He works in the office. My office is our home, 90% of which revolves around our kitchen island (its amazing how much “life” takes place on and around that piece of rock). He answers to two different bosses, I answer to three. He gives presentations on proposed multi-million dollar street re-configurations, I give speeches on the importance of not throwing your socks in the wash in a ball and making sure you are nice and respectful to the “annoying” kid in your class that continually follows you around. He manages clients, I manage disputes over everything from who’s had more screen time to whose turn it is to sit in the front seat. He receives accolades for his hard work, performance reviews and raises. My rewards come in the form of hugs, kisses and those precious moments when I remember to stop and absorb the time with our kids. He drives an hour to and from work in silence. I drive to and from school four times a day with the likes of Laurie Berkner and Kid’s Bop blasting in my ear.
Two very different worlds, one life we are called to live. I’d be lying if I said all the disparity didn’t catch up with us every so often. While the more complacent heart may rest in the acknowledgment that, “it is what it is”, my heart remains restless in the divide and I continue to seek the best way to bridge the two distinct worlds my husband and I lead on a day-to-day basis.
There are certainly threads of commonality in our job descriptions and, for the most part, I feel like we each do a good job of listening to one another vent about our respective responsibilities. While he may not be able to put them in a “time-out”, my husband can certainly relate to the exhaustion of dealing with ornery clients, and I can relate to the frustration of others not pulling their own weight in the work environment (i.e. Me to teenager: “Do you think you could find the time to pick up the clothes that have been sitting outside your door for the past two days now? Maybe schedule it in somewhere between crawling out of bed at 9:30 and getting off the couch at 11?). We both understand what it feels like to be so busy, there is little to no time to take care of our own needs. And we both know what it feels like to be running on empty from, Lack. Of. Sleep.
Sympathy for one another runs deep at moments. I’ve been known to send him a text every now and then that reminds him how thankful we all are that he works so hard to provide for our family and I feel the love when he makes the extra effort to notice the shiny toilet bowl or “ooh” and “ahh” over a dinner I worked hard to prepare. But the clincher here is that sympathy is different from empathy. And unless we plan on producing our own real-life version of “Mr. Mom”, a true understanding of one another’s worlds is hard to come by.
I’ll never forget Joe’s first week back at work after our first-born came into our lives. He had come home from a long day and found me sitting in our son’s room, exhausted, with just enough energy left to push the rocking chair back and forth in my last futile attempt to get our baby to sleep. The relief I felt when Joe walked through the door was enormous. He said a quick hello and then started for the bathroom. I surprised even myself when I reacted by literally yelling, “are you kidding me?” I can still see the look on his face when he turned around, innocently wondering what he had done to cause such a reaction. If I only had the right words to express just how much I needed him to take the baby from my arms, that second, and give me a breather. Looking back, that was perhaps our first taste of our two worlds crashing into a new life we now had to figure out.
For the most part, it’s all good. We make an incredible team and work as a well-oiled machine. We are enough in tune with one another that we each know when it’s time to step in and put in a little more than normal to give the other a break. Although not entirely with purpose, we have carved out specific roles that help make this one life “work”. Ironically enough, before we were married, I was quite certain we would not fall into the more traditional roles of husband and wife, yet that is exactly where we now find ourselves. I never wanted to be quite so skilled at polishing a bathroom, nor did I ever plan on letting our finances become something I knew so little about. In another life I vaguely remember getting my MBA, yet the head of the finance department is the nerdy engineer. So here we sit stewing in the deep, down, dirty truth. It’s been years since Joe has cleaned a bathroom and it’s been just as long since I’ve paid a bill. And there you have it. The machine slows down and gets a little rusty, the divide widens, and both of us are too sleep deprived to make the jump from one side to the other.
Thankfully, there’s a bridge across the divide. It’s man-made, literally. This guy has His hands clenching one side of the cliff and His feet digging into the other. He doesn’t think twice about laying His life right down to bridge the lives of two people just trying to figure it out and get it right. Creating one life from two different worlds was never meant to be easy. Easy breeds complacency and complacency is never healthy in a relationship. It is in times of stress, when our two worlds are clashing, that we are forced to stop and remember the single life we are meant to lead, together, as one. And so we each set foot on the bridge and begin to walk toward the other, gathering patience, understanding and empathy along the way. And when we meet up once again we are renewed in His love and strength and suddenly it no longer matters who’s holding the checkbook and who’s holding the toilet wand. All that really matters is that we meet in the middle.