Thursday, September 21, 2006

Broken words

Dear Jan,

Under normal circumstances a relationship between a man and a woman is difficult to say the least. As a man I have been told by women that I am not a good listener, that I am selfish, that I am insensitive, that I don't keep my word, that I don't understand what she wants at any given time and that if I understand, I pretend I didn't, that I don't help, that I don't really listen, that I am disconnected from my feelings, that I am a user, and so forth. There is some truth in all of this, but there is a great deal of misunderstanding as well.

Do you remember when we were married only for a couple of months under what everyone could call "normal circumstances"? We had decided that to ensure that we would not fall into the incommunication nightmares many couples experience; we were going to read together the book Secrets to Lasting Love, by G. Smalley and put into practice some of the basic rules of conversation suggested in the book. Well, we didn't quite make it past the fourth chapter before your aneurysm, but I did learn some valuable principles that kept me going during that time. We were learning the basis for our journey into a deeper, more intimate communication that would allow us to really understand each other and provide a strong foundation for our life as a couple. Eight months later and one year after our wedding I realize that some of those principles were useful under normal circumstances, however, our circumstances are all but normal.

Lately the Aphasia you are struggling with has found a way to get under our skins, and the level of frustration has risen. Not only you can't communicate your ideas fast and clear as they come to your mind, but also your feelings seem to come out scrambled and in pieces. Your sensitivity is heightened to the modulation of voice, to volume, to expressions; when fatigue comes to you, it also affects language and communicatoin, and at times, I find myself in the dog house without really knowing what happened, what did I do to cause your frustration or sadness. It feels like the normal complications in the communication within a couple are multiplied dozens of times. And so, feeling guilty, frustrated, and missunderstood, I question if I really learned anything from our early readings; if I am listening to the facts and beyond, to your feelings and needs. The conflict seems to come faster than it should and without any warning.

Nonetheless, every time I am surprised at the resilience of the love in both of us that started this relationship, and at that misterious healing that occurs when we set our concerns and expectations aside and really hear each other's feelings and needs. Your convalescence imposes more understanding from my part. I was told early at the hospital not to take attacks or rejection from you as something personal, but to see it as the "injury" talking its pain out. At first, it was very difficult to do this, but I would pick the shattered pieces of my sensitive self off the pavement and I would come back with a fresh mind and no grudges. I learned to hear you beyond the words; to hear your needs and your feelings. This was sufficient ground upon which I could stand and from which I could embrace you again and again.

I still use the same approach, but it doesn't work always. Sometimes we both end up crushed by the broken words from your Aphasia and the broken words from my emotional incompetence.

We continue loving each other because we both believe in the divine source and nature of any kind of love and we both share a sense of call to love eah other. It is perhaps the intentionality of our love, the determination beyond-reason to extend each other grace time and time again what keeps us together more than anything else. Broken words can only break communication and broken communication breaks relationships. Some friends have told me that when they were broken and in need their partners left them. I suppose they expected that I would do the same. But here I am, still at your side and inexplicably loving you each day more.

Thank you Jan for helping me to patch my broken emotions as I help you patch your words.



Linda Ruth said...

Fede and Jan,

Your post broke my heart and your courage inspires me. I have no comfort, no words of human wisdom, nothing but the word of the Lord to offer:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21).

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. (James 1:26)

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)

Yes, I do have human wisdom to offer after all. I cannot recommend highly enough The Marriage Course (from the Alpha organization). God's view of marriage, intensely practical, very encouraging. Especially helpful in the whole area of communication.

Love and blessings,
Linda Ruth

FC said...

Thanks LindaRuth, the problem goes beyond techniques of communication...I am beggining to wonder if this nightmare will be over before I breakdown... Aphasia and Apraxia mean that you don't have much control over what you want to say or what you actually say. Can I make her responsible for what she says? I don't know I can. Sometimes her remarks make no sense, but slash to the core of my heart anyway. Later her brain will rearrange what was said, sometimes even deleting what she actually said. The therapists notice this, but I suppose they are "detached", so there is no pain if they hear incongruences.

Am I deceiving myself? is my religion worthless? is hers? This is a clinical situation. She is actually missing a portion of her brain that controls language and personality. Will she be able to re-wire these functions? I hope against all reason that she will be able...I know I am walking on water on this one, but I have no option, either she heals by divine intervention or I will sink and crack.

sharon said...

Fede & jan,

I reread this blog & can honestly say if you have made it this far through everything I pray & hope God gives both of you the strength, courage & faith to continue loving each other & supporting each other. Jan, you were the star of communication and still are in your own way. Fede I am really touched that inspite of your feeling broken, helpness & at the point of breaking down that you love & willingness to comprise & grace somehow picks your sensitive self up.

I too am going through some difficulties with my marriage - up & down. Most of them caused by emotional issues from the past & a neck injury from several years ago, which somehow has effected his brain. His neck injuries are ongoing so when they act up - he can't sleep, gets headaches - and the worst of all -lashes out at me for no reason. off course I take it personally & many times have wanted to leave (& have left, but went back the next day due to my love for him). He apologies & I hold him accountable. Yet he justifies it's not him but the injury that causes his moodiness, crankiness. I don't buy it all the time, but it's difficult as I see him suffer. Also I know he has trust issues from the past which also affect our relationship. I too am at the point of breakdown & times wonder when the nightmare will end when he is unwilling to comprise. I count my blessings that over the past few months he has made progress in terms of comprising & I have learnt to speak up & stand up for my values for you better. I am not the best communicator as Jan (at least not with my husband), I don't believe my husband is the best communicator because he says what is on his mind (he calls it telling the truth) without considering my feeling. My point is I can relate to what you are going through & continue to pray for you & Jan.

I look forward to see both of you soon. I have some vacation days next week. so I can possibly see jan on Tues Oct 24 or Wed Oct 25. I will call you to confirm.

Sharon Desouza