The Simplicity of Men

Man’s simplicity
Brings joy, laughter, easiness;
Yet often ignored.
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Happy (belated) Fathers Day to all the men out there who are dads. And if you don’t have children, well, happy guy day. Because I think we need to celebrate guys. As a genus, I am very fond of them. There are some species and subspecies that I think are a**holes (like ones who hurt women, kids and each other), but I choose to believe they are few and far between.

One reason I like them so much is they are simple beings, really. Food, water, sex and the gratification of a hobby are about all you need to provide Man.  If that just offended you I implore you to listen: I like men. I really, really do.  But you are simple. (Example: How many men just read that last line “I like men. I really, really do” and went instantly to some whore-like thought? Some of you, for sure… that’s what I mean. You are simple and predictable… fun.)

(I feel compelled to clarify: I don’t sleep around; I am happily married and faithful…despite my lustings for bathrobe man and running boy…)

My dearest exemplifies this simplicity often. Case in point:  on his birthday back in March, I had a fever, the baby sitter canceled, no date night…  his birthday was shaping up poorly… and I asked “What can I do to make your birthday special?” knowing he had all these strikes against him.

“Pole dance. Check! I can whip up the pole pretty quick,” he deadpanned. Relative to the answer I expected — cough cough coblowjobugh cough cough — this was quite original.  And just another example of the wonderful, simple, predictable Man.

Some women don’t appreciate this. They want men who can read minds, anticipate their feelings, pay full attention during the 4th quarter. These women are insane and clearly so high maintenance they shouldn’t breed.  Men can’t read minds. You have to tell them what you want. And you know what? I have found if the request is reasonable, they’ll deliver.  I told my beloved that our wedding anniversary was a mandatory flower-giving event. The only one in our calendar. I could have have chosen to not tell him and then get pissed off when he gave me only candy or a card, but I didn’t — I told him. I did so because he said once “men typically don’t want to piss women off… just tell us what’s going on…”. So I did. And 19 years strong, he is still delivering the goods.

So to those women out there who live their lives disappointed in the men they claim to love, step back and count your blessings. Learn to laugh and be grateful for the companionship of one so easy to understand. Be clear what you want (but don’t push it…). And I think you’ll find they’ll do right by you. Learn to appreciate how they love you; how they love their children (even if it isn’t how you would do it); learn to love how they fold your shirts (even it if isn’t how you would do it).

And if that doesn’t work, install the pole and I’m guessing they’ll forget all the other bitchin’.

Addendum: Since this post is about guys, I asked Frank to read this. His concern was that it made him/other guys seem shallow. This is not my intent. I think relationship-wise, Man is simple. But this doesn’t preclude depth of feeling, depth of intelligence, depth of capability across all the domains of life.  More reason to love Man: depth and simplicity, a lovely combo.

Do your new reading glasses make my ass look fat? The evolution of a marriage…

Small, square, the ad read:
“…A cuddly renaissance dude…”
With that, I was hooked.
———————————————-

Today I celebrate 19 years of wonderful marriage to Frank. Wow. Nine-teen. That’s a lot. We’ve known each other 20 years – yikes!  that’s like two decades! It has both felt like a very short period of time and like forever, because it seems I can’t recall much before we met.

I’m not sure I’m going to add anything new to the “anatomy of a marriage” genre, but I thought a trip down memory lane would be fun to write. So I present to you my marriage, in 6 stages:

Dating, 14 months: We spent a lot of time at my apartment. I lived alone and it was snuggly.  During this time Frank killed a rat in my apartment (the rat had the strength of 10 men and the daring of a playboy centerfold; I was terrified). He took me sledding for the first time in my life (winter snow is a little thin on the ground in middle Georgia).  It was a lovely place and a lovely time. I enjoyed our courtship a great deal. (I know, I know, who the hell calls it a courtship…)

Marriage years zero to 4: Our first apartment together. I moved in first, a few weeks before the wedding. I knew when the washer and dryer arrived the day after I moved in — my first major appliance purchase ever, let alone with another person — that this was serious. Why the 100 wedding invitations and the white dress hanging in the closet didn’t also convey this, I don’t know. But the washer and dryer… that was it. It was a great apartment. All new building, third floor on the back. We could watch the fireworks at Kings Island every night from the deck (ok, so you had to stand at one end and lean over the railing a little). We lit fires in the fireplace (also a novelty to this childhood victim of gas heat).  We sat on the floor and ate on the glass-topped coffee table in front of the TV so often I made a little table-cloth. (It currently lays folded on a shelf 4 feet from me now; we’ve never been able to part with it.) When we started rehabbing my husband’s childhood home, spending all but sleeping hours elsewhere, the place felt less lived in. Imagine my surprise then when we moved out in 1997: I sobbed uncontrollably at the loss of our first marital home. Even Frank shed a tear.

