Not like that, but like this. If we have decided that things should be a certain way – and let’s be honest, that way is our way – and those things turn out to be some other way, we pout, stomp our feet, and fight to get our way.
What’s wrong with another way? Nothing. Nothing at all. It’s just not our way.
I have two stories about this.
We’ll call the first one dishes, my dad and who can sigh the loudest. So there I am doing the dishes at Dad’s place. My father, forever the supervisor, comes over and tells me I’m doing the dishes wrong.
- Me: (Annoyed sigh.) What are you talking about?
- Him: (Sanctimonious sigh.) You should do the glasses first.
- Me: (Smug sigh.) I hate doing the cutlery, so I get it out of the way.
- Him: (Chiding sigh.) But that’s not the right way.
- Me: (Super annoyed sigh.) Who cares? As long as they’re clean, it doesn’t matter.
- Him: (Super chiding sigh.) It does.
- Me: (Whiney sigh.). Why?
- Him: (Super sanctimonious sigh.) Because it’s the right way to do them.
- Me: (Defeated sigh.) I love you, but go away, Dad.
(Side story! Sighing in my family is an art form. For example, the first sigh in the dialogue was rich with history, and meant “oh no, here we go again – what am I doing wrong now?” And he knew it, that’s why his sigh meant “for crying out loud – why do you have to argue with me? Just do the dishes properly.”)
But I digress. We were talking about how my Dad was totally in the wrong, right? He was. But so was I. I could have easily changed my routine, but doing the cutlery first was my rule and I was sticking to it.
Now, let’s call the second story OMG. I’ve turned into my father. So there I am, 15 years later, in my fourth or fifth year of marriage. I’m away on a business trip. I call home to see how my husband and step-son are doing. My step-son answers the phone and immediately tells me that they haven’t eaten any vegetables since I left and that the house is a mess. My husband gets on the phone and says there were green peppers on the pizza, but that the rest of the story is true. He adds: “It’s nice when you’re not here because we don’t have to follow all of your rules.”
I was devastated. It’s nice when I’m not there? Ouch. But I also felt I deserved it because I did have a lot of rules and I was sanctimonious about them. I thought my way was right. I had turned into my father. I decided right then and there to knock that shit off.
And I have struggled with it ever since. I watch people doing tasks and squirm from the effort to keep my opinion to myself. It is deep within me to point out what people are doing wrong. I grew up being told I was doing things wrong. I grew up surrounded by people who were right, even when they weren’t, and so it’s no surprise that I turned out the same way. But I don’t want to be that way.
I don’t want to be so weighted by my own rules that I bury myself under them. I want to care that the dishes are clean, not how they got that way. I want to be open to new ideas and ways of doing things. I want to spend more time caring about the big things, not the little things. And I want the people around me to think it’s nice when I’m around, not when I’m away.