The following was written just after a fight I had with my husband. We’ve been married 16 years and have gone through all manner of both terrible and wonderful moments in time. All couples have fights, and anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows that you don’t always fight fair, nor do the angry thoughts you have at the moment necessarily represent how you feel in general. The following was how I felt at such a moment.
When I first published this post, I hurt a lot of feelings, so I took it down. It hurt me to do so because it was an honest representation of how I felt, but at the same time, it is not my goal to hurt anyone with this blog, but rather help. And sometimes being nourished by joy involves sorting through difficult feelings and emotions felt in the moment, so that they don’t take hold long term. Therefore, I hope you take from this story that it was just a portrait of a moment in time and not representative of the long term.
As I passed through the front door of my work building and into the sunlight-drenched afternoon air, I quickly looked down at the ground and slipped on my sunglasses. No use having anyone ask me what’s wrong, I thought.
I shuffled down the block towards the stoplight, my mind cluttered with the debris left by the argument we’d just had. I felt lost. No, not lost exactly, just perplexed and unsteady. Confused and hurt. The rock in the pit of my stomach was back. I hated that feeling. It felt clumsy and out of place inside me.
I let the anger rise and swell in my gut. The rock in my stomach was the last thing I wanted to have to deal with. I wanted to just skip over the immediate aftermath of hurt and frustration and back to the part where I realized I was okay again.
My thoughts drifted around through the film reels in my head that kept playing back pieces of the fight. I felt my fists ball up as the tears began to sting my eyes. It’s just not fair I whispered under my breath. He knew exactly how to push my buttons. Exactly what to say to pull me into the cloud that had settled over his mind.
I knew that for him, it would be a relatively short amount of time. Then he would inevitably move out of that looming grayness without warning, leaving me stuck in a murky fog of disillusionment and perplexity. For me, it wasn’t as easy to move out from the fog, once I had given myself over to it. I tended to brood in it until I was good and ready to come out, lashing at anyone who would dare try to pull me away.
As I sifted through that dense fog that had crept over my mind I felt the rock in my stomach swell up towards my chest, and I let out a cough, trying to clear it. I knew I needed to eat something, but I was too full from that damned rock.
I approached the bustling intersection and listlessly jabbed my index finger into the crosswalk button. It didn’t beep. I rolled my eyes and jabbed at it again. This time it beeped. I sighed as his voice ran through my head, reminding me how dirty crosswalk buttons were and, “How could you just touch them like that? Do you let the girls touch buttons like that? What else do you let the girls do when I’m not home? What are you getting away with now? What’s really going on, Christin Joy?”
I shook the voice out of my head and wiped my eyes. My conscience had been replaced long ago by this voice of judgment and accusation, and I wondered how much of it was actually him talking, and how much of it was my own projection of how I felt about him, and, more importantly how I felt about myself.
I had made mistakes in the past. Terrible, unforgivable mistakes. And yet here we were, 6 years later. Still together, and still fighting the same fights. The cycle was so perpetual that it made me want to scream out loud, except that I never could. In the moment, I always felt paralyzed. I wondered if he did, too.
As I waited for the light to turn, I noticed a little white butterfly fluttering across the intersection. It flew in a zigzag pattern, hovering about ten feet over the asphalt as it made its way across the street and towards the tree line on the opposite side. I gazed at it, watching its every movement closely. It was a welcome flood of relief for my aching brain to watch this pure, unhindered little creature as it made its noble trek in front of me.
I noticed the milky white color if its wings and its carefree movements, and I felt a little pang of jealousy creep into my chest. I wasn’t jealous of the freedom or the journey, just of the pureness and simplicity it had. The glow it seemed to cast on the world around it as it moved. There was no cloud hanging over it. No voice trying to creep in and tell it that it was doing everything wrong.
My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a loud whoosh and I watched in horror as a delivery truck came barreling through the intersection, smacking the little white butterfly against its windshield as it drove through, oblivious to the damage it had just caused.
For one terrible moment, my heart stopped. I sucked in my breath, my arms stuck at my sides, unable to move. I felt the rock in my stomach turn over as my brain attempted to process what my eyes had just witnessed. I prepared myself to see the little white butterfly drop to the ground.
But then I saw it. The little white butterfly, though perplexed and confused, was still fluttering around. I let out a huge sigh of relief, and watch as the poor creature swung itself around, getting its bearings. It then drifted upward towards the sky and continued its journey safely into the line of trees on the other side.
It had survived. It had been knocked off course unexpectedly, but had shaken it off and moved onward. My relief was replaced quickly by anger towards the truck. Who did it think it was, barreling over a poor butterfly like that? But then I realized that the truck driver hadn’t done it on purpose, obviously. It had no idea the butterfly was even there. He was just doing what truck drivers do, driving forward, staying the course that had been set for him.
And so had the butterfly. I had seen it as pure and fragile. I had seen it as this delicate and very breakable, defenseless creature drifting through its short life on this planet. But then I remembered, of course, that butterflies are resilient too.
Butterflies were only free and beautifully delicate because they had first survived an incredible transformation. Each and every one had been completely changed and renewed from the lives they had known before. They had been born again to a new life and given a second chance.
I breathed in and out deeply as the light turned green, signaling it was okay for me to cross the street. I felt the rock shrink back just a bit, and the fog in my head start to clear. I am resilient too. And I also have been given a second chance.