Homeowners, Part 1: We were virtually immobile for the first 2 years of our life in this home. The previous 18 months of near constant rehabbing had stripped us of our youthful vigor (being newly married and mostly broke, we did almost all the work ourselves. We started by removing the entire roof, trusses and all, and setting new trusses with a crane, if that gives you an indication of how much work we did…). The walls remained boring beige. The last few bits of rehab went untouched for years. But we enjoyed being homeowners. Frank bought me a go-kart disguised as a lawn mower which I joyfully drove like a maniac every summer weekend. I planted a few vegetables. I took a landscape class and redid the front yard. Frank put in a concrete driveway that could withstand the landing pressure of the space shuttle.  Five years after moving in, and nearly 10 years into our marriage, we decided to start a family and quickly (and thankfully) after that, our daughter was born. (I loved painting her nursery (thanks Teneal!) and would silently weep when years later it was undone by another family.) We had cats and house plants and relatives next door and across the street. It was a good party house and the vaulted ceiling hosted a 12 foot tall Christmas tree each year. When we sold the house in 2005 to the first people who looked at it, we were pleased someone who appreciated our hard work, craftmanship and obvious love of the place had purchased it.

The Expat Years: In 2005 we moved to England for my job; Frank became a stay at home dad. We learned to drive on the other side of the road and call it rubbish and motorway and car park and mum. I loved it… and it was hard. Redefining your roles in a marriage and as parents isn’t easy, and often I struggled balancing work (and my perceived higher expectations being an expat) with being a second-in-command parent with being a mom with being a wife with wanting some alone time. But we learned to go with the flow.  Two years into it our son was born and I watched with amazement as my husband grew into an expanded role as caregiver and home-keeper and I chilled out about being the primary breadwinner and an expat. Although we were happy to come back to the US in 2008, I will always love England. I never did fully say goodbye to our rental home there… not sure why.

Growth & Maturation: Remember 2008? Gas prices were sky high? House prices were rock bottom? We returned then, rented a home and stood ready to finally build a house on the 5 acres we had purchased in 2000 in a dream location in the country. But we had to wait. Had to get one kid in school and one in daycare. I had to get used to a new job with what seemed like a 24 hour clock. Frank had to restart his engineering business. And we had to decide on how to proceed with building the house.  Have Frank be the general contractor or use a builder? Will the bank loan us the money in this economy? The house we designed will cost HOW MUCH to build? Meet with the architect and redesign the house smaller with fewer bells and whistles. Revisit the budget, crunch some numbers. Argue with the homeowners association that we weren’t quite yet ready to build… These were the longest 18 months of our marriage I think. My son wasn’t getting along in day care; we were falling deeper in love with our daughters school 45 minutes in the opposite direction from our 5 acres. Did we really want the custom home? Was country living really the right thing for our little family? Was day care really the best option for AB at this time? Did we want a nice house but no money for vacation for the next 20 years, or some other path? When the universe presented to me, one January afternoon in 2010, a 4 bedroom house less than one mile from school on over an acre… an English Tudor no less… with one of those rock bottom prices nearly half of the dream home’s… well, the rest as they say is history. It was one of the most mature things we ever did – picking the collective future of our family over an old dream that didn’t really fit anymore. It was like finally parting with that really cool pair of designer pants that you bought on deep sale at Saks on a whim… they fit, but you never really had the right place to wear them, but you couldn’t bear throwing them out.  Selling the 5 acres felt like taking those pants to Goodwill. You know it’s the right thing, but you still wonder if you made the right decision – will you have just the right event to wear them to come up in a few days…

