Willing but not ecstatic
A short tale of love and hip surgery
Thanks to all the new advancements in technology, David’s arthroscopic hip surgery was an easy out-patient procedure. After a few hours in post surgical ward of St. Mary’s hospital, we got him fitted for crutches and I took him home. The scariest part for me wasn’t waiting alone in the hospital all day, or even helping David get up to the third story of our walkup apartment, coaxing him up step by agonizing step — no, the scariest part for me was driving home from San Francisco during Thursday evening rush hour traffic. I did it, not because I wanted to, but because I had to. I hate driving, but I love David.
The first two days after the surgery went by quickly. David slept a lot. I set alarms for all the pills he had to take — every four hours. I didn’t get much sleep. I stole away to go to gym and to get groceries, but I felt guilty leaving. On day three, he was feeling well enough to switch off of the heavy-duty pain killers, and we substituted IB profen in, so that he could finally enjoy a little more mental clarity, and a lot less drowsiness.
I was tired and swamped with school work and contract work — I had papers to write, meetings to attend, presentations to rehearse, chapters upon chapters to read, and all kinds of marketing materials design. I also had to take on most of the responsibilities around the house that David and I had always shared. It wasn’t exactly hardship, but just more things to add to my already full plate.
I was fully committed to helping David, but I noticed that I began to feel resentful. I grit my teeth when he would ask me to get him a glass of water right after I left the room. I’d let an audible sigh escape my mouth when he asked me for something and then changed his mind. I could barely contain my impatience when he asked me for something and then oh can you also get this and also this. These weren’t major sins or really even all that rude. I was just overwhelmed and worried, and sad that the one person who was my major source of support and solace couldn’t offer that to me right now. I thought that I could just grin and bear it, but at night I would lie awake wishing I could lay my head on David’s shoulder, but too worried to bump into his hip or wake him up.
I don’t remember what exactly prompted it, but we both just snapped. David asked for something perfectly reasonable, I obliged, but petulantly. So he asked me, “What’s going on? I feel like something has changed.”
I looked at him propped up in bed, scanning me up and down with his sleepy eyes. This is my partner, my best friend, and the person I love most in my life. Why hold back my feelings? Why be anything other than 100 percent with him?
“Yeah,” I began. “I’m just really overwhelmed right now with everything. I want to help you. I do. I’m willing. I’m just not ecstatic about the whole thing. It’s just that I feel like I’m supposed to serve you with a smile all the time. And I can’t.” I mock bowed like a servant in those old English period dramas.
He frowned a bit, I think because of my overly dramatic/rude display.
“I’m not saying that I don’t want to help you at all. It’s just that I think there’s a difference between being willing and being happy about it. I’m not happy about it. It’s really hard. But I love you and I care about you, and I want to help you.”
I could tell that he was a little hurt because I said I wasn’t happy about it, but I could also tell that there was a feeling of relief between us, now that the truth had gotten out.
So we decided that he would try to be more straightforward about things, asking me what he needed all at once, instead of adding on things. He’d try to make sure I wasn’t about to leave the room before making the requests. On my end I agreed that taking out my frustrations in passive aggressive displays is not helpful, and I would make more of an effort to talk about my concerns earlier, before they boiled over, and that I’d remember that even though David’s hip was out of commission, he was still more than capable of listening to my concerns about school and work.
Together, we decided that I could still put my head on his shoulder at night, as long as I curled up just right.