Yin and Yang – the glue of marriage

Yin YangAfter 28 years of marriage, I think I might just have finally started to begin to think I maybe kinda understand a tiny bit about my lovely bride.  I think she had me down on day 2.

I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve been completely assimilated to her thinking though.  My clay isn’t quiet as malleable as she’d like it to be.

It’s amazing how we ever ‘hooked up’ as the kids say (or do they say that any more?).  I was a city boy, and she was a country girl.  We met in college which, I guess by default, was the great equalizer.  Nothing drives people together faster than hunger and loneliness.

I think there’s real truth to the adage that ‘opposites attract’.  Maybe it’s a core desire to coax the other to your way of thinking, or if I was a romantic, I might say it’s the different way they gaze at the moon, but I think our differences might be more basic than that.  I think we’re just intrigued by a different lens through which they see the world.

I love surprises – the good kind at least.  No one likes the surprises you get in a hospital…”Surprise, we’re gonna have to go ahead and remove that digit after all”.  Not a balloon and cheer kind of surprise.

No, I like birthday surprises.  I really like surprising people!  Maybe it’s a morbid fascination of watching the confusion and disbelief on their unsuspecting faces, but surprising people gives me great joy.

My wife?  Not so much.  In fact, since we first started dating, she regularly reminded me how much she doesn’t like surprises.  She wants to see what’s coming, buster! There was and never will be any confusion about this.  DO NOT SURPRISE HER!

But like those two bumbling guards in Monty Python’s The Holy Grail, simple instructions are completely lost on me, since surprises are fun…..for me.  So, what did I do?

swamp castle

 

 

 

 

For my wife’s 40th birthday, I organized, with the help of a team of scheming friends, the most elaborate ruse ever concocted.  It involved multiple levels of deception, fake parties, hotel bookings, real ‘parties’ to throw her off the scent, even included pseudo-friends that may have never existed, all in the name of….’SURPRISE’!

I’ll save you the gory details – the shock, the tears.  It wasn’t a ‘happy surprise’.

But that’s the stuff of relationships.  Our differences keep it exciting.  Admittedly, sometimes horrible and regrettable differences, but exciting none the less.

We can even watch the exact same program and have totally divergent responses.  Take ‘The Biggest Loser’ for example.  We sit and watch the show.  My lovely suggests we need to take out the bikes and get into shape.  I watch the same show and think ‘Gee, I’m in awesome shape compared to these guys – I’m gonna make some popcorn to celebrate my superb health’.

I’m a glass half-full kind of guy, I guess – fun first!  If we have a busy day lined up, and the weather is nice, I’ll always say ‘fun first’! Lets get outside and enjoy the beautiful day – the work can wait.

While this sounds very ‘in the moment’ and cheery, there’s a big downside to always eating the dessert first.  It means that nothing important really gets done.  Housework; laundry, cleaning, getting groceries, etc., get pushed back, and you end up living in a crazy, chaotic world that just might end up on a TLC show.hoardersSo, me being the ‘surprise me’ guy, needs an adult around to remind me to pay the bills, change the dryer lint trap, and put my clothes away.  That’s my wife’s role, and she’s good at it.

It’s a terrible job to have – at least it seems like it to me – always being the voice of reason.  The practical one. The huge payoff of practicality is almost never fully appreciated, is it?  Our house is mostly tidy, we can find stuff like wallets, keys, and phones, and there’s usually enough food in the fridge to make a meal with.

You don’t notice if your keys are where you left them, but you sure do if they’re not!

Lists! My sweet bride makes lists.  Grocery lists, ‘honey-do’ lists, reminder lists.  For big upcoming events, I’ve even seen her make lists of lists.  Sometimes they’re disguised as sweet notes, but they’re still lists:  ‘Kids, don’t forget to walk the dog, put on your laundry, and put your dirty dishes in the sink.  Love, Mommy – xoxo’.

I’m big enough to acknowledge that those lists are helpful – they keep us on track. And I have to admit, they help me to figure out what needs to be done so I can go and play…a touch of order in my chaos.

It’s those opposing forces that create this weird and beautiful balance in our marriage.  Mix a little salt in the chocolate milk and you get an unexpectedly great taste. Those contrasting flavours bring out something more delicious than the ingredients would be on their own.

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  My darling loves having fun, too!  She can party and laugh with the best of them.  Few things please her more than relaxing by the pool with a glass of wine. It just needs to be prioritized amongst the ‘must do’s’, or it won’t be enjoyable for her.  I get that.

And that’s exactly what this goofball needs.  The Yang to my Yin.

Maybe trying to figure each other out is part of the joy and mystery of our marriage. Maybe we aren’t supposed to be able to correctly predict what the other is thinking.  We should, at least, love and respect our partner for what they bring to this dance we call marriage. We should thank God for giving us the strength to bare our souls in trust to another human being, even if that other human being doesn’t understand us.

