Every couple weeks I like to take a few hours and go to a coffee shop to write. It helps me focus. And relax. I usually go on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, but awhile back I decided to go on a Sunday evening because the weekend had been too full. I settled in with my coffee and my laptop and ended up staying until the shop closed.
After throwing away my coffee cup and shouldering my laptop bag I headed out into the dark night to our vehicle, one of the last ones in the lot. It was late…no biggie. In my younger days I prided myself on my independence, even driving solo through the night on several occasions. I was young and arrogant.
As I’m walking to my vehicle, all those little habits I learned as a teenager are kicking in. I’m watching my surroundings, aware of the few vehicles in the parking lot and whether they are occupied or not, aware of the teenagers standing on one side of the building, smoking and laughing. My keys are in my hand, the car key ready. As I unlock the door, I check the back seats. As I sit in the driver’s seat, I lock myself in and put the key in the ignition before I take the time to buckle my seatbelt.
Fifteen years after graduating high school (yikes!), these practices are still habit.
But there’s a difference. I feel exposed. My heart is beating more quickly. I know that I am still taking every precaution, but I don’t feel safe.
I leave the parking lot, and as I’m driving down the road I’m thinking…pondering… checking the backseat through my rear-view mirror. Why do I feel so different? Why am I uncomfortable in a situation that used to be so comfortable? Have I lost my edge? Have I become weak?
I don’t want to be weak.
I arrive home safely and as I’m walking along the sidewalk to the front door, still anxiously watching my surroundings, I text my sweetie to let him know I’m almost to the door. And then it hits me.
For ten years, my sweetie has opened doors for me and held my chair while I sit. When we go somewhere together, he almost always drives (unless I’m feeling sassy and jump in the driver’s seat first). He always fills the vehicle with gasoline. If I need something late at night, he offers to go for me. Before he comes to bed, he always checks to be sure the doors are locked and the kids are okay. Always.
Now please don’t misunderstand. If I wanted to do any of the above things, he would not prevent me.
How do I know? Because for several years of our marriage, I protested. A lot. I was independent. I could do things myself. And blast it all, I was going to. I assumed he kept offering because he thought I was incapable.
I was wrong.
Over the years, I have slowly learned that he doesn’t do these things because he thinks I can’t. He doesn’t do them because he thinks he has to. He does them because he loves me and wants to protect me. And slowly, I have learned to accept his love and protection.
As he opened the door for me that night and I walked back into his protection, I realized. I have not become weaker. I have simply experienced love and protection so consistently that I am more acutely aware when it is missing.
I have adjusted to his protection.
And that’s a good feeling.