The Big Notebook
David had The Big
Notebook with him again when he picked me up from work last night.
These days, he brings
The Big Notebook home from the office at least once or twice a week. It
always means the same thing: that he's criminally overloaded at work.
secretary is AWOL and he's been without admin support all
day ... his boss has dumped a fresh new batch of shidt onto his already
poop-intensive plate ... someoranother ridiculous new crisis is
brewing, and David is caught plunk in the middle of it ... you get the
picture. He brings The Big Notebook home with him, in a
well-intentioned (but mostly useless) attempt to get caught up on
Once he gets home, he's
usually so bogged down by
non-work-related stuff -- homework, housework, familywork, wifework --
that The Big Notebook winds up sitting on the sofa all evening,
untouched. The next morning he lugs the notebook outside to the car and
takes it back to work with him ... invoices still unalphabetized, print
orders still uncollated, papers still a big messy jumble.
It's painful to watch.
I turned to him in bed
last night, just before we went to sleep, and quietly kneaded his
shoulders with my fingertips for a few minutes. It occurred to me that
the well-being of an awful lot of people rests on those magnificent
broad shoulders of his: family, friends, co-workers, customers, online
acquaintances ... even the idiot tailgating us in the Webster Tube. We
all depend on him. We all count on him to be strong and reliable and
decisive. We all expect him to know everything and DO
everything and fix everything. Plus we're all constantly fighting for
that prime piece of shoulder real estate, closest to his ear.
It must get awfully
crowded on those shoulders, sometimes. I wonder if he's ever tempted to
flick us off, like pesky flakes of dandruff?
Here is what I wanted
to say to him last night in bed: I wanted to say I
know you're depressed about your job. If anybody understands what it
feels like to be stuck in a sucky job you hate, *I* do. I know
you're worried about money, and about the brakes on the Subaru, and
about your brother, and about Daughter #2, and about the 43,897,621
things that we can't do anything about tonight. If anybody understands
what overwhelming worry feels like ... *I* do.
Here is what I said to
him instead: I said, "I wish there was something I could do to make
things easier for you."
He was silent for a
moment. Uh oh,
I thought. Now I've done it.
Now he's going to fall apart on me. I've unleashed his Inner Secra, and
now he's going to weep and whine and complain about how 'overwhelmed'
he is by the demands being placed on him ... how 'unfairly'
been treating him lately, and how great an ice-cold gin martini with
triple olives would taste, right about now. But of course that's not
what happened at all.
"Things are a little rough
right now," he said
finally. "Mostly it's my job. But we'll get through it."
There was the
usual ring of practical optimism in his voice, but privately I wasn't
as completely 'sure' about these things as he is. Before I met David, I
used to think that *I* was the most optimistic person on the face of
the planet, but compared to David I'm Chicken Little, running
around screeching at everybody to duck and cover.
I pay lip service to the
idea of tomorrow being a better day. David is the one who actually believes
This morning I sat on
the edge of the bed for a few minutes, after my shower, and I watched
him sleep. There is something very intimate and very sweet about
watching a much-loved partner sleeping. He looked so peaceful -- so
calm and untroubled -- that it split my heart in two. Why
can't it always be this way? Why can't things always be this easy for
him? And the answer to that, of
course, is It can't always be
this way because it can't always be this way.
Eventually even the most adorable, untroubled, much-loved partners have
to wake up from their peaceful sleep and venture out into a big messy
complicated world full of problems. I think the best that any of us can
hope for is to have someone in our corner, wishing they could make
things easier for us.
David knows this
already, I guess. I'm only now beginning to figure it out.
I can't snap my fingers
and find him a better job ... but I can help him craft a new
résumé. I can't wave a magic wand and give him
back his 20-year-old body ... but I can make sure that he takes his
vitamin every morning. I can't push a button and instantly wipe out all
of our debt ... but I can hold off on charging those $4,000 earrings on
the Capital One card. I can't relieve all of the burden resting on
those crowded shoulders of his ... but I can rub them a little bit at
And I can offer to carry
The Big Notebook, once in a while.
throw a rock