Homeowners, Part 2, No regrets: 2010 – to present.   I love my marriage. I love my kids and husband and the family we make. I love my house. I (mostly) love my job. We have a good dog and a short commute.  We sold 5 acres of specialty property in a down economy. We can take a vacation each year. The cars are healthy. I have to honestly say I am more content now than I have ever been. Don’t get me wrong — the first 19 years have been wonderful and I’m happy for the journey (and often dumbfounded at my good luck that started with reading that personal ad one NyQuil-drunk March evening…). And yet right now, everything seems to have come together at the same time. I have always mocked those 40-ish actresses who report that their 40s are sooo much better than their 20’s and 30’s. That they know themselves better, feel more comfortable with themselves, etc etc. I don’t feel like I have that level of self awareness – I have no clue if I “know myself better” or not. However, when viewed through the lens of the last 20 years… of the evolution of my married life, well then I must agree. It is, right now, the best. Amongst all the really amazing and wonderful great times, now is the best.

All my love, Frank. So very glad you picked me.

Oh, Great… New Guilt (flavored with Gratitude)

(the following haiku must be spoken in your best wrestling announcer voice…)

It’s a G word fight!!
Guilt v. gratitude… cage match!
The victor? Stay tuned…
………………………………………………….

I work full-time and my husband stays at home with the kids (one in school full days, one in half days). He manages the household – laundry, cooking, grocery, a little cleaning, home and car repair. I bring home the bacon, manage the finances, do some yard work and also clean house when I’m sufficiently motivated (e.g. when company is coming).

This set up has been working for us for about 7 years. In those seven years, I’ve become thoroughly experienced in a variety of guilt:

– how much I like my job
– 7am conference calls that mean I don’t see the kids in the morning
– 8pm conference calls that mean I tuck the kids in at bedtime
– That between 7am and 8pm conference calls, I don’t give Frank as much attention as he deserves and I want
– How I don’t contribute very much to the non-financial aspects of this family
– That I can’t recall the last time I made it to a dentist appointment for the kids
– That the kids more or less like him as much as me now
– That he doesn’t get much time with people over 4 feet tall
– That when I get home from work sometimes all I want to do is hide under the bed and not talk to anyone or do anything, which means he never gets a break.
– Working out since I’m already not seeing the kids much

Well, friends, I have something new to feel guilty about, and it is an interesting role reversal guilt: Frank has gotten a job.

We’ve always known this would happen. Long ago we decided that once our youngest started full-time school, Frank would return to work. We need the income to support some choices we’ve made (namely private school). And it would be nice to take a vacation to someplace other than my parents’ house. And our savings account is quite dusty… You get the idea.

But now the time has come. He job hunted, found his engineering skills still very marketable, and has a great new job starting in a month. The kids know that he is going back to work. Here is just a sampling of what I’ve heard them say over the last few weeks:

–         But who is going to take care of us (because clearly we are now going to just leave them home alone…)
–         But I’ll miss daddy
–         But daddy has always been the mom
–         But I don’t want him to go back to work

So now on top of all the other guilt that I’m experienced in, I now get to add the “I don’t make enough money to fully support us and now the kids are sad because dad has to work” guilt. Wow, that’s a fun one. Now, no one is making me feel this way. Frank hasn’t overtly said: hey, would you please make more money?  But would he rather not have to get a job that makes $XYZ and instead do something that makes some ill-defined amount of money and is super flexible? Sure he would.  And the funny thing is, I would too. These last few weeks, as we’ve managed kid and adult sickness, job interviews, extra yard work, new spring activities for the kids, doctor appointments, etc etc., it has become very clear to me how much I’ve come to rely on his flexibility and the work he does around the house.

I’m also feeling a wee bit guilty about the nugget of resentment I’m realizing I have because him going back to work is going to mean more “work” for me, too. (that has to be the most bizarre sentence structure ever) I’ve truly benefited from him handling the daily stuff and now I’ll have to handle some of it too.  Laundry, picking up around the house, grocery shopping, post office visits, and on and on.  (Again, I’ve always “known” how much he handles at an intellectual level, but the last two weeks I’ve felt it “real time”.)  The concept of taking what little discretionary time I have in the evenings and dividing it up across more chores is not a thought I enjoy lingering on.

Part of me keeps snarking at myself: you have a great job that you love, your kids are healthy, your husband is a saint; boo hoo hoo, you have to work around the house some more so you can have your private school/vacation cake and eat it too; cry me a river.  I get that. I respect that. All good points.

