On our living room wall, there is a beautiful wooden plaque, inscribed with a poem from our wedding ceremony. We’d never heard the words before, but as one of my best friends, Zoe, stood in the church pulpit, and read them aloud in front of our family and friends, they truly resonated with us. The poem talked of the partnership of marriage, of travelling through life as a team, of “holding up the ceiling” together. And how during life’s twists and turns, if our “partner’s arms tire”, we should “hold up (our own arms) to relieve” them. It perfectly describing the sort of marriage we longed for, the life together we aspired to have.
Over the past thirteen years of matrimony, we’ve tried to live by that poem and those words. Our couple’s motto. For the majority, when times are well, we both take an equal share and responsibility in the running of our lives. Phil is in charge of our bank accounts, and takes on the most physical jobs. Whereas I do the less strenuous chores, and all the family admin. And during those inevitable periods of struggles and illness and exhaustion; when one of us needs to take a step back; we’ve thankfully always had the other to take up the slack, to keep it together, to stop the house from “falling”. I often gaze over those special words on the wall, as I sit on the sofa.
For the past month, I have been “holding up the ceiling” in our house. Days after our return from Wales, Phil tested positive for Covid. He spent much of the first week in bed or on the sofa; floored by exhaustion. Sleeping and resting and resting and sleeping. And even when his body had beaten the virus and he was testing negative again, he only had enough energy coins for work. He’d go straight to bed after dinner, or spend any free time lying down or napping or hiding from the exhausting pups. And although, now, over a month later, his energy levels are mostly recovered. He’s still not fully back to normal. Not at all. Covid can take a while to bounce back from.
So, I’ve been taking charge of everything. Everything. On top of my usual daily chores -the washing up, the cooking, the cleaning clothes- I’ve also been doing Phil’s share too. Since developing Pulmonary Hypertension, the more physical housework jobs have all been out of my reach. Impossible. Strenuous activity causes breathlessness and heart palpitations; requires more strength and energy and breath than I have; and leaves me exhausted and ill for days after. Yet, unbelievably, with Phil out of action, I’ve managed to do the previously unimaginable. The dogs have still been walked, the house cleaned, the car driven, the bins put out. My wonderful body has found a way. 🙂 Partly by adapting the chores- sitting down, doing each one in small steps spread out, turning up my oxygen. Carefully planning my day’s activity, resting between tasks, prioritizing jobs over fun. Partly because my miracle body is currently coping brilliantly. Yep, amazingly, wonderfully, thankfully, I am more functionally able than I’ve ever been since developing Pulmonary Hypertension. And partly necessity has dictated possibility. If it must be done, then a way must be found.
Over the past nearly two decades together, Phil has held the ceiling up for me many many many times. Always with a smile and a kiss and encouragement to rest and recover. And knowing his arms are not only strong enough to look after the two of us, but happy and pleased to do so, has always given me reassurance and peace. Allowing me to focus on recovery. I’m so thankful to him. This past month has been the longest time I’ve held up the ceiling for us both. I’m exhausted, but I’m so glad I can -at last- return his kindness, reciprocate his care. To give him a smile and a kiss and encouragement to rest and recover. And to show him that I too meant those words from our wedding ceremony.