When my husband married me, he thought he was getting an ambitious, college educated, modern woman. Fifteen years later, I can confirm that he ended up with an old fashioned, yoga pant-wearing, stay-at-home-mom, with a strange but fierce passion for writing stories no one outside a very small circle has read.
It’s not that I don’t work. It’s just the thing I work at is not likely to bring any significant financial contributions to our household. We’re fine now financially, by the grace of God, but we haven’t always been.
Several years ago, our world-as-we-knew-it ended when he lost his job. It was hard, scary, and emotionally trying, but my husband didn’t waver. He didn’t cloister himself in pity or shame. He didn’t wait around for the “right” job to come along. He went out and found work–hard, humiliating, dangerous work. Work for low pay and no benefits. He did it, and we survived.
When he’d had enough of that low-paying, benefit-less job, he joined the army, and promptly faced deployment to Afghanistan. Earlier in our marriage, I might have thought that was the worst thing that could happen (except for, you know, the worst thing), but by then, I knew it wasn’t so awful. His paychecks were steady and sufficient. The kids and I had everything we needed. We would be okay.
He left on a Sunday in March. The next day, I walked my kids to school, came home, cracked open my little laptop, and typed, “Chapter One.” I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. Morning, noon, and night, I filled the screen. I took the laptop to bed, and wrote before I went to sleep and when I woke up. I carried it around the house with me and wrote standing up in the kitchen, sprawled on the couch, and perched on a chair at the dining room table. I finished one full-length novel and started another during those months.
My momentum slowed as the homecoming date neared. I wanted him home more than anything, but a new fear creeped in. I had had the luxury of ordering my days, and spending my time however I liked. When I had to share my life again, I would no longer have that. The door, I felt, was about to close on this secret writing life, as it should.
It had been so long since we’d had anything resembling a normal life, I figured I would close the laptop and devote myself fully to giving him back a normal life. I did it willingly, unbegrudgingly, and without a word about it.
The year that followed was wonderful for my family. It was a year of peace, and thriving, and fully appreciating each other. The bitter stuff had turned out to be sweetening elixir. We were very happy.
I continued to work in fits and bursts on my writing, quietly and privately, and only when the house was empty. I learned a lot about the fiction writing world. I joined ACFW. I lost a few contests. I realized how little I knew about the craft of writing. I began to have some serious doubts, and contemplated giving up often, pondering why I even began. All of this insecurity churned internally because secrecy had become so ingrained during that year.
He knew I had written some stories. That’s about all I was willing to say about it.
One night that spring, we had a rare night out, just the two of us, and I had an even rarer glass of wine. With these despairing thoughts about my writing work so pervasive in my mind, I did an unexpected thing. Aided by the wine perhaps, I told him, with a slight grimace, that I’d completed four manuscripts without any promise or indication that anything would come of it. “I’m sorry.” (I might have slurred a teeny bit.) “I know it’s weird.”
I confessed an old persistent fear. Ever conscious of the possibility of the rug of employment being pulled out from under our feet again, I feared that if I didn’t…do something with all this, if I had nothing to show for all the work, he would want me to give it up and do the hard thing, the right thing, like he did. He would want me to face reality and get a real job.
But he said, amazingly, and not for the first time, that he liked me being home. He liked the calm and stability of our lives. The money he made was enough. And why didn’t I just go for it? What’s stopping me?
Just like that. Like it was a no-brainer.
When he got up to use the bathroom, I sat there, looking at his empty seat, remembering how my writing started: with that little laptop–an early birthday gift from him. He had always supported me. He had always known. It was I who had forgotten. It was I who had clammed up, and felt like hiding it for no other reason than my own stupid, irrational, devilish insecurities.
I realized then how truly rich I am, not because of my husband’s paychecks. That’s only a small part of it. God did give me a husband, who does earn money. My needs are met, and I can say from personal experience that’s huge and not something to take for granted.
But bigger than the financial stability is the gift of a husband who still, after all this–after all we’ve been through–the losses, the starting over, the struggle, the hard work, the time apart, the distance, the letting go of old ideas of how our lives would go, he still doesn’t ask me to quit my dreams.
That is such a good gift–to have someone make sacrifices for you, to trust you with your dreams when you don’t entirely trust yourself, and to let you carry on quietly in slow, dogged pursuit.
So life hasn’t turned out how I thought it would. Neither has my marriage, or my writing work. I haven’t even turned out how I thought I would. And I thank God for that. All of it has been far more challenging, more beautiful, and more rewarding than anything I would have written myself.
Because of the guy who married that naive, bright-eyed, over-confident girl fifteen years ago, all of it is still being written. I still pray for my writing with open hands, knowing that what ever happens with it, my husband will be rooting for me, giving himself for me, and urging me on.