It was supposed to be a holiday of healing. Healing from the election results a few weeks before. Healing from the shock of a nation's decision. It was suppose to be a pause. A pause to take a deep breath, re-adjust our perspective and expectations. That had been the plan. I'd made reservations fully intending to be celebrating the 1st woman President. I'd made reservations knowing the New Year would be significant changes to our lives with the opening of Chester's judo dojo.
I wanted to write while there. I wanted to drink tequila while there. I wanted to walk the beach and look for seashells while there. I wanted to heal from the disappointment of the election while there. I wanted to dry my tears and heal my heart while there. I wanted to stop watching TV and looking at my news alerts on my IPhone and IPad while there.
Instead I was standing in the strong winds coming off the waters. Seagulls buffeted in the gusts, glided over the tops of swells like skimming stones. An hour before I could have enjoyed the smell of the sea, the chilled sand beneath my feet, the insistent tug of winds that pulled at my sweatshirt. I couldn't begin to enjoy one bit of it. I had caused my husband such pain with an insensitive statement, I was horrified at myself.
On my list earlier that morning was first, getting a cappuccino from the quaint coffee shop up the road aptly named the Front Porch. Second, was to get some pictures of the sun coming up on the horizon. I took pictures of the rising sun, the sand-swept walkway from the hotel to the beach, the ebbing tide as it reached farther and farther up the shore. I felt like a kid wanting to take it all in and miss nothing from the moment I woke up to the moment we packed up and left the coast. I hurried back from the Front Porch with my cappuccino, juice for my husband and ham croissants for later. I had set up an early video call with my friend Nancy so we could vent about the election before Chester got up.
I have known my friend Nancy almost all my adult life. We lost touch when I moved to southern California and then to the east coast. It was my eldest daughter who thought she recognized her on Facebook and alerted me. I reached out to Nancy and the rest was history. Our reuniting after years of and miles of separation reaffirmed my feeling about true friendship. We are still trying to fill in the blanks of the "lost years", and I am still finding out what her favorite music artists are or her favorite color is now. It was the memories of listening to Jazz or R&B in her loft apartment, or making Dutch pancakes for the first time, or riding around looking for a place to park and secure a cleared spot on the bank of the Sacramento River so we could drink wine and share a Granzella's deli sandwich, were clear images in both our memory banks. We have always talked, shared thoughts, theories and that day was no different. We started with the election and how everyone around us was handling the results. She spoke at length of one of her sisters who had been a Trump supporter and seemed to take particular delight in trashing all who supported Clinton. I asked her if she had heard about the Catholic Church decision to resume excommunicate any woman who had had an abortion. The Pope had allowed priests to absolve any woman in the confessional who had an abortion and sought forgiveness in his "Year of Mercy" that began December 8, 2015, and ran until the 20th of November, 2016. I told her how hypocritical I felt the decision was to resume the excommunication considering our military during war are not sanctioned by the Catholic Church. Chester, who I heard coming out of the bedroom earlier, was in the room when I made this remark. His reaction was immediate. His voice raised and agitated he cried out as if I had struck him,
"That's not right! You can't say that, Liz". His voice cracking with pain the continued, "That is my PTSD".
I looked at Nancy and she read the dismay in my eyes, Stricken, I told her quickly. "I have to go.
My husband looked at me as if I was someone he didn't know and didn't like. My tactless remarks cut him deep. I was shocked at my own words.
"Guilt. That is my PTSD", he told me his voice strangled. "I didn't know those people. They never had children or grandchildren because of me!" His voice began to break with the tears that ran down his face. I tried to reach out to him to hold him, but he pulled away, his shoulders tense, making his body small as he physically withdrew from me.
I left the suite, stunned at my own callousness. That I would never hurt him deliberately didn't matter. I had and I knew nothing I could do or say could fix it. Apologizing or trying to explain it would only magnify just how unthinking and uncaring I had been. I physically felt weighted with the pain I had inflicted merely trying to make an argument about religion, war and abortion. To make a cavalier statement in order to make a point over something I was not completely sure of nor committed to at my husband's expense was unacceptable, if not unforgiveable.
Hours later we talked through it. We'd sat across from each other at the little dining room table that bordered the living room of the suite. His face was guarded, his eyes still hooded, as if I might say something more to hurt him. That injured me in such a way, I understood his pain all the more. He told me he understood I would never deliberately hurt him, but my statements earlier made him spin in a way he couldn't get a hold of once it had started. Realizing he had been so taken aback, that to trust me was not going to be automatic brought tears of shame and sadness. I realized after years of working at being sensitive, aware and intuitive to his emotions, I had stumbled badly. I was quiet as he spoke, knowing I needed to listen. I could not fix this with my words. It would take my actions. More than anything, it would take time.