Wednesday, April 23, 2008

better to be right—or happy?

Colin's been working a lot of late—I mean late—nights these days. So much so, that this afternoon when he told me he wouldn't make it home for dinner again and he probably wouldn't be home before I went to bed, I completely lost my cool. I told him this had to stop—if not for his sanity, then at least for his health. I told him he had to figure it out once and for all. Talk to his boss. Talk to HR. Just figure it out. I mean, this isn't Wall Street, for crying out loud, this is Burlington, Vermont. After a few more terse remarks, we both decided that conversation was not appropriate for the phone—or the workplace—and hung up feeling shitty and down.

"I need a run," I thought to myself. "I need to come up with a plan so that we can figure this out once and for all." I drove home from work completely distracted. Fuming that Col was so willing to come up with reasons (excuses in my mind) why this time was so important. Why this week is so busy. Next week will be different.

During my run, I almost completely missed the beautiful sunset—and the beautiful evening—because I was so worked up on working things out. But finally towards the end of my run, I started feeling better. I knew I was right and I was going to show him. In my mind, I had come up with a punch list of all the items that were wrong with our situation and all the ways he was going to fix them.

I ran up the stairs and into our apartment loaded with ammo, but feeling a sudden knot of recognition in my stomach. "We've been here before," I thought. "If this approach didn't work then, why would it work now?"

And then I wondered: Why was I so angry? Was it because he really let me down? Or was it simply because I wasn't in control? I had to admit, I think it was the latter. After all, all I really wanted was to have dinner with him. And if that was all, then I had a very simple solution.

I picked up the phone and dialed Col's work. He answered right away.


"Hey Luv," I said. "How ya doing?"

"Okay." He sounded tired.

"I'm sorry about earlier." I said.

"Me too."

"Are you hungry? Have you eaten today?"

"I'm starving. All I've had to eat all day is chips from the vending machine."

"Can I bring you dinner? I can make you a sandwich. And salad. How's that sound?"

"Would you really?? That would be so awesome."

That horrible weight, that horrible knot—it immediately melted away. And after we hung up, I whipped up the best brown bag dinner ever:
  • 2 salami cheddar sandwiches on honey bread
  • Romaine salad with blue cheese, tamari almonds and homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
  • Pretzel sticks with my homemade Boursin cheese dip (Col's favorite!)
  • An entire sleeve of Girl Scout thin mints (his other favorite!)
  • And a Corona

I drove to Burton and presented my peace offering to Col with great pride. He was so excited to see me and tell me what he was working on. We set up his little picnic at one of the work tables, and there—admidst papers and charts and fabric samples—we had dinner together, while the cleaning ladies vacuumed around our feet.

Yes, it was a proud moment. Relationships teach you a lot about yourself. Tonight I learned that your faults—no matter how deeply ingrained—are easily remedied if you take the time to pause and consider your options. In the same moment that I realized I'm a control-freak, I learned to tame the "control" urge and use it for good: by taking control in a fragile situation. Not by pushing, but by leading. And that is a good feeling.

Phew! Another crisis diverted!


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