life in Colorado, where the work is too hard, the paycheck too small, and the daily bustle sometimes doesn’t feel like a healthy means to any end—even a doctorate.
I came home last Thursday depleted, with a paycheck that was equivalent to what I made in high school. I stood in the kitchen and ranted to Greg about the dishes in the sink, the girls who hadn’t been bathed, the book that I still haven’t gotten a chance to write, the dreams that I somehow abandoned. I stopped myself and looked at him. “But that’s not true,” I said, the tingling in my hands pacifying. “You and the girls are my dream. I wanted you, too.”
I spent my twenties in solitude, chasing after degrees and other dreams, writing and teaching my way through a day, only to come home and curl up under the sheets while sobbing into a pillow, wishing I could share my life, wishing that alone wouldn’t be my anthem much longer.
On Saturday morning, my lovely friend Leslie—a hilarious and determined woman who accidentally married a delinquent who divorced her after ten years of marriage—called me because she was done. The depression, unfamiliar and ferocious, had been stabbing her for weeks. She apologized for her rant, her inability to see past her loneliness, her clearly unjustified first-world problems.
I reminded her that God doesn’t deem physical hunger as any more important than emotional starvation. I reminded her of what has happened in her life recently—specifically a book contract offer (!). I reminded Leslie, my kindred spirit, that right now she wants what I have, and I want what she has.
So often we look at each other’s life and imagine the other’s blessings for ourselves, completely overlooking that in our own hands, we are in possession of answered prayers.
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