A while ago my wife, Jasmin, asked me to help her in the kitchen. I had recently graduated from a demanding year-and-a-half-long language course, so I had time to learn to cook. “Cube the chicken,” she asked. I went to the kitchen counter with a knife and lightly sawed the meat. While cutting my first and only slice of chicken, I felt the hair on the back of my neck rise; my wife was staring at me. “You’re taking so long,” she groaned. It had taken me nearly a minute to separate one strip of chicken. “Here,” she sighed. “Just put a tablespoon of oil on the pan, I’ll do the rest.” And I poured a teaspoon instead.
I’ve been married less than six months and I still have many lessons to learn before I become an adept spouse; I can’t cook and I still grumble when we do chores. But six months wasn’t going to change those things — though given different circumstances I could have learned to cook. Six months hasn’t brought about changes that get me to close the curtain after showering but rather mental and emotional changes.
I Don’t Live For Myself Anymore
Before meeting Jasmin, I was a stubborn introvert who was hard to make plans with. Even if I had made plans, I was never guaranteed to turn up. My reserves of energy were, and still are, minuscule to the point where spending time with friends was often a burden. I would ad-lib excuses for not showing up to friends’ birthday parties and other similar gatherings. This sort of selfish behavior also corroded most romantic relationships I attempted to build. And if I managed to get into a relationship, it was short lived; I often moved from interest to interest like a parasite looking for a suitable host. I took all I could, compliments and all.
I didn’t change the moment I met my wife. Jasmin was quick to point out my selfish shortcomings and suggested logical and constructive ways to interact as a romantic partner. Even still, I continued to make mistakes. I would make a decision without considering her feelings or completely neglect her side of an argument. I will always be, for better or worse, a hard-headed man. But gradually, through my wife’s patience, I was able to shed most of my selfish identity.
If it weren’t for the change from ego-centrism, I would not be married to the woman who gives me a reason for waking up. Now I live cognizant of the power my actions have on my spouse’s emotions. A selfish act means the difference between a loving day and an argumentative one. I have to make a decision every day to live for love, rather than for ego, to live a life worth living.
A Passion Reclaimed
In high school, dedicating myself to a hobby was damn near impossible. My attention span was short, but worse than that many of my hobbies required self-criticism. My inner self-critic was extreme and uncaring to the point where writing caused me anguish. This has been the reason for me “quitting” writing at least five separate times in my past. I could never separate the critic from the passion.
The issue that ailed me was a matter of love. Outside the context of romance and despite being aloof, I treated most people with kindness. I knew grace for strangers and friends but not for myself. I exempt myself from the kindness rule, and that allowed my inner critic to rampage. I knew what the problem was even before I knew my wife but felt helpless to stop it. Despite being a negative influence on cultivating a hobby, it helped me to become a proficient musician. I knew the dangers of the critic as well as the advantages.
My wife knew how hard I was on myself and she sought to change it. She was aware of the otherwise undetected patterns of my self-deprecation and self-criticizing, and when she noticed them she pointed them out. In doing so I became mindful of these patterns, which allowed me to be more gentle with myself. When I allowed myself tenderness my passion for writing came flooding back and I allowed myself to dive into anything I wanted without any sort of criticism. As I was writing, I wanted to develop myself more. Not because of my critic but out of a natural growing process that stemmed from curiosity — proving to be a far more constructive process than intense self-criticisms.
I have struggled with depression since high school. Because of it I was lethargic and quiet. I suffered in silence as depression took everything from me. I still remember the “nothing matters” mantra that fueled my despair. The depression, which is now passed, is a haunting memory of the depths that I can fall to. My wife loved me regardless of the terrible shape I was in. While we were dating I was increasingly hard on myself. Anytime I didn’t do something right around her became kindling for depressive episodes.
I never wanted to go to therapy. I understood the stigma that needing help makes you weak, and that would be the reaction that others might have. Jasmin knew better than to succumb to those ideas. She understood the importance of mental well-being and inspired me to go to therapy. It wasn’t easy for me to go and admit that I had a problem, but I knew I had a problem and it would only get worse if I didn’t do anything.
Therapy coupled with a brief stint of antidepressants helped me conquer was able to conquer the depressive life that I fell into. Jasmin gave me the courage and support I needed to take those first steps into uncertainty. I had no idea what not being depressed was going to be like; I was oddly concerned that without depression I would lose my identity. I’m more myself than I have ever been.
If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the life I do. I wouldn’t have a second chance to see that life isn’t all terrible. My wife was the catalyst to great change in my life; my only hope is that I continue to fix my problems and to one day give Jasmin the new-found joy she gave me.