That’s why I’m pleased the majority of me has been realizing how much gratitude I feel for Frank.  He graciously, and with almost no debate, pulled himself from the workforce to do right by the kids and our life during the last 7 years.  He doesn’t complain unreasonably. When I’m beat and want to hide under the bed when I get home, he diverts the kids’ attention so I can do just that. He reminds me that we are a team… I have my role and he has his, and together is how it all gets done. And now that he is the one having to change it up (again!) he’s been totally cool.

So I think it is time to end the G word versus G word battle raging in my head these last few weeks, and remind myself what my friend Lynette told me many years ago – guilt is a useless emotion. (I’ve also really enjoyed reading Becky and Susan’s posts over at Working Moms Against Guilt about their recent transitions – very inspiring; so nice to know I’m not alone.) Instead, I will keep gratitude high in my awareness and enjoy watching this family explore new routines and responsibilities (the kids have no idea that they are going to get tapped to do more around here… announcing that should be fun…). We’ll figure it out.

I’m Sick (or Why They Make You Take Vows)

Her head, heavy as lead;
Her throat, makes sounds like a goat.
South from there sucks too.

…………………………………………………………………..

I’m sick. (pathetic cough, grimacing swallow)

I have a headache – actually, anything north of my shoulder blades feels like it has been knitted together with steel wire. Stiff, pokey, extra heavy.

My sinuses have decide to expand to monumental proportions, and I’m quite confident they would have burst out of my face if it weren’t for the steel wiring.

My throat is currently home to… (I couldn’t find a word to adequately describe what feels like “my flesh having unsuccessfully met a cheese grater” so for inspiration I decided to google “images of sore”, at which point I lost my desire for further descriptive words. Don’t try that search at home, it will haunt you.)

And my fever, despite assaults by way more ibuprofen than the manufacturer thinks I can survive, has held on. 103 sucks. 103 for two days has left me gooey and useless. I spent all day yesterday in either the recliner or in bed.

To top it off, my son and daughter are also not well – fevers, infections — but they are well enough to insist on joining me on the recliner or talking to me approximately .0005 seconds after I finally drop off for a nap.   Trust me when I say that I continue with my not mother of the year streak.

Which leaves Frank. Frank the wonderful. Frank the sent from heaven. Frank the “I don’t deserve you”.

Today, Frank earned the “that’s why they make you take vows” award.  As if yesterday wasn’t bad enough (my inability to do more than lay down required far more attention from him than you might think), today topped it by a lot.  I’m not going to tell you what happened (What?!? Me not reveal something embarrassing and personal? Surely this is the antibiotic talking…). Just know that it involved me and required his help. Awkward help. God love you kind of help.

And he stepped up. Did what needed to be done without complaint. He could have made some jokes about situation, but he didn’t.  I love this man. I’d like to say that I would do the same for him. If I had a better memory I might recall such a circumstance in our 19 year history, but I don’t.  I also have a fairly horrible track record when it comes to patience for the sick. After about 36 hours you had better be well, because my attention and sympathy are waning. (This last sentence really applies to other adults, not so much for the kids; somehow the kids are blameless but the adults are faking lay-abouts…) All this adds up to some doubt on my part as to whether I would be as good to him as he has been to me. Nonetheless, I will hope that I, too, step up.

So this post is dedicated to my beloved.  Thank you thank you thank you for picking me. I’m a better person for it. I promise to do my best to never put you in a situation that nominates you for this award again.

Am I being replaced?

Sitting here jealous
of homework and puppy walks.
I don’t wanna work.

”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

The change has been quite subtle… My daughter would run to Dad as much as me when she hurt herself and needed comfort. And then the kids would call me Dad (granted, they would call him Mom).  But a few weeks ago was the hardest blow… my stay-at-home-dad-husband did a very mom thing. He was thoughtful. As in “full of thought”. He thought ahead, planned and did something for one of the kids that officially granted him entry into mom-hood.

I was devastated.

I’m ok being called Dad. Hell, I go through a rolodex of names when I talk to my kids too. But I always saw myself as occupying unique space as “The Mom”. I thought ahead enough to buy the birthday gift before day of the party.  I realized that my girl was sad and needed comfort before the tears arrived.  I was sensitive, I was interpreting what was important and I was acting to avoid a problem. And dammit if he didn’t do just that.

If I were honest with myself, I’d admit that I was hoping this would happen. It can be exhausting being the only one who thought this way and I often bemoan (in my own petty little head) that he “just doesn’t get it”. But I’d be lying if I didn’t take some martyr like satisfaction from thinking no one could do this job but me; that no matter what, I am mom and therefore better. And slowly now I’ve had to get used to sharing the spot light.

