There I was, standing in the kitchen, sobbing while my shoulders moved up and down methodically when I said it. "You don't understand. This [insert dramatic motion of arms signifying what was in front of me] is not my thing!" That, and then I went back to more tears.
My husband smiled. He and I thought of those words I had just said and a montage of gifting disasters played out in our minds: the Christmas ties, the Springfield Boathouse incident, the money clip, the Bones Exhibit-lessness. This day would go down in the history of our marriage as yet another day that I missed the mark for making a special day special. As soon as he unwrapped that KitchenAid toaster oven, I knew I should have flicked the frugality angel off my shoulder the day I searched the aisles for that elusive, perfect gift. Because that elusive, perfect gift sure as heck wasn't a toaster oven. The hesitant look on Paul's face said it all. Bless his soul. He has had to work on perfecting that look for over four years now.
Next week Paul and I are going to, I hope, dine somewhere special and clink to four years of marriage, four years of delving deeper and deeper into understanding selflessness is not our thing!
Paul never had to say what he was thinking as a response to my bold proclamation of "This is not my thing!", but there was no need. I can read my husband's mind from time to time. It's one of those super hero powers no one told me I would inherit after loving someone for five years. We both knew my proclamation was total rubbish.
Setting up surprises and picking out the perfect gift is not my strength. And while I would usually say that life is a lot about playing up your strengths and not worrying too much about the rest, that's not how marriage works. Marriage weans us away from our selfishness. Sometimes it's sweet and gradual like water wearing down rock. Other times it feels like we've been in a head-on collision, paralyzed, wondering in our beds what's next.
Paul doesn't care to open the perfect gift, but he is just like each and every one of us. We desire to see our worth affirmed:
* Daughter, you are worth so much that I'm willing to welcome your anger if it means I'm able to get this message across to you.
* Son, you are worthy of my time. I'm exhausted from work today [and you don't know that], but I'm going to teach you how to play Chess tonight since you've been nagging me to do so for weeks now.
* Co-worker, you are worth so much to me that I refuse to gossip about you.
* Friend, you are worthy. I don't know how to help you like I feel I should, but I'm here to sit and listen and not leave until I hear you laugh.
* Neighbor, you are worth so much to me that I will do my best to remember all these elaborate dog stories you keep telling me each time I visit. And that's a lot of dog stories. Like, seriously, there is no end to these dog stories.
* Student, you are worth more than you know. I will teach you wholeheartedly every day, every minute, even when you've made it clear to me you don't care.
Here's what my thing is. Seeing the good in people. Knowing their worth. Affirming it. I'm not sure if I'll ever miraculously pull off a surprise for Paul without a hitch. But I will fight to affirm his worth [even when it makes me uncomfortable or takes a lot of energy or it feels like I've done so with no happy results one hundred other times] and to allow no excuses to get in my way of figuring it all out.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Paul wasn't thinking about the validity of my statement, "This is not my thing!" On second thought, having been with my husband for four joyful years, I would like to take another guess at what was going through his mind in the moment of silence that followed my statement where he smiled and then wrapped me in his arms.
I bet he was thinking, "Yeah, well toaster ovens aren't my thing either!"