December 15, 2011

Read My Lips

As a newlywed, I did not fight fair. My MO was simple: turn on the water works, speak before thinking, and, when all else fails, use the silent treatment. Kyle called this--my mute, comatose state--System Shutdown, but he (wisely) only called it that when I was no longer in it, when the skirmish had ended and all had been settled between us.
Sometimes during System Shutdown, he'd try to talk to me: "What's wrong?" 

"Nothing," I'd say, clearly lying, with my arms crossed and eyes glued to the floor.


But there wasn't silence in my head. The angry monologue played: I can't believe he doesn't know what's wrong. It's so obvious. Ooooh boy, that just makes me more mad that he doesn't know. If he really loved me, he would know. 

I was certain he could read my mind, he should read my mind. My poor husband, newly trapped in a marriage with a mute wife holding impossible expectations over him. 

Gradually, I learned to stop equating true love with mind meld. Too, I saw Kyle's earnest, genuine desire to meet my needs. To help him, when I grew frustrated, I learned to pinpoint what was truly bothering me and calmly and specifically address it with him. I learned to directly ask for what I needed from him. I quit the silent treatment cold turkey.

System Shutdown is completely and forever shutdown.

Lesson learned.

Or so I thought. 

Although I no longer expect my husband to read my mind, I realized recently that I often expect other people to do it. 

Like my children. Do they know how proud I am of them or how I am delighted by their gifts and quirks? Do they know what I hope for them or what I pray for them? Do they know how valuable and special they are to me?

Or my friends. Do they know how thankful I am for their encouragement or how much I appreciate the things they do for me, liking keeping my kids or remembering my birthday? Do they know that I couldn't make it without them or that I see God using them in powerful ways? 

Or my mentors. Do they know that I thrive on their example? Do they know that I appreciate their leadership and service? Do they know they've made a profound impact on my life?

Or the people hurting around me. Do they know that I care about what they're going through or that I am challenged by their faithfulness to the Lord? Do they know that I am praying for them and thinking of them? Do they know they aren't alone?

And maybe even still my husband, but in a different way than before. Does he know that I respect his leadership in our home and in our church? Does he know how I honored I feel to be his wife? Does he know that I think he's funny or that I appreciate that he makes the bed every morning? 

My presence isn't enough. They aren't going to know these things by osmosis.

Generic thank you's or I love you's aren't enough. They aren't going to know the depth of how I feel unless I'm vulnerable and specific. 

Thinking it and feeling it isn't enough. They aren't going to know unless I speak the words.

They can't read my mind.

So they must read my lips.