Tag Archives: arguments

What I bring to the table.

Table

“Your writing is so amazing,” Shawn told me, coming downstairs after spending an hour with the rough draft of my novel he’s been proofreading for the past several days. “I can see that you’ve taken some of the suggestions I’ve given you and grown as a writer.”

He meant it as a compliment. And I swear I heard it in there. But what I also heard was, “I’m glad I happened to come along and save you from a doomed life of writing badly. How would you have every survived if I weren’t here to hold you up?”

“I haven’t even read the revisions from the last novel,” I told him. Well, that was only partially true. Admittedly, this was at the same time I was revising a novel I wrote last year, reading over the notes he had made in the margin on parts that needed a little more help. While I hadn’t taken the time to pore over the suggestions he had left me, I had skimmed through it and appreciated the honest remarks he had left, both exclaiming over the parts he loved and suggesting places that needed a little more fleshing out. And now as I went through the physical act of revising, his notes gave me clear-cut clues on what a reader would be wondering as well.

But still, my pride wouldn’t let him take credit for all I had pored into it.

“What do you mean?” he asked. I could already feel the half-eaten foot in my mouth swelling to try and prevent me from speaking. But I only pushed it aside and continued.

“I mean, I’ve grown as a writer because of continued practice, not because you’ve taught me how to do it,” I said, trying to sound light but feeling backed into a corner.

“I’m not trying to take credit for your writing,” he told me. The smile on his face had long since disappeared, leaving behind a look of bewilderment at a reaction he hadn’t been expecting.

“I know, I’m sorry. It’s just, what if I were to say ‘Great job on selling search engine optimization at your new job. Thank goodness you have me to teach you all about the internet so you can do your job properly’.”

“I’m not saying that, though,” he stammered. “I’m trying to pay you a compliment! Maybe I should just stop reading your novel.”

“If you don’t want to read it, then don’t!” I yelled at him.

And just like that, things went from dumb to completely idiotic.

I didn’t know why I was reacting so strongly. Of course he wasn’t taking credit for my writing. I knew that deep down. But for some reason his statement was pecking at me, taking away from my accomplishment even when that wasn’t Shawn’s intention at all.

When we had cooled down some, we gave each other a wounded offering of apology. I’m not sure either of us meant it completely, both still smarting from the earlier argument. But it was the only way to move past the surface and dig deep into what was really going on.

“What is going on?” he asked me.

“I don’t know,” I told him.  But it was starting to come to me, a series of past hurdles I’d overcome that decided I wasn’t done running from them yet.

“I once dated a man who told me to my face that he had saved me from being a white trash nobody, how he had single-handedly raised my standard of living just by his presence alone,” I admitted to him, detailing how even then that statement hadn’t sat well with me, yet my meek little self had accepted it in the moment. I described how my ex-husband had also placed himself in this pedestal position – or rather, I had placed him there on my own. I had spent so many years building him up and letting him shine that I had forgotten to work on my own being. And somehow I was able to explain something I hadn’t even realized was haunting me, how important it was for me now to stand on my own two feet in recognition of my accomplishments.

“You’re organized and responsible,” I told him. It was in reference to a statement he had made earlier last week, stating that he must be rubbing off on me as I encouraged the kids to clean up their mess. “But I have some of those traits as well, and I had them before I even met you.” I was firm in my insistence of this, but we both could hear the question that lingered within it.

“Are you unsure of what you bring to the table in this marriage, how you help ME to be a better person?” he asked me. I paused, suddenly realizing I didn’t know the answer to this question, at least not in this moment. I had spent so much energy fighting against another pedestal that  I couldn’t think of any of the strengths I possessed that helped bring Shawn up.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I guess I help you with patience, and how to parent a teenage daughter.” The answer was weak, I knew it.

Unfortunately time was not on our side. We were minutes away from needing to get in the car and drive to my parents’ house for dinner. We made peace with the conclusion of our discussion, deciding that even if the conversation wasn’t finished, we could still end it with a hug and a mutual unspoken agreement that it was over.

We spent a really good evening at my parents’ house, visiting with my family over dinner and dessert before saying goodbye and driving back home. On the way, Frizz turned on the radio and let it scan through the stations. Every time it landed on a song we knew, the kids and I would break into song and fill the car with mostly on-key versions, belting out the words we knew and stumbling over the ones we didn’t. Even Frizz joined in, the act of singing in the privacy of our car still cool in his 17-year-old mind.

Once home, I began to decorate the Christmas tree, a task we had been putting off for days. Little by little, everyone joined in, placing their favorite ornament on the tree as we remembered where each one came from. It was done in no time, slightly lopsided in the areas that were decorated more than others, but beautiful just the same.

DQ and I then set to filling out December’s activities on the dry erase calendar that hung on the wall. We took turns giggling as we noted the End of the World with a zombie apocalypse on December 21st, adorning it with pictures of hungry zombies that invaded the day’s space. We continued our giggles as I noted the San Francisco trip we were taking the very next day when we ultimately survived the day of doom. I finished up the calendar with various doodles depicting a month of activities in a colorful display.

