I giggled and snorted (my involuntary response to extreme laughter) down the entire frozen vegetable aisle at our neighborhood market when I read my husband’s text message accompanied by this unfortunate picture. You’re wondering why he was wearing my sports bra. Well I’m wondering how he got it on.
Here’s the story. Years ago after attending a marriage conference, I was looking for a better way to express my frustrations rather than opening my mouth (which can get me in a pickle if I’m not careful). Keeping my frustration at an even simmer is manageable until anger jumps in the pot. All too often, my tongue insists on joining the party and that’s when things tend to boil over. My outbursts almost always took David by surprise as he had no idea anything was bothering me.
That’s my fault. I tend to overlook things on the surface but deep down, I’m irritated. I like to keep the peace and avoid confrontation. I do not like to argue so I try not to sweat the small stuff. The problem is…I sweat the small stuff. Usually, by the time I know it is necessary to address an issue the possibility for a reasonable discussion has come and gone. What typically follows is a heated exchange of words, confusion, and hurt feelings. Rarely a resolution. This is what led me to actively seek a better way to communicate.
So, I decided to wear one of David’s t-shirts whenever I was upset with him. When I shared this with David he stood blank-faced and oddly still for a few awkward seconds then gave me his classic I’m-beginning-to-worry-about-you nod. I’ve seen it a few times before. In hindsight, I probably should have told him why I was doing this. Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever have.
Here’s the back-story. David travels for work. A lot. It’s not uncommon for him to be gone the entire week. His absence has always been hard for me but falling asleep at night without him was my biggest challenge.
One evening, as I was finishing up the laundry and hanging up a few of his shirts, the light, sweet smell of David’s cologne softly swirled and soothed my senses. I was overtaken with both his presence and absence all at once. Without thinking, I grabbed one of David’s t-shirts and put it on, slept in it (I slept like a baby that night), and kept it on half of the following day. That was the start of my routine. To this day, whenever David is out of town I still sleep in one of his shirts.
Sleeping in David’s t-shirts always makes me feel closer to him. Protected. It also makes me more appreciative. I will often drift to sleep reflecting on what a good man he is…oddities and all (take another look at the picture).
My mentor once challenged me to look at things from David’s perspective when we were wading through a rough patch. This was a beautifully difficult assignment. In the end, it was precisely the way I needed to be stretched. It occurred to me that perhaps his t-shirts could have a similar effect when I was angry. Could I feel closer and more appreciative? I decided to find out.
So what happened when I put on his t-shirts out of frustration? My heart softened and my negative emotions subsided. Aside from walking around with a shirt on two sizes too big, our boys repeatedly asking, “Isn’t that Dad’s shirt?”, and feeling quite silly…I always end up laughing. We all do. Even our boys. My favorite part is the precise moment David notices me wearing his shirt, realizes I am upset, and watching his mind rummaging through the possible reasons. This moment alone melts my frustration away.
Our t-shirt-thing is not used to dismiss or deny legitimate matters that need to be dealt with. What it does do is allow for laughter and joy in the midst of challenges. It alters the way we handle conflict and reminds us that we are on the same team. We have learned to fight well…and laugh while doing it.
So what about David’s picture? This time while he was putting the laundry away, I suppose the sweet smell of his wife enveloped him, reminded him of how much he missed me the whole ten minutes I had been gone to make groceries, and he suddenly felt the urge to be as close as possible to his bride. As he stood with my sports bra in one hand and my sweat shirt in the other, he opted for the bra.
Or, he was just poking fun at my ways.
You and I both know it was the latter. When I got home, we laughed. We laughed hard. That’s it. That’s the lesson…our marriage super-food is laughter. Laugh at yourself. Laugh at your spouse. Laugh together. Life is certain to bring occasions to mourn, seasons of loss, and difficult times, but laughter is a choice.
Choose to laugh often.