“You seem subdued, quiet and/or tired,” 

My wife was right. I was. The previous week had been overwhelming. I was exhausted, even though I had the easy part.

Sandy’s done much more for me than I have for her in our 42 years together. Now, because of a fluke ocean accident, she won’t be driving for 12 weeks. She’s in a knee brace and cannot bear any weight on her fractured tibia, the larger bone below the knee.

So, I’ve been showing love, giving care, and being responsible in new ways. I’m not special. I’m merely keeping a promise to love her in sickness and in health. Millions of spouses have done more dramatic things for longer periods than I have. 

There’s good news. She’s unlikely to need surgery. Her doctor expects that within months she will be back to full, healthy and vigorous functioning.

Here is more truth. I’m called and relentless. I routinely try what may be beyond my capacity. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised when my capacity exceeds expectations.

Extreme athletes say you must test your limits to know your limits. Recently I learned more about my current, now lower, limits. My wife and I are fortunate to have made it to the Social Security years. In other words, we are not young anymore. What was easy at 30 or 40 is no longer possible. 

We’ve adjusted to the extra effort, the added difficulty, the more sleep required, and now one less fully mobile adult. We’re getting better at triage. Triage, you remember, involves making difficult choices. 

There’s nothing unusual about making difficult choices. Each day we choose to exchange a day in the pursuit of a few things and decline 100 other things that we might’ve attempted. Today we have more urgent or important matters to handle and less capacity to execute.

There’s another side to clarity of relative priority. I hate the damage and inconvenience of my wife’s injury. But we both have clear evidence that she’s more important to me than other people and other activities which I also value. We both know that there are more fun, pleasant, and financially lucrative activities that I’ve set aside, so that I can take care of her. Again, I’m not special and we both know that. 

We are both eager for her to be back to full health and full mobility. Reducing desires, admitting reality, prioritizing, letting go of intriguing options is hard. Discovering my laundering and shopping skills are subpar is not my idea of fun. 

Last Saturday three other husbands and I swapped stories about our ineptitude. We told about clothing melted in the dryer and flunking scrambled eggs. We laughed about using face time in the grocery aisle to ensure that we brought back the correct package this time. The other husbands have assured me that with remedial instruction I can earn higher grades.  All I must do is master what my wife learned from her mom. 

So, yes, I’m tired, subdued, and have been quiet. At least recently I’ve been showing wisdom in choosing the highest and best goal, helping my lover get through this difficult transition. A relatively few hours of love and sacrifice had a bigger impact than months of promises and chatter. At least temporarily I’m coming closer to being the husband she deserves.

What about you? What lessons have you learned when your circumstances were far below what you hoped for or expected?


Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.