Alex and I joke that his online persona is that of Loveable Oaf. I’m guessing that this is my fault.
Case in point:
The thing you may not know about Alex is that he’s actually a really intelligent, thoughtful, caring man. He plays along with me a lot.
And he’s a littttttle bit of an oaf. But definitely loveable.
Now, I know all you must think that I’m a picnic and a goddamn half to live with, but truth be told, I’m a little prickly. I am a control freak. I am rigid. I have anxiety. I am not good at maintaining a home. I mean, I’m pretty awesome and all, but I let’s just say that Alex is extremely tolerant.
Alex has been accommodating me for years without either of us realizing it. I mean, I know that’s what you do for a partner. I do it for him too. He has certain quirks that I accommodate. There are certain things that I am good at and he is not that I handle for that reason. (I can’t think of one right now, but I’m sure they exist.) But, without question, he has had to do more bending in our marriage than I have.
I had a whole example written out about how I am incapable of doing certain things that make perfect sense for me to do but that send me into an organizational and anxiety-ridden tailspin, so he has to take care of it. But then after it was all written out, it seemed too embarrassing. So I deleted it.
Here’s a better example. It might not surprise you to hear that it comes via Phish.
We all know that Alex goes to a lot of Phish concerts. I encourage people to mock him mercilessly for said concertgoing, but the truth is that I love Phish too. I have been to dozens of shows myself. Alex and I, however, do not go to Phish shows well together.
For the longest time, we would go to shows and I would end up pissed at him and we would end up in a fight and someone was often mad. We did have good times at shows, but it was often very stressful for us. I always just assumed that it was because Alex was an asshole and left it at that. As you do. In truth, our needs and expectations at shows are very different.
When I was in grad school, Alex and I broke up for a while. He did his thing and I did mine, which included going to Phish shows by myself. The summer after I graduated from grad school, I followed Phish for their whole summer tour. (1998, in case you’re a fan. The summer of funk, as I like to call it. Such a good tour.) Alex and I were back together by this time, but he was only able to come to a few of the shows. I had some anxiety about certain parts of the tour, but for the most part, I was happy, I was relaxed, Phish shows were a happy place for me.
Looking back on it, I know that I liked going to those shows by myself because I was in control. I didn’t have to talk to people if I didn’t want to. I could meet people or walk away at will. I could stand on the back of the lawn and dance at general admission shows instead of staking out a place on the rail at the very front, surrounded by people, which is where Alex liked to be. And, yes, it is great to be on the rail, but there is not enough room in this blog post to list all the anxiety inducing aspects of such a location. When I’ve been on my own and haven’t had an assigned seat (I love assigned seats), I have always chosen to hang in the middle or back.
After I started going to shows again with Alex, I would have great anxiety before them. I didn’t really know why. As I started to get to know myself better I understood a little more. For the past couple of years I have told Alex to get me tickets, but be prepared to have to talk me into actually using them because I will always panic and try to back out.
Then, I got my autism diagnosis. I don’t know how much of a difference that has made to Alex. He has been very supportive, but I don’t know that he gets why it mattered to me so much. I just assumed that he knew that it mattered to me, so he was cool with it. He’s good that way. He’s always been so good at accommodating me that I don’t know that my diagnosis made much of a difference to him.
When we were in California last August, Alex went to several Phish shows. I went to just one. I tried to back out of it, especially once I found out it was an all general admission show. Alex was supportive, but encouraged me to go. When we got there, he stopped and asked me where I wanted to be.
For possibly the first time in our Phish-going lives, he seemed to realize that I couldn’t tell him what I wanted to do because (a) I literally couldn’t tell him, and (b) I don’t want to make him go somewhere he doesn’t want to go, especially at a Phish show, which he loves so very much. It’s how we always got into fights at these things. Like I said, our needs were different.
This time, he very much checked in with me. He asked me if I wanted to find a seat in the upper sections or if I wanted to be on the floor. He introduced me to some of his friends on the floor, but then took me to the bar for a break. I saw him actively recognizing my anxiety in the moment and helping me find a place to be happy.
We ended up in seats, maybe the best seats in the house, thanks to some other friends of ours who are absolutely amazing. Let me show you:
It was actually that Phish show that made me realize how much Alex looks out for me and works around me. It made me realize how much extra work he does for me. It made me realize that he notices my psyche and really tries to make me feel safe. It’s not that I never noticed it before. I just hadn’t noticed it as a cohesive, global way of helping me.
As has been
said sung: Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.
Thanks, Alex. I’ve been meaning to thank you for that night for a while now. I’ve been meaning to thank you for a lot of years of unconscious, kind accommodation. I’ve been meaning to tell you what your behavior that night made me see. I’ve been meaning to thank you for seeing me even when I didn’t know that you were.
I’m not very good at saying these types of things. I’m often not very good at expressing myself in person. Sometimes I literally can’t talk about it. Sometimes I say something that isn’t what I meant to say in the first place. There are words that I flat out don’t like to say. But this song has made me think of you lately, so I’m going to let Mr. Willie Nelson say it for me.
Thank you, Alex. Even if I don’t always show you how grateful I am to you, I feel intensely lucky to have you. I know I’m supposed to publish posts like this on our anniversary or on your birthday or on some such occasion, but I think you deserve this on a random Monday just because.
I want you to know that I see you too.