Friday, August 7, 2009

The Better Man

Chris is a constant source of inspiration for me. I admire him so much, and he sets such a good example. Almost on a daily basis, he proves to me that, between the two of us, he's clearly the better man.

For all of this to make sense, you need a little background detail.

I'm the uptight person in our relationship, and he's the laid back one (for those of you who already know the two of us, I didn't need to provide that information, did I?). Essentially, what this means is that everything bothers me, and nothing bothers him. On that basis alone, Chris is an inspiration. I still don't understand how he doesn't get crazed by some of the things that go on in our relationship, or at work, or in the world in general. Like I said, an inspiration. I know I should be a lot more like him.

Don't ask me why, but I seem to take pleasure in finding fault with Chris. I seem to want to point out something that he's done wrong, something that's annoyed me. I realize this is petty, but, the way I rationalize it is, Chris and I need to meet somewhere in the middle of being uptight and relaxed. In the end, I think he goes too far in his direction, and I go too far in mine. Sometimes, I feel I need to prod him into being a little more disciplined, or careful, or observant, or whatever it is. And, sometimes, he needs to show me that it really is all right to be more laid back, that the world won't come to an end just because something's happened that I don't like. After all, not everything needs to be a big, dramatic production, does it?

Let me give you a recent example. In the powder room off our kitchen on the main level of the house, we have a white hand towel. Chris is about the only person who ever washes his hands in this room, since I prepare most of the food in the kitchen and am used to washing my hands in the sink there.

The other day, I was in the powder room, and I noticed that the white hand towel had a large smudge of dirt over much of it. Right away, I knew Chris had done it, guessing that he doesn't clean his hands properly when he's in that room. Instead, he probably dangles his fingers briefly under the water, without using soap after he's been out in the yard working in the dirt, then wipes his hands on the towel. I can see him do it.

When he returned home that evening, and we'd settled in to having dinner, I asked him nicely if he'd use soap from now on when he washes his hands in the powder room. He objected and said that he does, but I was ready for his response. I told him I never wash my hands in that room, yet the white towel has smudges all over it. Busted. He knew it was useless to object further.

I hate to admit it, but I'm glad I had my facts together and could prove that he'd made the smudges on the towel. But, in light of what happened yesterday, I've had to reexamine why I bring things like this to Chris's attention in the first place; why it matters so much to me; why, in the case of the towel, I couldn't have just put it in the laundry, hung a fresh towel on the bar, and gotten on with life.

Why did I need him to be wrong? Or, maybe the question is, why did I need to be right? Why was making this point so important to me? Doesn't the "great" in our relationship far outweigh the bad, or the inconvenient, and I shouldn't I overlook all of the minor things that annoy me about a person that I love dearly and would never want to live my life without?

Back to what happened yesterday: I was at Coopers, a regional food store in our area, to buy a few items to get us through the rest of the week. After I returned to my car, I was about to pull out of the parking stall when I discovered I was boxed in by a couple of large trucks on either side. My visibility was bad, but, somehow, I needed to get out of the parking lot. Using the rearview mirror, I watched several vehicles come and go, so I put the car back in park and relaxed for a few moments until I was sure the coast was clear. Then I attempted to back out again.

That's when I heard the scraping sound. Immediately, I looked in my rearview mirror, and I realized that I'd hit another car. I couldn't believe this had happened, saying a few choice words. Where had that car come from? Hadn't he seen me try to pull out? Couldn't he have given me a break when he saw my car emerge slowly from between two trucks?

At any rate, the accident happened. I pulled the car back into the parking spot and got out to survey the damage to the other car, then to my own. The other car had sustained two extended surface scrapes on the rear driver's side that didn't seem to impact the body at all. Then, I walked back to my car, the one I share with Chris, the one that's only five years old, the one that's fully paid for, the one we plan to have for a long, long time--and I hoped and prayed the damage was minimal, so minimal, in fact, that you couldn't even see it.

Good luck with that. The rear left bumper was scraped in several locations, and there was one deep scratch, probably six inches or more long, that I knew would require body work to fix.

