We’re going on seven weeks of Jon being on-call. SEVEN WEEKS. In the eleven years Jon has worked for the state, we have never dealt with such a lengthy on-call schedule. This has been hard. Harder than the time he worked 78 hours in one week, harder than the fires that ravaged our state.
On-call requires Jon to be within 20 minutes of his office, which means that I go to many things alone. If there’s a fatal car accident on any state highway, Jon is the foremen that responds to conduct an investigation, to shut down the road, and assist the first responders in any way. It means being at the beck and call of the state, at any time of day or night. We have received calls at midnight, at 2:00am, at 4:00am, ten minutes before we have to be somewhere, or even on our way to church.
It means that I’m ON twenty-four hours, seven days a week, and the partner that I’m used to sharing the parenting load with is missing. It means I attend weddings, birthdays, family gatherings, church, bible studies, and parties alone. It means I rarely get to see my best friend, let alone have any deep, meaningful connection with him. It means that I’m without a break or time to myself.
It means that I start to believe the lie that I can do this on my own, that perhaps I don’t really need Jon after all and maybe I can even do a better job without him.
This one caught me by surprise.
In our twelve years of marriage, I have always been strong in the face of difficult working circumstances. “We’re in this together,” I told Jon as he got ready for a twelve-hour snow shift, a toddler hanging on my knee and an infant against my shoulder. “We’ve got this,” I promised him.
But this time, it was different…
In the little time we DID have together, when he was between snow shifts, answering calls, and sleeping, I wasn’t able to have down time and really connect with him. I didn’t have a little one who needed to nurse, thus forcing me to stop and connect with Jon. This time, I was racing around like a crazy person, trying to get the Littles to school or a play date, I was preparing for birthday parties or Christmas, I was too busy to stop. And instead of being grateful for Jon and the hard work he was putting in, I started nitpicking.
He threw his socks on the floor again… He’s undermining the punishment I’d given a Little… He hasn’t noticed that I cut my hair or have lost a couple of pounds… He hasn’t thanked me for running the house while he’s been absent… He didn’t do A, B, or C the way I wanted it done… Has he even noticed that we got the closets organized?
In turn, he responded the only way one can respond in the face of not being able to do anything right, he returned the favor. It became a vicious cycle of complaining and whispering unkind words to each other through clenched teeth. It meant assuring an upset Little who overheard one of our fights that “No, Mommy and Daddy aren’t getting divorced. We’re just fighting, married people fight. Marriage is hard work, my Love, and Mommy and Daddy aren’t always going to agree. You know how you fight with your brother and sisters because they annoy you, well, Mommy and Daddy annoy each other. But don’t worry, we’re ok!”
Except that we weren’t and it was time to get to the root of the problem. That night was a late night, our conversation lasted long after we were usually asleep. We were both humbled, admitting to hurts and asking forgiveness for the hurts we’d inflicted. We came away with a renewed decision to fight for each other and for our marriage. We promised to make real, meaningful conversation a priority because it was in the disconnect that we found discontent.
Social media can often be misleading. Social media tends to show only the highlights of our life… the things we’re proud of, the very best moments of our lives. I’ve written before about sharing the highlight reel of my life, and I’m sure, however unintentionally, that I do just that more often than not. But let me be real for a moment, marriage is hard, hard work. We never do it perfectly, and often mess-up more than we don’t.
I was reminded that every morning, Jon and I have a choice. We can choose to believe the lies that life would be easier on our own, or we can choose to love. I’m choosing the latter. There’s not a question in my mind that currently we’re in a valley of our marriage. This is real life. But the mountain top is coming, and I’ll hold on to that promise with everything I have. And I’m especially thankful that Jon’s on-call will be over in a week. Eight weeks is entirely too long for me to be without my best friend and partner.