Making the Bed with Gratitude

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The other day a client sat tearfully in my office, in pain over something she prefaced as “silly,” dismissing her feelings and herself preemptively with a wave of her hand. But her sobbing didn’t stop simply because her mind was in judgment of her feelings. “Please explain,” I encouraged softly.

She pulled a tissue out of the box and dabbed her eyes, looking at the carpet as she spoke. “I’ve had a lot of health problems recently. I don’t want to be a complainer but it’s been a push just to get up in the morning and go to work. Yesterday, my husband got up and left the bed unmade.” With that, her voice broke and she sobbed deeply.

“What does that mean?”

“It was Sunday—my day to make the bed.” She looked at me waiting for me to get the connotation. I was starting to get the idea so I just nodded. “It was more important to him that I keep some stupid agreement about making the bed than to help me when I’m sick. The part that hurts is that he didn’t want to help me.”

My heart ached. I thought of so many times where I’ve felt that what I did for someone mattered more than who I am, that without having something to offer, I wasn’t worthy. It’s been a belief I’ve been working on for a long time, but the need to heal that one still presents itself in surprising and painful ways. I took her hand. “You can use this as evidence that your husband doesn’t value you or you can confront him with his behavior and ask him to explain.”

“I’m afraid he’ll just get defensive and say he didn’t do anything wrong.”

“So what’s your worst fear in confronting him?”

She looked me in the eye now, searching for the answer that was already within her. “That it’s true,” she finally whispered, “that he doesn’t value me.”

“But since you already believe that, what is there to fear?”

“I might have to leave him.”

Of course that was her fear: that she wouldn’t have confusion as her excuse to hide behind anymore, that the decision to stay or leave someone who didn’t or couldn’t uphold her worthiness was her responsibility to make. Perhaps most difficult, she would have to face how much she was willing to value herself.

Before she left the session, she admitted to feeling unloved many times before but that this was somehow a last straw. She was resolved to confront her husband and face the consequences.

The woman who walked into my office the next week looked very different. Her shoulders were straighter and she had the confidence that comes with having just met fear with courage. I wondered what I would hear. Had she left him?

“He admitted that he’d been an ass. He said that I was right to be upset. Then he said that he cherished me. I must have looked pretty skeptical,” she said, “because then he asked how he could prove it to me.”

“What did you say?”

She smiled slowly, “I said, ‘I will know that you love me by how you look when you make our bed.’”

“And?”

“The next day I watched him as he made the bed, smoothing out all the wrinkles in the comforter. I could see the gratitude in his hands. He’s made it that way every day since.”

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