Unfortunately, when Nick says something that rubs me the wrong way or feels like an attack – no matter how he means it – my inclination is to get all shrill and sharp and evil.
I speak before I think and I get all verbally stabby and it is very not helpful.
And then, no matter how innocuously he may have meant it, he feels attacked, because he has been, and then he gets angry and unkind and then it escalates.
Sometimes it ends with stomping around, but sometimes one of us can snatch control of the situation and say, wait, stop. I love you. Let’s calm down and talk about this.
Which makes us actually constructive. I am really working to be more CONstructive and less DEstructive.
So last night, when he was looking for the wooden pronged grill scraper thingy, and he asked if I’d seen it, I thought I knew what he was talking about and said it was outside.
But it turned out I was thinking of a different wooden pronged thingy.
At which point Nick, who was frustratedly looking around on the counter, which admittedly has a lot of shit piled on it, said, “It was here when I last used it. And since we never put anything away, it must still be right around here.”
And I, I looked up from emptying the dishwasher – you know, putting the dishes AWAY – and took a deep breath.
Even though it infuriated me. Because yes, this was a dickish thing to say.
And here’s how the harpy in me wanted to respond:
“Really, asshole? Because half the shit on the counter isn’t YOURS? Because I haven’t been PUTTING THINGS AWAY while you’ve been stomping around looking for the stupid fucking wooden pokey thing? Because I don't PUT JORDAN’S CLOTHES AWAY? Because you happened to run out of underwear the other day because SOMEONE ELSE DIDN’T PUT YOUR UNDERWEAR AWAY? And have you ever thought that if you’d get rid of some of the UGLY SHIT THAT I BET YOU DON’T EVEN LIKE BUT YOUR DAD GAVE THEM TO YOU we’d have more room to put OTHER THINGS AWAY?”
But the truth is, we do have piles of stuff around, and much of it is my fault. And Nick is tidier than I am, and the mess probably irritates him more. Also, he has just as much right to hang onto his crap just because his dad gave it to him as I do. Also, maybe he actually does like its.
And I don’t always need to bring family into it. Even though I do think they’re often to blame.
But do I have to assign blame? No, I do not.
So instead of taking the ugly, talons-forward, carrion-shredding approach, I took the breath. And said, “C'mon. That’s not fair. I do put things away. And I may not do a great job, but I do TRY.”
Because you know, Nick will do these grand clean ups. Or he’ll move big stuff, like furniture – things that I am unable to move. And he’ll get all stompy when I say something critical about something completely unrelated because he’s doing so much work.
And he does work. He works really hard at the office, and then he comes home and works.
Whereas I do a lot of small regular things that you don’t really see. Like washing Jordan’s food tray every time we turn around. And cleaning up his toys and books. Which he immediately dumps all over the floor again. And unloading the dishwasher. And loading the dishwasher. And washing clothes.
Yes, I suck at folding them, and they pile up and it’s a disaster. But sweet Christ, I do TRY.
It is not that I do so much, but these things that are easy not to notice, because they’re so quickly undone and need to be repeated. But they’re totally endless and effortful and tedious and suck the fucking life out of you if you dwell on them.
So then when someone says that you never put anything away, it makes you want to snatch the wooden pronged thingy for cleaning the grill out of his hands and beat him about the head and face with it.
But the breath. The helpful breath. And the constructive approach. It puts you on the same team. And it’s incredibly nice to feel like you are on the same team as your partner.
And thus we agreed that our house is a disastrous construction mess, and it is HARD. And that this weekend we’ll try to clean off the counters and put things together for a garage sale. And we will each get rid of some stuff.
And this feels good to both of us.