Welcome Modern Love Podcast listeners!
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The focus of this post, however, will be on something quite personal: my feelings on my husband’s Modern Love lung transplant essay, “When Love Isn’t As Simple As Standing By Your Man.” While I think the essay is amazing, I also thought I would add my own two cents on the experience. These are some of the questions that come up, a lot…
Did you know he was going to write the essay?
Yes. In fact, I was a big Modern Love fan. One day, after listening to the Modern Love podcast on the ride home from work, I said something like, “So, this may sound a little egotistical, but have you thought about writing a Modern Love essay? I mean it doesn’t really have to be about me, but you had a pretty unique experience…so maybe write something? The New York Times is a big deal, so why not try it?”
Did you read the essay before it was published?
Hell yeah, I did. Eirik has always valued my opinion on his writing. About six weeks into our relationship he gave me a chapter of his book, Exponential Apocalypse to read/critique, and I loved it! The fact that we could talk openly about his writing and he respected my opinion was a big part of falling in love with him.
When I read the Modern Love essay the first time, I learned some things about his experience that he had never articulated before. I had no idea he was angry with me during the time I was away. Honestly, I was so absorbed with focusing on me – relaxing, fixing the house up in anticipation of his move home, and going back to the office in person for the first time in nine months – I wasn’t too concerned with how he felt at the time.
I needed space to start healing. I had tunnel vision for most of that year. I could only think of him and his health. I needed to leave the state to start focusing on me. I might have had an inkling he was upset – but I thought he was just envious that I was playing with the dog and having fun in Albuquerque. I had no idea how hurt he was at the time – and I’m kind of glad I didn’t know. I don’t think I would have handled it very well.
We had spoken before about how a lot of writing about chronic illness and transplant was a tad bit sugar-coated. It was about being thankful to the donor and their family, about the amazing ways your community can come together to support you, and about the miracle of getting a second chance. Transplant is definitely all of those things. But it’s also dark, scary, humiliating, and gut-wrenching. After I read the essay, I realized we had to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. The world was going to see the darker side of what happened to us, and it was the right thing to do, so that others would feel less alone.
How long were you actually gone for?
Two weeks. That was my big long break. I literally hugged my closet full of clothes when I was home. It’s the little comforts when you’re under that much stress.
Seriously, you two are still married?
Yes. We went through a rough patch. We are honest about it. We’re still a pretty bad-ass, compatible, married couple.
How did it feel when the essay was published?
I was so nervous before the essay was published. I was sincerely worried that everyone I knew and the Internet would think I was a terrible person. It wasn’t until my close friends read it and I got their honest reactions, that I started to realize – I had done nothing wrong. Sometimes caregivers need breaks. Sometimes you say something harsh without realizing it. Sometimes, things are just too difficult to bear for too long. Having the essay published was a great relief, and a great deal of the guilt I felt floated away.
What about that title?
Eirik did not write the title! When we first read it, there was definitely some grumbling on my part. I didn’t like it, but I understood it. There were versions of the title that were “worse” than the one they used. It will probably never be my favorite.
What about the podcast?
I am so excited that Eirik’s column is featured on the podcast. What a fantastic honor! When I found out Chris Messina was reading his essay, I was so very happy. Eirik and I love television and movies, and Chris Messina is an actor we’ve followed for years. In fact, I have distinctive memories of watching The Mindy Project during the time Eirik and I were waiting for the transplant. It was a bright spot for me during a difficult time. Also, I have a crush on him for doing things like this:
I am pretty excited he read my husband’s essay, obviously. The editor of Modern Love, Dan Jones, and everyone on the podcast, Jessica Alpert, Amory Sivertson, and John Perotti were great to work with, and I’m so grateful to them for helping Eirik share our story.
If you’re a caregiver of someone who is getting a lung transplant or has cystic fibrosis, here are some resources that have been helpful to me:
If you’d like to help with our continued fundraising for Eirik’s medical expenses, you can donate here.
Special thanks to Vlad Photo for the wedding photo I edited as the featured image on this post.