Recently I read a post about the significance of dirty dishes, how a relationship could be broken like an unwashed plate.
While I understand the metaphor the writer was going for, that every person has their own personal china cabinet of pet peeves, I just don’t believe in a relationship that doesn’t involve acceptance and open communication. Life isn’t about avoiding those breakable moments; it’s about discussing how best to handle them.
When I was younger,with less experience and more insecurity, I over-reacted over little things that seemed huge in the moment–like a boyfriend being chronically late. That’s life’s learning curve, and I figured out as I went along how to handle it. Plan ahead; communicate; evaluate what’s more important, the event or the person I’m attending it with.
Things like that.
But now that I’m older, I think twice before freaking out. See, I’ve learned some of life’s lessons by now.
Still, there’s always more life has to teach me…
Last month Lover and I had our annual quarrel.
(Later I teased him that we were over-achievers, getting this out of the way so early in the new year.
But in the moment it was not funny.)
The weekend following New Year’s Eve I became very sick. Lover called to check in on Saturday, and I canceled our plans together for the evening.
Snot is not sexy. Neither is sniffling, sneezing, please god just let me rest sleeping. Possibly even snoring.
Lover was disappointed and concerned, asking me if I needed anything. I said no, not at the moment, and he replied that he would check in the next day.
Sunday I was miserable. I had bone-aching chills and a fever that wouldn’t quit. It literally took me three hours to put on fuzzy socks, yoga pants, and a tee shirt. Each time I left the bed I hurried right back, changing painstakingly under the blankets and warming up all over again. I was hungry but I hadn’t done the usual Saturday shopping, so the cupboards were bare.
Eventually, I figured it out. I bundled up with a beanie, scarf, sweater, slippers, and an old grey hoodie and eased downstairs. I must have looked like I was readying myself for a winter excursion to Montana’s frozen wilderness rather than just an indoor trip to my seventy-degree California kitchen. Deep, deep in the freezer I found a forgotten bag of leftover cooked turkey. Voila, a simple soup with broth and rice. I camped out on a bar stool that I dragged into the kitchen and made some magic.
Afterwards, warm at last, I slept.
Being a night owl, Lover called around 8 p.m., just waking up from whatever weird schedule was his current norm. We talked for fifteen minutes or so, but I was barely coherent. He didn’t repeat his offer of help, and I was immediately upset about it.
And this is where it is a great moment to actually be the grown up I pretend to be.
Unfortunately, I failed.
I sent him a text much later saying, “I’m a bit disappointed at your reciprocal caregiver skills.” In hindsight, it was my way of saying, “En garde, you are in some deep shit!”
Deeply unconscious in a sleep like death, I didn’t speak to him again until nearly twenty-four hours later. When I did, he was was very upset. Without “hello” or any simple chit chat, he said immediately that he thought that I would ask if I needed something.
“I can’t ask!” I wailed.
And realized I was doing that thing where I expected him to use supernatural telepathy to read my mind. Or at least know that somewhere he should be shaking the hell out of a Magic 8 Ball.
“Ahh,” he said, considering with his impeccably logic-oriented brain. “I should have known you were worse off, because usually you text me good morning. I thought you were sleeping and I didn’t want to disturb you, but I should have checked in sooner.”
“I was sad; I thought you forgot me because I am not any fun when I am dying,” I said mournfully, steeped in self-pity.
“Oh, I would have done anything for you! I thought you wanted to be left alone, because that’s what I want when I’m sick,” he said. “I care about you, so much; I thought you knew. You could have had anything, if only I had known I was supposed to get it for you.”
This is the moment where I truly realized I was an asshole. Never mind that I would have done things differently, because that is me being me. There must be room for him to be him.
I had set an unknown, invisible expectation for him to fulfill which he was not even aware existed, simply because I could not open my mouth and ask for what I needed. Instead, I wanted him to know what to do without knowing that he was supposed to do it.
That is what made me an asshole.
We both apologized.
For the future, he said he would be sure to check in sooner and more often. I said I would work on asking with actual words in the English language when I needed something.
And that was our second fight.
It would have been nice to kiss and make-up, but I’m pretty sure I was still highly contagious at that point. I would like to blame all my stupidity on the high fever I was running, but then I wouldn’t have learned anything. And learning things makes me a better person and not an asshole.
Although, apparently, I do still have my moments.