My Yang is exactly what this Yin needs.  And that surprise party?  Well, in the end, we had an awesome time with our friends.  I also had to swear on my life never to pull a stunt like that again!  Sweet Yang!

The Junk Drawer

Every home has one – maybe even more than one.  The humble ‘junk drawer’.

You know the drawer; paper clips, old keys that you don’t know what they open but you don’t dare get rid of, broken pens, 5 cent stamps, batteries that might still be good, loose coins from another country, expired coupons.  Probably a good dose of dust bunnies and lint, too.  Maybe it’s not even a drawer – it could be a basket, or bin, a box, or a shelf.

In my last job, when people would ask what I did, I’d say, “You know that drawer in your house where you keep all the random stuff that you need, but don’t know where else to put it? That’s my job.  I’m that drawer – when people don’t know where to look for help with something, they come to me, the junk drawer “.

Maybe it wasn’t a very good analogy, and probably a worse political decision to say out loud, since they did decide that they didn’t need ‘that drawer’ any more, but that’s a blog for a later date, when I’m finished therapy.

You can learn a lot about people by looking at what they keep in their junk drawers.  Of course, snooping isn’t very socially acceptable, so it’s not too likely you’ll ever understand the anthropology of what is held in those secret compartments.

I suppose no drawer ever starts off as a ‘junk drawer’.  Maybe it had dreams of being the utensil drawer or the important paperwork drawer or something, but somewhere along the line, maybe during a frenzied ’10 second tidy’ before the in-laws showed up, things just got scooped into it, and it’s fate was sealed.

We have a few junk drawers in our house, which I would argue, shows some semblance of organization.  For example, in the kitchen, we have one that houses twist ties, elastic bands, plastic forks, and other miscellaneous kitchen-type items.  I would dig through the loose items – straws, plastic bread clips, and half-burned birthday candles looking for stuff, but recently, my wife did a full-on tidy, and now everything is organized and easy to find.  Maybe that disqualifies it from the ‘junk’ categorization now.

We have another one, that isn’t a drawer, but a box that sits in the living room.  In it, we keep address books, stamps, pens, tape, paper clips, at least 2 calculators – I guess in case we don’t believe the answer from the first one, and some other office type items.  There are a few weird coins from countries I know I’ve never visited. I don’t know how they got there.

I have one in my bedroom.  It’s mostly a loose change collector – at one point it was so heavy with small change that it was actually hard to open.  I also keep broken watches, old eye-glasses, some shopping receipts, Canadian Tire money, and of course, some paper clips.  No junk drawer is complete unless you have some paper clips in it, and maybe a couple finishing nails.  It’s kind of like a fridge – it’s not a family fridge unless there’s a half-eaten jar of Cheese-Whiz in the back of it and it’s covered in fridge magnets.

For the sake of family unity, I’m not going to confirm or deny the existence of any possible junk drawers that my wife or kids have, other than to say that you could classify my kids bedrooms as very large junk drawers.

Junk drawers are often looked at as dirty little secrets in an otherwise orderly environment.  Maybe people view them as a precursor to a mild hording obsession, or that they shine a light on a disorganization problem.

Oh, sure, I bet Martha Stewart doesn’t have one, but she has a team of anal-retentive employees who ensure her home is magazine-shoot ready at all times.  I bet if we all had that kind of resource at our disposal, there would be no ‘junk drawers’ in our houses either.

I’m not so sure that’s a healthy sign, though.  A space in your home for all the little things that show us that we live there has a comforting feel about it.  It may be disorganized and is mixed with things that aren’t related in any way, but it represents the living parts of our existence, and we hang on to them like ancient relics.

Having a junk drawer is as normal as having your kids’ artwork scattered all over the fridge.  I was chatting with my neighbour who’s daughter just started pre-school.  We joked that they would need another fridge just for all the artwork that came home. Its about living in the moment, and embracing the joy of life without feeling like everything has to be hidden away, or compartmentalized in water-tight, sterile containers somewhere out of sight.

I’ve always found something very comfortable about those disorganized, overstuffed drawers.  Looking for something in it is a bit like a mini treasure hunt, where you went in looking for a glue stick or some push-pins, and while searching for them, you came across an old swimming lesson badge for one of the kids,  or a school picture that was sent to you by a relative that sparks a warm memory.

In all of the cluttered chaos, there’s a sense of life and belonging that exists inside that small, humble compartment.

In the end, I think that in its own way, the junk drawer is more important than any other drawer in the house, not just in what it holds, but in what it represents as a memory capsule for the family.

Of course, maybe it could be that we just really do have minor hording and disorganization tendencies, but I ask you this;  Would you rather be friends with someone with a junk drawer, or someone who has everything sorted, itemized, and stored in alphabetical order?

I rest my case.