~ Elizabeth Gilbert (the author of Eat, Pray, Love) on Twitter
I have made it known that I usually volunteer on Friday mornings at a local children's hospital. And the other Friday was no different.
In typical fashion, I parked my car, walked across the pedestrian bridge, and was ultimately greeted at the entrance desk, which was full of about 8 volunteers. Those are the errand runners. Need a chart taken from department A to department B? They got your covered. Need flowers taken up to a room? They got your covered.
I did my usual greeting of "Good Morning Everyone!" and everyone replied with a warm "good morning." Bob, who is one of my favorites, asked me how I was. He used to fly a C 141 back in the day, so we have a lot of fun sharing pilot/aviation stories. I was honest and blunt to his question and answered with a "oh, fine...Steve and I are in a fight, so you know how that goes." Yes, I wear my heart on my sleeve.
Suddenly, all the men chimed in with a "ohhh...better watch out...he is in the dog house...what did he do wrong?"
And here is where I could have just unloaded and told everyone how much of an ass Steve is and how much he sucks and how much he is wrong...but, I couldn't. Our fight wasn't all about him...it was mostly about me.
I have mentioned before I think I have a brain tumor. On top of the dizziness, I have also been INCREDIBLY irritable lately. Not to mention, the last week at work was just CRAZY beyond control. I was having a very significant client issue. I also have a friend who is pregnant from her second round of IVF. Last week she was having some issues, and that is emotionally exhausting. Top it off, I have a spirited daughter that I love to pieces one minute, and then want to throw myself in front of the train the next. Let's not forget the morning, mid-week, where my spirited little one was puking at 4am, 6am, 8am. That meant a day off of work for me (read: more stress in getting things set back up the next day), lots of laundry, and exhaustion. I think you get the picture.
Basically, anytime Steve would call in on his trip, I was distant on the phone.
Is everything ok? he would ask.
Yeah, fine. I would reply. And it wasn't...
You pilot wives know what I am talking about when it comes to phone conversations. Sometimes conversations with our pilots are flowing and smooth and great and perfect.
And then there are conversation where he is on some damn air train and the damn "woman" is announcing every single fucking stop: "next stop, terminal B, where you will find baggage claim..." Oh, SHUT THE HELL UP! Those conversations always end with "I can't hear you...call me later." CLICK!
And then there are conversations where HE is pissy. So, you get off the phone quickly because you don't want to add fuel to anyone's fire.
And then you have conversations where YOU are pissy. He asks how you are, and your are "fine." Everything is "fine." I do this for two reasons: 1. I just don't want to talk about it. and 2. you want to pretend that you can hold it all together and keep house and home and work and mom totally under control when he is gone. Plus, there is no sense in telling him all the details when he can't help you.
And when case #2 happens a little too much and you keep pretending to be holding everything together, things just boil inside you...and boil...and boil...until Mount St. Joanna erupts the evening her unsuspecting husband gets home from a long 4-day trip.
Around 3pm, the day that Steve got home, I called him and asked him to get the kids from school. I was working late, like 1 1/2 hours late!, and knew it would save me from having to get the kids.
So, when I pulled into the driveway after 5p, Steve was up on the workbench in the garage installing some hanging shelving. The kids were down at the play set.
I then walked into the house, put my stuff down, and immediately noticed dishes all over the counter.
Note to all pilots: when you are home all day, and there are no children that you are caring for, DO NOT, and I repeat, DO NOT leave YOUR dishes on the countertop for YOUR wife to clean up after working 1 1/2 hours late.
Folks, the sight of those dishes was my trigger to erupt. Yes, Mount St. Joanna erupted. And it was not pretty.
I won't go into all the juicy details of the situation, but let me tell you some key points: Steve actually left the house to drive to cool off after our exchange of heated words...which left me crying in front of the kids. As Steve stormed out of the house, CC looked right at me and said "that wasn't a good idea." The kids were stunned. I was a mess. Steve and I didn't really speak for about 2 days. I wanted to punch his face every time I saw him...and I am sure he wanted to do the same to me.
The fight was exhausting. It was horrible. And frankly, it was unnecessary. After some days, a bit of talking and a bit of texting, we made up. I was about to leave for a night out for a bachelorette party, when we finally reset ourselves. As I was loading my stuff into the car he came over and gave me a hug. I told him to just give me time (I never recover instantly from fights.) I reminded him again that this wasn't about him, but rather about me. He pulled back from the hug, dropped his head back and said in a frustrated/whiny/concerned way "Joanna, why are you trying to be the hero?"
Once in a blue moon I will record a video for work. Well, after my last video I got a quick peek at my performance. The very first thing I noticed were the bold lines between my eyes. I am actually considering botox for these lines, and even Ben notices them. He will ask me "Mommy, why are you mad?"
Right after I got home from work, I ran upstairs to find this book:
A number of years ago I saw Mac Fulfer speak at a conference, and his session was all about Amazing Face Reading. In short, he believes that every line on your face tells all sorts about your personality. Well, here is his description of those lines:
Folks, I am too hard on myself. I demand too much of myself. I focus on being right and exact. I demand more upon myself than I ever would of anyone else. Whether I like it or not I force myself to get the job done.
Do you all see where I am getting to in this post? I am too hard on myself. Because of this, I don't always get the help from others that I need, because I want to be perfect...the hero. Well, you know what happens when you don't ask for the help you really should be getting? Eruption! Disaster! Big problems!
Now that all this is in hindsight, let me break this down and offer some advice. To start, us pilot wives can sometimes have too much on our plates. This can be stress at work, or stress with the kids, or lack of sleep, or emotional stress. When your pilot is flying the friendly skies, he is away and most times can't help. A phone call does shit in helping with your 3-year-old when she is puking all over herself multiples times during the night. So, you have to deal with that situation on your own. When you have to work late and stress about picking the kids up on time, a phone call does shit when your pilot is 3 time zones away. You have to carry this stress - you have to force yourself to get the job done...BECAUSE THERE IS NO OTHER WAY.
So, in order to balance things out...pilot wives: TAKE A BREAK WHEN YOU NEED IT! Don't wait until it is too late, because that will just end in disaster. If you feel yourself getting out of control, take a break. It is the best thing you can do. Don't feel guilty. Do it! You deserve it, and you need it!
And to the pilots, recognize the warning signals (like when everything is "fine") and FORCE your wife to take a break. Don't say things to her like "you are being so cold to me." Why? Because she is being cold to you because the alternative is that she screams and bites your head off. So, read the warning signs and when necessary saying things like "you deserve a break"...and give her a break.
I have been at this pilot lover thing for 13+ years now, pilot wife for almost 10 years, and mom for almost 6 years now...and I am still learning the way. I am still learning about myself and my relationship. This fight was big - as big as they get in my house - and it was a great learning experience. The biggest thing I learned from this fight, that I want to pass along to my fellow pilot wives, is simple...you don't always have to be the hero.