After the driver of the other car yelled at me for not seeing him, and after we exchanged contact and insurance information, I went to a local car body shop to find out how much it would cost to fix the damage. Much of it would clean off easily, but the deep scratch could only be repaired by removing the bumper, which would require additional work and expense. The damage? About $535.00 worth. Then, of course, there was the cost to fix the other car, if any work was needed.

Even though I did what I thought I could to safely back out of the parking spot, I discovered after making a claim with ICBC that the person pulling out of a parking spot is at fault if he hits another car because it's assumed he didn't use due care and attention before backing up.

I had to take full responsibility, I knew that, but I also had to deal with how Chris would react to what had happened. He doesn't get upset about anything, really, but I always assume the worst reaction from him because I know how I would react in the same situation, if he had been in an accident, resulting in damage to the car that would require us to spend money we'd rather spend elsewhere or save.

When I returned home, Chris and I spoke on the phone. I explained everything, and his response was essentially, "Oh, well, these things happen. That's life. Get over it."

I shouldn't be surprised by that reaction. Like I alluded before, Chris seldom gets upset. I think I've only seen him get upset a few times over the seventeen years we've been together, usually when he's frustrated at me because I've gone off the deep end about something. Other than that, there's nothing I've done that's been bad enough to anger him, and he's always been philosophical about everything, recognizing that, for example, in the case of the fender bender yesterday, no one was hurt, the damage was minimal, and life will go on.

Not even after Chris returned home from work and took a close look at the car did he get upset. In fact, he said he thought the damage was minor enough that we shouldn't even bother getting it repaired. Was it really worth us paying the money, whether the full amount or the amount of our deductible if we went through ICBC?

For the record, this is where he and I differ. In a previous post, I wrote about being a perfectionist, so my position would always be to repair even minor damage, because who wants to drive around a newer car with scrapes all over the rear bumper? Shouldn't we try to return the car to as perfect a condition as possible (even though it's far from perfect after owning it for five years). In my opinion, sometimes, I think Chris needs to be more uptight about things, so that matters like this get his attention and he's more motivated to take care of them.

But, here's my point: I was upset with him for making dirt smudges on a white hand towel, to the extent that I had to bring it to his attention and catch him in a lie, and he wasn't the least bit upset that I'd been driving the car when it was involved in a minor accident that would cost us a minimum of $300 or a maximum of $535 to repair--not to mention the cost of repairs to the other car, whatever those were.

Chris knew I was already upset with myself for what had happened, so I'm sure he didn't want to make me feel worse. Which is reason one why he's the better man. But, as I watched him take a look at the car and talked to him afterward, seeing he wasn't at all upset, I felt so grateful that I share my life with such a wonderful and warm human being. And that he's not a carbon copy of me.

And I felt so petty for all the many times I've pointed out to him something he's done, however minor, that resulted in something I didn't like or that I was upset about. Let's see: A dirty white towel, or a minor car accident. Let's put this into perspective. If anyone had the right to be upset, who should it be?

Yet that's not the way Chris operates. It's just not the way he's put together. And what I'm left doing in situations like these is watching the grace with which he handles them. I never feel marginalized, or insulted, or worse about myself. I'm always aware of the way he puts me first and ensures there are no hard feelings between us. Because, after all, relationships are full of little things that annoy or piss off or upset, right? But, really, the most important thing is that other person who shares your life with you, and that you love with all your heart. How could anything else matter after that?


  1. Save the cash, make sure the dent is properly touched up so that it doesn't rust, and let it always be a reminder to you that life is imperfect & one shouldn't sweat the small stuff. You'll live longer :).

  2. Thanks for the advice, Jeanette.
    For me, everything in life is a constant reminder that nothing is perfect. So, if I have the chance to try to make a little of it as perfect as I can, I will always choose to do that.
    In a sense, that's what my blog has been about from the beginning--shining a light on things so I can see the imperfection, and working through them to make them more perfect. What can I say? It's just a compulsion that I have. To me, perfect things soften the blow of everything else that isn't perfect. And they make life a little easier to live.
    Thanks again for caring enough to make your comment. I appreciate it.