"What are you saying?" they ask him.
"I'm saying, what's in it for me?" he answers.
That moment is both comic and cinematic genius. We as the audience sympathize with Kevin Costner's character, but we also recognize the ridiculousness of his angry question. You can't ask for credit for being selfless while acting incredulous that you didn't get rewarded for it. Selfless acts are, by nature, done with no strings attached, even reward. Of course, Ray Liotta's character -- the great Shoeless Joe Jackson -- knows that "out there" isn't what's in store for Kevin Costner's character; it's something better -- being reunited with his estranged and long-since-deceased father. Suddenly "out there" pales by comparison...
All of this came to me tonight as I was forced to learn a much-needed lesson. You see, for months on end I created my own happiness while letting Mr. Wonderful work through crisis after crisis. It was a low, low period for him (as you may remember, I started off referring to him as He Who Is In Personal Crisis), and it was on me that he took out his misplaced frustration. I followed in the footsteps of Laura Munson and let him come to the end of his suffering himself. I loved and supported him through that time period, despite the fact that it wasn't always reciprocated. And never once did I ask "What's in it for me?" (Largely because he had seen me through the trials and insecurity of unemployment.)
But now that the crisis has ended, I often find myself overly irritated and feeling slighted. And in my mind, his offenses against me are unreasonable and unfair in light of how patient I've been. So, when something goes wrong with him, and I complain both to the universe and to him, it's as if I end those complaints with, "And never once have I asked 'What's in it for me?'" To which I am asked, "So, what are you saying?" To which I respond, "What's in it for me?"
This phenomenon occurred during an argument Mr. Wonderful and I had on Tuesday night. I felt very, very wronged, and though I didn't respond angrily, the way I did respond wasn't all that impressive. It was, in fact, fairly childish. I could have brushed off the so-called offense, questioned it on spec or raised the issue at a later time with him. But I chose none of those productive options. Instead, I chose passive-aggressiveness. This infuriated him. And when he got irritated with me, I screamed loudly in my head, "You don't get to be irritated! You used up my selflessness during your crisis period!" And I thought this in spite of the fact that he didn't ask to use it up and that at the time I did what I did without hope of reward and to be selfless. There weren't supposed to be any strings attached.
So, why do I think I have the right to be incredulous?
For the first time I fully grasp what is happening in that "Field of Dreams" scene. You see, Kevin Costner's character embarked upon building the baseball field because he trusted that, if he did, good things would happen. And he was fine trusting that and being content with what did happen until he felt slighted and taken for granted. When that happened, his resentment flared. Suddenly he was being asked not to trust without any evidence that it was a good decision, but to trust based on the evidence that seemed to suggest it was a bad decision. That's when he lost it -- at the moment when he most needed to trust in his decision, because the meeting with his father was just around the corner.
The same is true of me. When I was in "the cloud of unknowing" during the crisis period, I fine trusting in my decision and being content with it. I truly believed that loving him through his crisis was the right decision, despite a lack of evidence. But now, when I see him act in ways that seem ungrateful in light of the patience I've exhibited, I feel slighted and taken for granted. So, my resentment flares. I wonder, Did I make the wrong decision? And I ask myself, How dare he...?
What's most tragic about Kevin Costner's incredulity is that it reeks of arrogance and entitlement. He owns a baseball field where deceased baseball all-stars come to play, and he's going to make a killing off of selling tickets. But he's not content with it. He feels entitled to all of his heart's desires. The problem, of course, is that no one likes to be around someone who acts entitled and is arrogant. Especially when that person already has so much to be thankful for. Furthermore, if he got what he demanded, he would have missed out on something better!
Again, the same is true of me. My arrogance suggests that I ought to get what I feel I deserve (i.e. incredible sensitivity, perfect love and constant affection) because I've "earned it." But I didn't exhibit patience with the expectation of reward, and it's utterly embarrassing that I would be so discontented with having 98% of everything I once desired: a deep and loving relationship. No, I don't want to always demand more. And I don't want to miss out on what I think might be in store if I show Mr. Wonderful that when he is with me he is safe, because I will love him forevermore...
The fact that I learned that (#249) and that I still have a chance to see what's in store (#250) are major, major reminders to stay humble and give thanks.