Reading from the Same Page

The basics of my ‘life script’ were always the same. Go to college, get married, career, and then children. I have accomplished all those things, although, not as neatly as my original script had called for.

I began college right on time. But, things got a little off track when my dad died right after my freshman year. That really messed up my script. I had to delete the scenes of him walking me down the aisle at my wedding and of him playing golf with my children.

Then I married after my sophomore year of college – that came a few years too early. And, to top it off, I had my first child in September of my senior year of college. That really messed up the plot line of my ‘life script.’ Being a writer has made me a professional at the art of the rewrite. However, keeping up with all the revisions does get complicated sometimes.

The trickiest part of my script is the little bitty daily details: the dialogue between my husband and me. Women, you know what I mean. For instance if I am crying when my husband gets home from work he is suppose to ask, “What’s wrong?” then just listen as I tell him – not offer solutions. I mean really, this script has been around for a long time, why is it he refuses to read it? Or, if I am not speaking to him when he gets home from work, he is not suppose to just think, “oh, well” and go off to the garage and work on the lawn mower. No, he is to ask me over and over again ‘what is wrong,’ and ‘what can I do to make it up to you’ until I finally give in and tell him.

Why oh why can he not read the script? Okay, let me be honest, that last scene, even if I gave him the script for it – that just isn’t going to happen.

This whole “script” thing has actually turned into a point of humor and communication in our family, but it was learned through a very hard – absolutely not in the script – moment of our lives. After the death of our infant son, my husband and I ended up in marriage counseling. Neither one of us had ever even considered a script for this scene in our lives and we were writing it by the seat of our pants every day.

Unfortunately, our scripts had nothing in common and they were tearing us apart. At one point it seemed that it would be easier to write the other person out of the rest of our lives just to survive the grief. We had a two-year-old son so we thought, ‘before we throw the whole storybook away let’s seek some help.’

We all expect those closest to us to know our script. They are supposed to know the perfect thing to say and how to react to our every mood. It is in the script isn’t it? Sure it is, but that script is in our head. Our counselor helped us realize that we each had an idea of what grief should look like and what grief should do. Our problem was our ideas were very different and we weren’t sharing them with each other.

We were asked to not talk to each other but to write to each other instead. We were to tell the other person on paper what our lines were and what their lines were. It was remarkable to see that we both were feeling the same grief and needing the exact same comfort, we just didn’t know how to say it in a way that the other person could hear it. But when we saw each other’s scripts – what he needed me to say and what I needed him to say – it saved our marriage and healed our broken hearts.

We have taken that lesson with us and used it more or less successfully throughout the years. Now when things are getting tense and communication is going south we say, “You have not read the script!!!”

Let me give you a specific example. I would call my husband during the day while he was at work and say something like, “Please come home. I miss you so much.” I knew he couldn’t come home, but in my script I was just showing him that I was thinking about him. In my script this was suppose to make him feel loved and needed – things we are told are important to men. Remember I knew he couldn’t actually come home.

However, in his script all he heard was my wife wants me to come home and I have all this work to do. He had written a lot of guilt into his script because he often worked long hours and would miss family events or evening meals. I didn’t know that. Having to tell me he couldn’t come home only added more guilt.

Our scripts were working against each other. He would start listing all the reasons he couldn’t come home and it would frustrate me. In my script when I said, “I miss you and want you to come home” my husband’s line would read something like this, “Oh honey, if I could I would.”

Problem was he didn’t have a copy of my script. So this phone call that was suppose to make us both feel loved and cherished left us both frustrated and lonely.

That is until, finally one day, I made one of my “miss you” phone calls… and before he got a chance to start in on all the reasons he couldn’t come home I said, ”Now say, ‘if I could, I would. I miss you too.” It was like magic. I had shared the script and now the scene played out the way it was intended. I wish I could say that the next time I called he remembered his lines, but he didn’t. It took a few good dress rehearsals for him to get it right.

So the next time a loved one, friend, or even a stranger reacts in a way you didn’t expect or can’t understand, maybe it is because they just didn’t get a chance to read the script. Go ahead and give them a copy. I promise it will help.

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Category: Every Day Life

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