About five years ago, I had a carpenter fix the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. A hinge was stuck with layers of old paint, so it would not close. Neither Barbara and I couldn’t close it no matter how hard we tried. It had been broken for so long we got used to not closing the cabinet door.
That door’s been fixed for years now, but almost every morning I go into the bathroom to find the medicine cabinet door ajar. No matter how many times I remind her the door is now fixed, Barbara does not close it with any regularity. What’s a little, easy thing to me must be a monumental task to her. Who knows why, after all this time, she still leaves the door open? I haven’t a clue. The times I have reminded her, she seems shocked. I’m actually the one in shock that after all this time she still leaves it partly ajar. But hey, what can you do?
“I love you” means letting the little things in your relationships slide – you know, the minor things the people you love do that irritate you. It is perplexing to me why someone would leave a fixed cabinet door open. But in the end, who really cares. I’ve given up, and if I want it shut I close it myself. My partner is not perfect, but to be completely frank, I’m not either.
It drives her nuts I don’t squash the almond milk container flat, to the thickness of a microscope slide cover, before placing it neatly into the paper recycling bin. The vast majority of time, I stomp on it once, screw the cap back on, and throw it in. Later I hear her in the kitchen rustling loudly around in the recycling, muttering something indistinguishable but definitely irritated about my less-than-perfect squashing abilities.
Yes, of course, she’s asked me about 16,000 times over the past 11 years to neatly place stuff in the bin. I listen, intent on doing my best to follow through. The next time, I actually step up to the plate and hit a home run. The container and its placement in the bin have passed inspection. Then boom, I’m squashing the next empty container and the phone rings. I hurriedly stomp and toss, and in one beautiful, ballet-like movement, I hit the basket and score. Later she arrives with the partially squashed container in hand, hoping her show-and-tell will finally be effective and I will consistently meet her stomp standards.
I assure her the folks at the recycling center aren’t interested in how flat the almond milk container is. I bet they don’t sit around saying, “Hey Mikey, come over and take a look at this. Can you believe someone left this like this? Wow, what is the world coming to when you don’t even care to squash an almond milk container as flat as it can be before sending it to us?”
It is one of those things that is important to her. Everything must fit neatly into the sack. Maybe she thinks Mikey will find out where she lives and think less of her because her paper recyclables are not perfectly placed. I’ve told her when Mikey shows up on our doorstep to tell him it is all my fault. She does not even crack a smile.
Hey, I will be the first to tell you my partner is NOT perfect. I have a list of 101 ways she does not meet my standards, from not shutting the fixed cabinet door, to her unbelievably high standards of flatness for recycling containers, to actually slowing down when I ask her to hurry.
Don’t you just hate it when someone intentionally moves more slowly when you’ve asked them to speed up? She adamantly swears she does not move more slowly, but one time I set up a time-lapse camera and BAM, there was the evidence. “Please hurry up” sends her into slow-motion mode. What’s up with that? And, please do not EVER, and I mean EVER, allow her into your kitchen.
She is not meant to cook or cut bagels. Her brother and I can’t look when she cuts a bagel with a huge butcher knife while balancing it precariously on its side in the palm of her hand. Or the time she took a Samurai sword–length knife to cut a slick watermelon that kept rolling around in the sink. Or the time she steamed broccoli without putting water in the pot. My partner in the kitchen is like one of Dan Aykroyd’s bad Julia Child Saturday Night Live skits. You’re just waiting for the blood to start spurting out all over the place. You know what, she ate the broccoli she steamed without water. Super UCK!
My partner is not perfect, and every day is another opportunity to let something else slide. You see, I love her, and that means I accept her imperfections because, shock of all shocks, I am not perfect either. I know it is surprising, but I happen to know for a fact if she shared her list with you, it would have at least 2,002 things on it she does differently, and of course better, than I do. There are things I do that make no sense to her. Like insisting on arriving to each and every event much earlier than necessary. It’s just one of those things I do. I’ll even beat everyone to my own funeral.
I cannot say I’ve vastly improved on squashing the almond milk containers. The last time she did her show-and-tell, I did come closer to her standard though. Mikey still has not shown up, but the threat looms large, and I am reminded he may knock on the door at any moment.
No matter what we do, no matter how many times we ask, there are minor things about those we love we just have to let go of. Maybe they are working on changing other, more important things about themselves. The minor irritations are not worth wasting our precious energy on. After the 16,000 or 17,000 time of asking, having our show-and-tells, calling Mikey to come over and address the problem directly, we just have to let them slide.
Love lets the little irritations slide. If they do not cause harm, then those small things really are only minor inconveniences. “I love you” always keeps in mind our partners are not perfect, but then again, neither are we.