I often hold my breath.
Not just during the angsty times: doctors visits, teacher conferences, all manner of difficult conversations.
But also when I'm thinking. When I'm listening. When I'm writing. When I'm rearranging my closet in my mind's eye.
I just forget to exhale. It's an unconscious, momentary thing. Like a blink you squeeze shut until you tear up or see stars.
I've always held my breath this way.
Still, it makes my husband nervous.
He thinks it's all about him.
“Are you upset with me?” he asks when the inevitable heavy sigh releases all this pent up air.
I tell him not to worry. “It's not always about you. … And that the exhalation hissing out of my lungs is just my body's way of making sure I don't pass out.
“I'm not mad. Really, I'm not.”
He doesn't buy it.
Truly, I have forgotten all about the argument we had the other day. I can't even remember why we were fighting. It's always something silly.
“Is Jeremy Piven playing all the bad guys in this movie?”“No, that one was James LeGros.”“No, it was Piven. I'm sure of it.”“It's LeGros.”“It's definitely Piven.”“Fine. I'll Google it.”
He barks dog. I hiss cat.
Stubborn we are.
“Oh … I guess it is Piven.”
And that eye-rolling thing? That's just a reflex. Has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I wish Google would break even if, on occasion, it proves I was right.
Win the battle, lose the war.
Anger and resentment can do that to people, small irritations blow up in their faces.
Mountains and mole hills.
I'm sure there are times he'd rather be married to someone else. There are times I wouldn't even want to be married to me.
Like the time I volunteered him to assemble a thousand piece, plane-shaped teeter-totter for the preschool playground. I smiled as I pictured him pulling his hair out over Parts A and C being too small to fit into Slots B and D.
That wasn't terribly nice of me.
But he returned the favor.
He's raised my hand for jobs that would prove equally frustrating.
Dinner? Party? Small talk?
Honestly, I'd rather put together an oscillating jet engine and try to launch him into next week.
But I don't have enough weight to hold my end down.
Marriage can seem like it is balanced on absolutes:
“You always … ”
“You never ...”
But that's a mirage … not marriage.
Nothing is absolute. None of it crystal clear.
Except for a moment or two when you catch a glimpse of your family, the children skipping along a sidewalk in the afternoon sun and your partner close behind. He's holding their ice-cream-sticky hands as they sing some nonsense songs into the air.
Small moments in our lives that are capable of filling the cavities etched by our own moments of smallness.
“Try to focus on this moment” I tell myself. “Let the other moments float away.”
This is why I married him. This is why he married me.
Heart racing once again, I notice I've stopped breathing.
And I exhale.