Payback

January 10,2012
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

A few weeks ago, my husband discovered that one of his CDs was missing. He hadn’t listened to it in awhile, but despite the fact that he has dozens and dozens of CDs, and over 1,000 record albums, and maybe 50 cassette tapes, he noticed that the CD was gone.

This led him to spend a lot of time wondering who had borrowed it, and how he could get it back. It also prompted him to think about other things he had lent out, and where they were, and how he could get them back.

Fast forward to New Year’s Day. We have a family tradition that at dinner on New Year’s Day, we take turns going around the table and sharing our resolutions. L., who is usually good for coming up with some pretty poetic and mind-blowing resolutions said, with a facetious look at all of us, that this year he “wants to spend more time on the computer.”

T.’s resolutions seemed to be all about gymnastics. She wants to be able to do a round-off, a cartwheel, and the splits. My resolution…well, I’ll get to that in a moment.

Scott’s resolution was simple: to make an effort, in 2012, to get back what he deserves.

Then we had dinner, and everything was chaotic, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the wording of my husband’s resolution. What had he meant? Did he feel he wasn’t getting what he deserved in life? Had I failed him somehow? How could I not have noticed? I thought back to the day before, when I’d been overcome with crabbiness about a number of things. Was he thinking he deserved an un-crabby wife? Was this how mid-life crises happened? I flip-flopped between feeling alarmed about my easy-going husband’s state of mind, and self-righteously angry that he felt he wasn’t getting what he deserved. Wait, I thought, maybe I need to get back what I deserve? What about me?

When the kids were tucked into their beds that night, and we had settled on the couch, I turned to him and asked him point-blank, what it was he felt he deserved, but wasn’t getting. Then I braced myself.

“My Innocence Mission CD,” he said. “I just want my CD back.”

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As it turns out, my own resolution does have a lot to do with what I deserve. I resolve this year to continue to be good to myself: to continue to make time for swimming 3-4 times/week, to carve out the writing time I need and want, to put myself out there and work as hard as I can to find a home for my book.  I also resolve to cut loose those lingering negative forces around me—you might have them, too: negative people who have caused you harm, or who make you feel poorly about yourself, or who take and take and don’t give back when you need them to; grudges that drag you down, bad experiences that you keep replaying in your mind over and over again, until you feel your teeth clench and your stomach turn over.  I am definitely guilty of succumbing to all of those. Life is wonderfully busy, and filled with so many good and treasured things, and good and treasured people who shine through it. That is, simply, all I have time and need for these days, and all I could ever want.