My wife and I have been married for a long time. Since 1952 to be exact. Before that, we dated for three years and broke it off once for a short time when we were afraid we were too young and too serious. During that break up period, I drove by her house frequently to see if there was a light in her corner basement window. Then she toodled off to BYU from Laramie for a couple of quarters and left me sad and despondent for the winter. I was 17 and a college freshman working my way through college, and my girl friend was 16 roaming the halls of Laramie High School when we went on that fateful blind date to a square dance in early January of 1950.
My wife, Velna, has had as her main challenge all these years the responsibility of being my psychiatrist. She is always upbeat and optimistic. I always assume the worst. I have been a worrywart all my life and have thought I might have had two or three dozen fatal illnesses beginning with polio, extending through MS in my 40s, which took 43 years to discover I didn't have after all, and a plethora of other disturbing symptoms and ailments. Of course, if one is neurotic, every symptom is potentially fatal.
Here is a summary of my wife's psychiatric advice and counseling, which has saved me numerous hours on a couch telling stories to someone who would have charged me big bucks to tell them.
- I asked my wife, "How do you stay so upbeat and optimistic all the time?" Her answer: "I assume every day is going to be a good day and act accordingly."
- When I say something like, "I'm not long for this world," or "I can feel the life forces waning,"
I get a variety of responses, all of which are very short and uncomplimentary.
- My wife lives in chronic pain, and she rarely complains unless the pain becomes extraordinary, which happens now and then. Her general statement is something like, "It is what it is."
- When I'm not sure how I'm going to make it through the day while I am in this lengthy recovery period from vertigo, she usually says something like, "Just keep going."
- When I start wandering through the pitfalls of our various ailments, she usually says something pithy like "It is what it is."
- Now she very much likes the advice we just recently heard: "It could be worse." So whenever I start rattling off the terrible condition of my physical ailments, she gives me a list of 10 or 12 or more ailments that "could be worse." So true. And it does help keep things in perspective.
You get the general idea. My wife is a woman of few words but when she utters a few words you had better pay attention and heed them if you know what is good for you. During our courtship decades ago, I would write long flowery letters and she would write short succinct letters with gems like "Jean and I went to Woolworth's today," or perhaps, "I fixed my hair this morning" leaving me to ponder whether any hidden ardor or lovelorn clues were hidden between the lines.
I wish I had the courage and strength my wife has to help us get through these challenging late years in my life. But she has an extraordinary ability, in few but meaningful words, to put my worries more or less to rest, and the capacity to ignore my negative diatribes and still face the day and its challenges with equanimity and courage without tossing me out the door. How could I be so lucky.