By Steve McIlwain
Life is busy. That never seems to change. But recently life has been particularly busy. I started a new job about a year ago, and while I’m settling in nicely, there are still plenty of things to learn. I also work part time for Foundation Restoration doing financials, administrative work, and writing articles. On top of that, we have been searching for a home which has turned out to be a part time job as well. In addition to all that, the usual hustle and bustle of life is cranking away: hanging out with friends, running errands, doing projects around our place, and a whole assortment of other things. It’s all good stuff, but recently, I’ve found my brain reaching its max capacity.
Typically when times are busy, I can double down my efforts, dig deep, prioritize everything, and move forward in full attack mode. But lately, instead of the killer instinct kicking in, the mountain of to-dos has seemed like an uncontrollable volcano. Every time I think I finally wrap my head around things, a whole other pile of work comes online. After a few cycles of that, my typical level-headed, surgical approach to problem solving has given way to an uncontrollable blob that I just can’t quite wrap my mind around. By the time I plop down on the couch for 10 minutes of downtime at the end of the night, I’m not exactly sure what I just did for the past 12 hours or what I need to do next. And we don’t even have kids.
As a husband I take pride in being steady and constant. I enjoy being reliable and always having a handle on things. Even when times get really busy and hectic, I like being the one to remain calm, inspire confidence, and keep things moving forward. I believe deeply that, even in the midst of the greatest struggles, there is hope on the horizon and everything will work out fine. However, my recent struggle to remain focused and confident has rattled me and forced me into unfamiliar territory: letting down my guard and exposing the fact that I’m having trouble handling everything.
Now don’t get too worried about me. I’m not slipping into depression, I haven’t developed a destructive addiction to perk me back up, and I’m not getting fitted for a strait jacket. But I have had to come to terms with the fact that I’m overwhelmed. And in the midst of an equally tumultuous time, I have had to lean on Ashley to keep me positive, provide encouragement, and create stability. Knowing how full her plate is makes that fact all the more painful for me. But it is what it is: I have needed Ashley to reinforce me, and she has handled it beautifully. She has asked me insightful questions, listened to my rambling, allowed me to be in a funk, and consistently prayed for me.
This situation is teaching me a valuable lesson about marriage: letting your guard down is part of what makes marriage so amazing. Showing Ashley my vulnerability and weakness, allowing her to support me, and adding more to her plate because I need help is part of the special bond and dynamic between husband and wife. I don’t like feeling helpless and out of sorts. I don’t enjoy feeling like I can’t wrap my mind around everything. But I love that I have someone to lean on, someone to help shoulder the burden, and someone who loves me enough to graciously take on more, even when she is running at max capacity herself. It is a difficult lesson as a man. We are taught to hunker down and power through problems, and I enjoy, even relish, embodying that image. Allowing that wall to come down is frightening, yet it fosters a bond and reliance that simply can’t be generated with my untouchable man guard constantly up. It has revealed to me the need to be open and vulnerable, that admitting weakness fosters strength, and that true love is a symbiotic dependence on each other.
The other day I was listening to the radio and a familiar tune came on. It was an instrumental version that was playing in the background. My mind was buzzing with all the things I had to do, but calmness started to fall on me. Subconsciously my mind began to feel at ease. I wasn’t quite sure why, but I began thinking about how Ashley and I can get through anything together. Even though things are busy and hectic there’s always a way to get through. Suddenly the subconscious turned obvious and the words ran through my mind:
“Lean on me, when you’re not strong. I’ll be your friend; I’ll help you carry on. For it won’t be long ‘til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.”
Ashley was the perfect embodiment of this song. The words rang in my head like fireworks in the night sky. Ashley has allowed me to lean on her. She has shouldered a burden and taken on a task above and beyond her already jam-packed schedule. Through that I have seen the power and depth of exposing my weakness and struggle. We are a unit, working through life together. And it won’t be long till Ash will need somebody to lean on.
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