What Other People Think Only Matters If You Let It

Neil and I had some rough spots over the years. What marriage doesn’t? We tend to suppress those memories or gloss over them in time with a more favorable lens. Recently, I went to a concert that forced me to confront one of those memories.

Twenty some years ago, Neil and I planned to attend a concert at that particular lovely outdoor venue called Lime Kiln Theater. It’s made up of several different  stages hewn out of ancient quarry rocks and man-made refreshment stands where you can buy  beer or a glass of wine. The gates open early so people can bring picnics and relax under the stars before the show. I didn’t get off work that evening until 8 pm, so Neil suggested I meet him there. He got there at least an hour before me and started “relaxing.” He was very drunk by the time I arrived.

He slept in his seat through the whole first half of the concert. He snored forcefully once or twice, but a quick jab with my elbow took care of that. In the middle of the second set, he woke up and loudly announced that it was time to go. Embarrassed, I quietly shuffled along behind him, hunched over so I didn’t obstruct anyone’s view of the show. We left the audience area and had slowly climbed about half way up the path that leads to the parking lot, when Neil decided to take a nap. Yes, right there in the middle of the pine straw path, he laid down on his side, curled into a little ball with his face on a rock and told me, “Night night.”

I was mortified. Down below I could hear the concert wrapping up and loud applause floated through the night air. I tried desperately to wake him up. I poked, slapped, pulled and even kicked a little. Nothing. Panicked, I realized that within seconds the path would be full of people. What could I do?

All I could think of was to sit down. I put his head in my lap and nodded pleasantly as the concert-goers streamed by. A few people asked if we needed help, but I simply answered, “No thanks, we’re good.” Most people just walked by as if a man taking a nap in a lady’s lap after a concert was a perfectly natural, common occurrence. As the last of the stragglers left, he woke up. I pointed him to my car and got him safely home and into bed rather easily.

I was mad at him for days after that. By my anger wasn’t based on loving concern over him, it was selfishly grounded on my own embarrassment. It was centered on the uncomfortable sense that people would judge me based on my husband’s actions. As if somehow, I was responsible for letting it all happen. And the truth was that no one did seem to judge me that night; I was the only one doing the judging. I was the one accusing myself of letting it all happen.

Fortunately, over the years since, I have realized that I am not responsible for other people ‘s actions, no matter how close they are to me. I cannot control anyone else’s choices or decisions or behaviors. All I can do is control myself – and I can’t even always do that well! Now I can look back at that night and even smile a little at the thought of how we must have looked.

What other people think only matters if you let it.

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