Calendar1

 

 

Calendar2

Shawn leaned over me in my dedication to the calendar, kissing me lightly on the neck. “Do you know what you bring to this marriage, and to the family?” he asked me. “Fun.  You help me to be more fun, and you make things more fun in this family.  I never would do stuff like this.  But you do, and we all appreciate it.

The whole family was in the living room, enjoying a few last moments of silliness before bedtime.  The evening had been spent with mostly smiles.   The calendar had become a monthly point of anticipation as everyone wondered how I would decorate it at the turn of the month.

And I believed in what Shawn said.

I know I have improved in every facet of my life by the steps I have taken to get to where I am today. This is true in the quality of my life, just as it is true in the skills I possess in my writing. But these accomplishments didn’t just manifest entirely of their own accord. They were inspired partially by those that influenced me along the way. Each novel I have written in the past few years has proven to be better than the last, proof that practice makes perfect. But admittedly, this last novel improved leaps and bounds as I (ok, I admit it) took the suggestions Shawn had made and kept them in mind as I extended my description and prose. It’s ok to be inspired by others. In fact, it would be a lie to believe otherwise.

And it doesn’t make my accomplishments any less great than they are. 🙂

The imperfect part of love

If you are wishing to find out more about the person you love, and how compatible you’ll be with them for life, I suggest you build something with them. Once before it had been a polite affair. But this time I found myself on the holding end of the side of a shed we were building, Mr. W performing the extremely hard job of twisting a screw in while also comparing me to a workman on the freeway holding a stop sign. Not that I’m against anyone whose job it is to hold up traffic while road work is being done. But it was the way he said it, totally downgrading my offer to help him out – demoting me to a sign holder while he was actually CREATING (insert man howl here). And when I gave him “the look”, he had the audacity to ask “What?”, as if I weren’t saving his life in my use of balance and tenacity in the holding of this metal wall, fighting the urge to let it fall and have him build the whole damn shed by himself.

Of course, I may have been a tad bit sensitive over the whole thing, totally making a bigger deal out of it than it really was. When building something with the person you love, it’s possible you might learn something about yourself, as well – like, I’m not always as sweet as pie or totally reasonable. And that I really could (as I promised him I would) keep bringing this story up and not let him live it down.

There eventually came a point when there wasn’t anything else I could do to help him, making me more of a body in the way than a body that was helping. So I assisted Mr. W by ensuring his coffee cup and water glass were always full, and making him a sandwich so he wouldn’t go hungry. And then, just to make sure I wasn’t totally abandoning him while he worked, I sat on the grass near the building and snapped photos of him building our shed in between talking with my sister on the phone. That way I could be at his side in a moment’s notice should he need my assistance. However, my willingness to be there for him must have been missed, as he strongly suggested I talk on the phone elsewhere so he could actually understand the directions he was trying to read.

He obviously didn’t appreciate my help.

The next level of helping required some necessary tools.

Living with Mr. W has been a wonderful experience. And just like I feared, it has changed our relationship dramatically. But I’ve realized that isn’t a bad thing. It’s interesting how we have graduated from the nice stage of being totally smitten and fawning all over each other to the occasional snipping at each other in moments of frustration. What’s even nicer is the fact that we can snip at each other and not feel like everything is doomed. Being around each other daily has allowed us the opportunity to see each other in unflattering lights – and still appreciate each other. In fact, sometimes I think the unflattering parts are what help us to love each other more. It allows for honesty on a deeper level, stripping away our need to always appear perfect and wonderful to the other person and just be 100% ourselves. That person I am when I’m singing in the shower or doing silly moves when no one is looking or does something totally unladylike and totally embarassing? She is the same person that wakes up next to Mr. W every day. And he knows it (and still loves me!).

And in times when our loving tones are replaced with snipping sentences that are voiced out of frustration, there are less hurt feelings than would have been previously. So he snapped at me over a building project or likened me to a sign holder, or I playfully made sure he’ll never live down poorly chosen words. The ease we have come into with this new phase of our relationship has allowed there to be imperfect parts while still possessing underlying tones of love and respect. Our relationship isn’t threatened. And we can walk away from those snippy moments and move on with the rest of our day.

Day One of Project Build Shed ended up being a full day affair. And both of us wouldn’t have been sad to see the whole building disappear overnight, forcing us to buy a pre-built shed that didn’t require a million screws like this one.

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But it was still standing the next morning, needing just a bit more work until it was done. And this time, we left the snippiness out of it while we worked together. Soon we had a fully functioning shed with sliding doors and a (hopefully) leak-proof roof successfully standing in the corner of our yard, ready to be filled with every single item we can’t bear to give away but no longer wish to look at.

Of course, days later it’s still empty. But we’ll save that snipping session for another time.