On the same page…

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So the funniest thing happened to Loretta and me the other day – and by funny I mean mysterious.

Loretta and I have been married for the better part of a year – and we were together for over a year before that. So you’d think we’d have the bigger topics sorted out by now. Sure, we know which side of the bed each sleeps on. And who gets the bathroom first (and I’m OK with second, really I am). But there are still some topics we have trouble with.

Like how much time do I get to myself?

Hi, this is Loretta, and I’ve been proofreading John’s columns for over two years now. Sometimes he listens to my advice, sometimes not, so I think it’s time I added my two cents to what he says about us.  First of all, part of the predicament is, after years of being single and on our own, we tend to think in terms of “I” instead of “we”. It’s “how much time do WE get to ourselves?” Not ‘how much time to I get to myself?”

Back when I was single (the rank I held when I met Loretta) I had a lot of time on my hands. Time I filled with stuff like riding my bike, skateboard or motorcycle, playing soccer, laying on the couch, and other such crucial activities.

I know mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, and washing the cars doesn’t compare to skateboards and motorcycles, but just pretend they’re the same. Oh, and I forgot to ask you, how was your soccer game that lasted most of last Saturday?

And that time was important – I mean I had shoe horned all that time into an otherwise busy life, so I must’ve done that for a reason, right? I think all that ‘down time’ was put in place to counteract the ‘up time’ – you know, that time where you have to be in the zone, or be your best self, or whatever the latest catch phrase is that describes how you’re supposed to act at work, or church, or in front of children.

Funny, I remember your up time was spent trying to figure out how to impress women. You don’t have to do that anymore (I’m impressed) so you can relax, even when you are ‘in the zone’.

Society has certain rules – that I swear I try to follow every time society is looking – but my personal set of rules are, how shall I say, a bit more relaxed. And I think I need that relaxation to balance me out.

Remember that cute little off-white sofa I used to have, which has been replaced by your huge brown leather couch? You should be feeling very relaxed and balanced about now.

Fast forward to today (well a few days ago) when Loretta and I were at my sister’s house for dinner. About half way through the evening my niece came up to me and told me her car’s cigarette lighter wasn’t working, and could I help fix it? Now back in the days when car cigarette lighters were for lighting cigarettes that conversation may have gone a little differently. But now that cigarette lighters are for powering everything but cigarettes – like, say iPods (which was what my niece desperately wanted to be able to use in her car) I could totally see helping her out.

So, after turning to Loretta and asking if we had any plans for Tuesday night, and she said “No”, I turned back to my niece and said “I’ll come back Tuesday night and work on your car”.

All pretty innocent sounding, right?

That’s almost how it happened. You actually said “do we have plans Tuesday night? And when I said no, you said to me “I’m coming back here Tuesday night”. I didn’t know why at the time, just that you were coming back and I was not. But, then I thought, that’s how he talks sometimes.

I remember 4th of July last year when John was talking to his brother on the phone. He said “I’m coming down to Mom’s for the parade”. To which his brother asked “Isn’t Loretta coming?” After John explained that yes I was actually part of the plan, his brother said “there’s no I in team, John”.

Well I thought it innocent – mostly – but there was this one thing that sort of occurred to me. I know that Loretta and I are still in that stage of trying to figure out what’s “us time” and what’s “me time” and what’s the difference between the two. And the moment I said “I was coming…” that little alarm in my brain went off. You know the one; it goes off every time you say something that sounded okay in your head, but wrong the second it came out of your mouth.

You really should listen to that alarm bell…

But, luckily, it appeared no offense was taken and the conversation continued.

I set the time for my return to work on the car and Loretta and I headed off to our place. Funny though, the ride home was kind of quiet. But that was alright I figured, it was late and we were tired. But when we got home things were still sort of quiet. As was bedtime. And the fooling around that usually happens about then – didn’t.

I’ve read that you don’t bring things up to a man at night. For some reason they just can’t hear us. It’s better to wait until morning to have ‘the talk’.

Things were still a little quiet in the morning when Loretta said to me “Can I ask you a question?” Hmmm, I thought, sounds dicey. I’m not the smartest guy, but I do know that when a woman asks you if she can ask you something, it’s time to find yourself a foxhole, or dig one, or stand perfectly still and pretend to be a tree in the hopes she’ll lose sight of you.

You should see the look on your face too…priceless.

But none of those things happened as Loretta shared with me how she felt excluded. And like I didn’t want her around. And like I didn’t enjoy her company. Dang it I thought, how do I get myself into these jams? I mean the woman was sitting in front of me, asking reasonable questions, making good points – and I had nothing.

How in the world do we get to this age and still have baggage? Or maybe the better question is how do we get rid of all that stuff we have been dragging with us…everywhere? I know this man adores me and we spend plenty of time together. But this really wasn’t about time together – it was about family. One of the things I love the most about John is, he loves family every bit as much as I do. We race all over California seeing both sides of our families – together. And all I felt in that moment was, “I’m not part of the family?”

Silly, huh?

I started to think that maybe the reason I had nothing to say was because she was making good points – and I had actually been selfish – and, well, I could go on but one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to work on my self-esteem so let’s just leave it at selfish.

You are the first one there when someone needs help – selfish is not a word to describe you.

Here’s where I think I’m at: I think I’m still towing a life time of habits behind me. Some are useful. Some are quirky. But some are just plain counterproductive – and isn’t it funny how it’s hard to tell the difference between your habits when you’re the only one looking?

But I don’t want to be the only one looking anymore – which is one of the reasons I married this pretty girl in the first place. I think I’m gonna go find her and see if she’s done proof reading my column so we can do something together.

Like ride skateboards, or lay on the couch, or maybe re-do that bedtime from the other night.

I’m glad we’re on the same page.

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