This morning I’m driving my daughter to a dentist appointment and she complains about everything—the weather, the traffic, the bagel she had for breakfast. Neither of us talks about what’s really bothering her, of course. Her private worries about the dentist.
I recalled a recent afternoon when my husband was driving me to a neighboring community to give a presentation. I was fussing about the weather, the traffic, the confusing directions we’d been given. Neither of us talked about what was really bothering me, of course. My private worries about the presentation.
Sometimes it helps to talk about our secret fears. Sometimes it doesn’t. Nothing my husband could say in that moment would take away my anxiety but I was grateful for his presence. For his ability to absorb my irritation with quiet grace.
My daughter is still complaining when I drop her off at the dentist but my voice is cheerful. “Pick you up in an hour,” I say. “It will be okay.” She doesn’t answer.
I think about how loving someone at their worst might be the hardest thing and the kindest thing we ever do. And we all take turns doing it.
To be the recipient of this gift is humbling. Also healing.