A bouquet of tulips stood in the center of the hand-built dining table made of reclaimed wood. The one I watched my husband measure and cut. I took a picture of it freshly nailed together, unfinished, as his tall frame was outlined by the midday sun. I made some cute yet obligatory caption about the table, just as I stood over the tulips ready to do the same.
I’ve always loved tulips, and my husband knows that.
I love their buoyancy, their drama, and when he walked in from a long day at work, with them in his hands, my first thought wasn’t appreciation—it was how good the yellow petals and waxy stems would look on the grain of the table he built, beneath the kitchen window in the ray of warm evening light.
Instead of enjoying their fragrance or showing him the appreciation he deserved, I thought of potential captions for the post as I busied myself with arranging and cutting, staging, and eventually capturing a picture.
I believe the caption read, “Just because.”
They sat there on the table he built, unknowingly depreciating in value, and by morning, I looked at them and did not feel as moved as I normally would have. They strangely did not feel like mine. I have lost my joy, I thought.
I searched for my sense of romance in small things. In walks, afternoons fishing, and slow Sunday mornings. But all my joy was gone.
I sat with folded legs and closed my eyes in meditation, searching for an astrological approach. I pressed my hands in prayer on bended knee. All because I found no joy in tulips. Where has my happiness gone? I wondered.
It had fled. It died with the tulips. I convinced myself I had become broken. So I kept on searching, inevitably blaming our busy schedules, work, the kids—but that wasn’t it.
Finally, I asked my mom to watch the kids for us, in hopes a date would make things right again. We went out to our spot on the lake. The sun sunk into the tree line, a band of orange light over the still water as our fishing poles were cast out. I rested in his lap, and instead of kissing him at that moment, I reached for my phone. The sunset was too pretty not to capture.
By the time we got home, I felt more distanced from him than before. Little did I know, it was all my fault. He was no less in love with me, and I no less in love with him. But I had become distracted and missed the soft moment when I looked at him and he gave me his half-smile and wink. That’s the part I skipped in taking the picture to post.
The part where he pulled me in, and we shared—just us—the sunset. The sunset I shared with everyone else. Instead of him.
I realized why I didn’t love the tulips anymore one morning on the porch watching spring peer out from behind a gray winter. The tulips swayed in the garden bed below, the worm moon still dazzling in the morning sky. I felt for my phone in my pocket, it wasn’t there. Forced to simply sit, I remembered that the garden bed beneath our bedroom window was built by my husband, only because I love tulips. It grew just for me, by his hand. It was his way of silently saying, “I love you.”
He joined me on the porch, wearing my favorite hoodie of his, wrapping me in his long arms, and for the first time in months, I felt seen again. Not by likes on a post, but by him. In our silence. Not in a picture. But in what was quietly ours.
Looking at my Instagram later that evening, I realized my posts were a series of missed moments. The walk we took alone in the woods last summer when he caught the tadpoles and I didn’t because I recorded it instead. Or the sunset at the pond. Even the dinner we had when he drove me across town to get my favorite bread pudding had been reduced to a picture of it on a table next to a glass of wine.
So many moments I chose to post, instead of share with him.
I always told myself capturing the moments in pictures would help me to never forget them. But it was in finding filters to go over our life, coming up with captions, and checking back for comments and likes that I missed the moments that mattered, entirely.
The tulips in that bed below our window swayed in the breeze, and all I did was watch them–in his arms. And suddenly they felt like mine again, and they remained ours. As he remains mine.
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