lines of engagement



” . . . and so,” the cardiologist said in wrap-up mode after reviewing the results of the nuclear stress test, “i say you go straight to the hospital and let’s do a catherization tomorrow to see what’s going on.” armed with a direction, i launched into native jeannemode, directing my brother-in-law to go to the airport to fetch our son who was flying in from colorado; calling our daughter, alerting her to the change in plans; and plugging my phone in to recharge the battery for a few minutes. that done, i exhaled and said, “i feel better now.” to which hubs said, “this isn’t about you. this is about me.”

a simple statement of truth delivered from a man who seldom redirects the spotlight on himself. and let me tell you: those 8 truthful words unleashed a cacophony of voices past, hissing and spitting and chiming in to remind me of things they’ve told me repeatedly in years gone by: who do you think you are, missy? nice girls don’t talk about themselves. good mothers sacrifice. you’re bossy. you’re manipulative. good girls don’t say bad things. good girls let people talk about themselves. you’re too sensitive. you need to think more than feel. why are you focusing on that – it’s not important. this is not about you. you’re too self-absorbed. lighten up.

and a whole lot more.

that nasty, piercing chorus has chipped, chirped, and harped at me ever since. i second-guess every sentence that contains a personal pronoun. i replay various happenings in my life and find the aha’s – you were, too [insert horrendously selfish behavior of choice]. but mostly, i ponder where we separate and where we come together. where is the line drawn between andy and me? where is the us? we’ve always had spaces in our togetherness, and true: it’s his body, it’s his life, but this sure seems to be about me, too.

drawing boundaries, they call it – something i’ve never excelled at, honestly. i’m good at empathy. lean towards the inclusive more than exclusive. i shop for cards and gifts, but they’re always from “us”. i can’t watch shows like america’s funniest home videos. i compare other people’s experiences to my own. i learn from other people’s stories. when my kids were in high school, i read the books on their required reading lists so we could talk about them (and yes, i was accused of living vicariously).

for the past week-and-a-half, i’ve wrested with the lines separating wife from mother; caring from smothering; support from dictating; allowing from detaching. i’ve pondered where and after much (and i do mean much) consideration, a lightbulb: i see lines as suggestions. i tweeted it, given the few times my realizations fit comfortably into the 140-character space. “for crossing or guiding?” asked my twitter friend mrs. mediocrity. “both,” i told her.

lines in a coloring book? suggestions.

lines on the blank page? suggestions.

lines in the sand? suggestions . . . tinged with warnings.

line outside the ladies room? suggestion to station a friend to guard the door and use the men’t room..

and that circular, insulating, would-be impenetrable line around hubs and his heart issues? a suggestion for separation that after much consideration i’ve decided i’m not buying into. his heart may be the one that now houses a stent and his heart may be the one that endured the catherization and angioplasty, but over the past 36 years, 10 months, and 8 days, the line between our hearts has faded.

and i am not interested in drawing it back. period.


  1. mrs mediocrity

    Well first of all, thanks. Wait, this isn't about me, it's about you. You are so right, and you are so there, you are there together with him, you sit there and wait, you worry and you take care of and you wait on and you give. And I don't think you should draw it back, I think it is right that it is blurred and you just tell him to get over it. (That last part, just a suggestion.)
    This is a great post, I love the way you wrote it, and you are the least self-absorbed person I've ever met.
    xoxo, Thel

  2. MrsWhich

    I love you, Jeanne, in all your wholeness and messy lines

  3. Tia

    Oh so much in here that I relate to. I wonder if that same person was chirping at us! Great post~

  4. emma

    i like how you handle your lines. don't ever change, my dear, dear friend.

  5. Fran

    What a wonderful explanation of how intertwined we become with our soul mates. So glad to hear that he now is safely stented. Much love, Fran

  6. Jennifer Prentice

    On Saturday, I will celebrating my first wedding anniversary. I already feel as if the past year has bonded Hubs and I in a (hopefully) unbreakable way. I cannot imagine the bond I will feel with him after 30 plus years. It is encouraging to someone who is newly married to hear from someone who has been married for a while–yet is not only still with her husband but loving him more every day through good and bad (health). Thank you! XOXO

  7. AlanaSheeren

    Oh Jeanne – you always speak straight to my heart. I love the notion of lines as suggestions. If only more of us lived life that way.

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