My Debt Runs Deep

Lately I’ve been thinking about how much I have. What I have been blessed with in my life. And as I ticked one thing after another off on my fingers, I realized it all comes down to the same thing. Jill, my wife.

She is so much to me. Everything really. Everything that counts.

I owe her my career.


f/4.5, 1/40, ISO-100, 33mm

Early in our marriage, she convinced me to buy a computer. This was back in the days when a 125 MB hard drive was cutting edge, and CPUs ran at 25MHz. I would not have considered buying a computer myself because, at the time, I didn’t think I was smart enough to understand how to run one. Once I had it, learning it became something of an obsession for me (in part because also in those early days almost every game required the computer to be completely reconfigured. Want to play three different computer games? You have to have three different configurations handy – and understand how to make them.)

In relatively short order, Jill was also largely responsible for introducing me to a larger computer-user community in the area, becoming closer to several influential people than I could have hoped to without her. Jjust when I was not only out of work but unable to get a job doing as much as selling shoes, I managed through these contacts – and her initial influence – to land a job in the software industry and it has elevated me to a 15-year career and a living standard I could not have dreamed of without her.

I owe her my peace.

For much of my young adult life I cast about pretty uselessly looking for some meaning to my life. I struggled with the concept of God, my distorted view of what others must think of me, and even my dislike (if not utter hatred) of myself. For 10 years I raged with myself and the Forces – perceived or real – that howled at me and within me. I was unhappy and lonely, believing in virtually nothing save for an utter conviction that I deserved all the unhappiness I was determined to pour upon my soul.

Sounds like a lovely person, doesn’t it? Apparently Jill thought so. She saw something within me that was unrecognizable to myself. She found a warmth that she was able to nurture with infinite patience (trust me, Jill is the first to admit that patience is not normally one of her great virtues), enduring all the mental and verbal bricks I could hurl at her.

In the end it was all hopeless for me. I could not help but love her. For awhile after our relationship truly began I would occasionally still fall back into the old ways (hopefully not so much anymore) and we would have hum-dingers of…eh…loud discussions, pretty much always my fault. After one such moment, when I’d calmed down, I told her, “We may not always get along. We may not always agree. But I will always love you.” I think that was actually pretty close to the last time we had a significant argument. While that statement touched her deeply, it was also an epiphany for me. I wasn’t really thinking about it when I said it, but it meant something very significant to me, and I grew a lot after that moment.

She settled my soul, and with the same patience she re-directed my doubts about faith and God. As with so many things, she understood, even if subconsciously, that she couldn’t change me in all the ways I needed to be changed herself, and that it would be hurtful if she tried. But she knew how to nudge me in certain directions. Together with Pastor Rose they guided me back to a path of peace, and I cannot begin to express my thanks.

I owe her my confidence.

There was a time when I didn’t meet new people easily. I wanted friends, but didn’t believe anyone could like me if they knew me too well, so I tended to avoid people. Or worse, only let myself know people superficially. It’s one of  the reasons I was a terrible newspaper reporter – I was never really comfortable talking to people, which is probably the worst trait a reporter can have.

This was probably the last barrier that she was able to break down. Jill is so naturally outgoing and pleasant to be with that if you are going to spend much time in her company, you can’t help getting infected with such people skills. Today I am a leader at my primary job, I absolutely adore interacting with the public as a projectionist at the Vinton Palace Theatre. I’m even attempting to start a little side-business as a photographer, a job where (much like the reporter I tried to be 30 years ago), success absolutely depends on making people relaxed and comfortable with you. That starts with you being comfortable with them. I’ve already been as successful as I could have hoped to be with photography, so anything from here on is gravy.

But I could never have started such a venture without Jill’s influence, without her constantly and gently chipping away at the walls I insulated myself with.

I owe her the meaning of my life.

I’m not exactly entering my twilight years, but I suppose my life is at least creeping into late afternoon. This realization has led to some startling self discoveries. Most of the things I dreamed of when I was younger are not going to come to pass. I’m not going to be wealthy. In fact, I will never even be able to retire. I haven’t made a meaningful difference to the larger world. My job, while rewarding in many ways, is involved with things that aren’t going to make the world a better place in the sense of feeding the hungry or correcting injustices. I’m never going to travel to outer space or do anything at all particularly extraordinary that the world will sit up and take notice of.

Some days it still feels like I get up and struggle through a long, hard day for no more benefit than the privilege of getting up tomorrow and doing it again.

But Jill has taught me (though sometimes she needs to remind me) that I make a difference where it counts: in our home, in our circle of friends. There are people who will always be grateful to me for the pictures that I’ve taken of them and their loved ones, and I am grateful for the opportunities they have trusted me with. There are co-workers who will always be grateful that I help to improve their work, and I am grateful to have my work improved by them (yes, I’m sometimes a little slow to acknowledge that!) Jill never lectures. She demonstrates. She provides an example. And I learn from her each and every day I am with her.

I owe her my self-worth

I’ve spent this post painting a pretty ugly picture of myself, at least the way I used to be. It is undoubtedly skewed as I tend to be my own worst critic. But even if exaggerated, the basic points are true. And as one might expect, the kind of self-image I’ve just painted of my twenty-something years would suggest that I thought little of my own value.

How do I count my value? How do I sum up the things that I have? A decent car, a house that is sufficient for our needs. But there is so much more.

I have a mental outlook of optimism. I believe in Jill, and I believe in myself. I have a wife who is loving, devoted, and more than I could ever have hoped to attain. I have all of the things that I have expressed earlier in this post; important things, and she is responsible above all others for my having achieved them.

Yet there is one thing more that I have. Perhaps the most meaningful and resonant thing I could ever have. Something that has deeply affected me and those around me, and which has allowed my love for Jill to grow and mature in ways that I could not have dreamed possible.

I have received from her the understanding that that the most important thing that I have is the ability to give of myself to her, and to others. I don’t always do that as well as I can, or should. But I try, each and every day, to do my best to improve myself by helping who I can however I can. Especially Jill. I do it because I owe it to her, and much more.

I do it because she has earned my effort and my devotion, and I give it gladly.

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One Comment

  1. Val August 27, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    trying to think of something funny to say…a habit when things get so serious 🙂 but this is so heartfelt, I can think of nothing, except to say, you are a wise man…

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