Years and years ago, when we were in the middle of an argument, my dad once said, in exasperation, “You always want things your way, don’t you?”. Surprising us both, I burst out laughing because of course, I did. And so did he, and that’s why we were arguing, right?
Every time I think of that interchange, it makes me smile. But, do I ever think of it when I’m in the throes of disagreement - not usually. I guess I’m too busy trying to force things to go my way. Still.
When I first moved in with my sweetheart six years ago, I was shocked at one of his very ingrained habits. He is a creature of habit and pretty much always does things the same way. Having said that, I can’t comprehend how he so routinely loses his keys, but I digress. Each and every morning my love arises, he puts on his clothes, goes to the kitchen, cooks up two eggs, two pieces of toast, and his coffee. Then he puts the dishes away and ... leaves the dirty pan on the stove, with the spatula, ready for the next day, dirty. Every. Day.
Well, I can assure you, that’s not how I was raised. Once you make a meal, then you tidy up. The whole kitchen. And the dining table if that’s where you ate. You wash the dishes, then wipe the counter. When I think about it, it’s kind of an ordeal, but those are the rules.
Apparently, nobody told him this rule.
I gently requested that he clean up the pan. I tried modeling good behavior and cleaned it up myself. I tried huffing and puffing while I cleaned it up myself. I pointedly left it dirty in the sink. I demanded that he clean up the pan. To no avail.
And then one day, I decided to try something new. I tried letting it go. I gave up caring. And then I reframed it. I even commemorated the decision with a poem.
The Things You Leave Behind
In the kitchen, at the breakfast counter
The pencil from your morning sudoku
The crumbs from your toast
The pan and spatula from your breakfast eggs
A crumpled paper towel soiled with coffee grounds
Everyday. Single. Day.
If you were gone, would I miss them, these artifacts of you?
I have already chosen the permanent sudoku pencil for the counter, my love.
When I consider all the effort that I put into trying to change his ways, it seems silly now - now that I am years into having let it go. After all, it’s my head that was being banged against the wall. Plus, all that focus on the damn pan got in the way of appreciating all the sweet things I love about him.
Now, I can see that our love isn’t based on all the things we have in common or even agree on. It’s based on an appreciation of the funny little moments that we share. It’s based on being nice to each other. It’s largely based on letting go. It’s definitely not based on the egg pan.
My sweetheart loves cinnamon rolls. We have a weekend ritual of going to our favorite coffee shop for their super delish cinnamon rolls after we go to the dump. Recently, we arrived and lo, there were no cinnamon rolls, so he resolved to make a batch. As I was looking up recipes, we were talking about cinnamon rolls and whether the best kind are gooey or not. I think they are and he doesn’t. I shook my head, saying, “Damn, we just don’t agree on anything!” And he burst out with “That’s not true!” And then we laughed and laughed.
Now, I’m better at noticing that when I’m upset, it’s about me. It’s because I’m upset. But I can let that shit go.