When we both worked, no matter what, I was still the chief parent.  We only had the one kid then, and she preferred me; I made a lot of the rules; I made a lot of the kid decisions (yes, some exaggeration, but not a lot…I’m not a wench, it just mostly works out that way when you’re the mom, right?).  And then, he became chief parent, he was in charge most of the time – and I tumbled in stature.  It was very hard for me to get used to.  Still, I lived off the fact that both kids would prefer to hang out with me rather than with dad if given the choice.  And I was sure I still had a unique skill set that the Y chromosome was incapable of duplicating.

Snf snf. I was wrong. I’ll get over it.  Statistically speaking he was bound to do something like that at some point, and it hasn’t happened again since then so there’s still hope. But there’s no going back.  Right now, and likely for a while, this is the right choice for our family, all things considered. My life is blessed and I’m more settled right now then I’ve been in a while, much in part to how wonderfully this set up is working.  It’s just that the view is different from this position and I’m not sure I’ll ever be totally ok with that…

Are his lips still moving?

One part Engineer
Plus one part Russian major
Equals compromise.
—————————————

I must start this with a declaration: I love my husband. I really do. He has sacrificed a lot for me. I can’t imagine life without him. He is a wonderful friend, husband and father.

But…

He is an engineer. A talkative engineer.  I can also accurately label him an uber geek. He is also a stay at home dad now (meaning limited daily conversations with people over 4 feet tall). On top of all this he is one of the smartest people I know. He reads a ton, knows something about everything (there is very little overstatement in that, trust me or ask people who know him) and, on to the point of this posting… he believes that anything that interests him must also interest his wife, me.

And here is where I must remind you of my opening declaration because…

He is driving me crazy.  He just finished telling me all about a new technology that streams 4 channels simultaneously so that he can use the new “home theater PC” he is building as a DVR and get all the channels we really want, but then again do we really need cable because in a few years things like Google TV will be the way to go, but our router won’t work for that, so I need to buy a new router since ours has been flakey and then run some cables upstairs, including Ethernet, because you know I plan to automate the whole house but I’m not sure how to do that in an 86-year-old house made of plaster but the HVAC guy figured it out all you need to do is drill holes…

What I hear? Blah blah blah cable blah blah computer blah blah spend money blah blah blah another project blah blah blah… (Does anyone remember this Far Side?)  I can feel my brain fog over while he is talking.  The words make sense individually, but strung together with the lack of punctuation (and the depth of detail), they are nearly incomprehensible by me. My eyes glaze and focus on some random spot 2 feet in front of his face. I wonder how long this will continue. I secretly send “force like” messages to my daughter in hopes she’ll come find me (“I am the mom you are looking for”). I feign needing to go to the bathroom unexpectedly.

I am a horrible person. Because I know that I bore him on my own set of topics (work, my blog, what’s on our bucket list, my blog, vacation in 2015, my blog) – I have seen him glaze over and fog as well.  Early in our marriage I called him on it because it was clear he wasn’t listening and it offended me… and here I am, not that many years later, a complete hypocrite. I should be ashamed.

Instead, I’m trying to listen and understand. I have started to reply and build on the concepts so that it looks like perhaps, just maybe, I understand what he is saying… And you know what this does? Just encourages him to go on. And on. And on.

Bless him. I wouldn’t have anyone else as a husband, and I’m pretty sure he is going to keep me around too (well, maybe not after this posting).  But what in the hell am I going to do for the next 30 years?  I’m afraid I’m going to have to buck up and start really listening, participating in his techno-geek-engineer-computer-star wars-android-linux-hacker-car stuff-motorcycle in-depth discussions and actually paying attention. God help me.

The Pleasures of Date Night (not Balls, part 3)

Date night’s reminder:
“Oh, so that’s why I like you”
She says with a smile
.
At a long week’s end
Four words bring joy when uttered:
“Tonight is date night.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I find date night so important that it deserves 2 haikus. You see, we were married for 9 years before we decided to have children. We were “dual income, no kids” and loved every minute of it. Then one night in bed, I looked at Frank and said “Honey, I want a baby”, and neither of us laughed, so… we began our journey into parenthood.

I have zero regrets about having children. It suits us. We love them. They tolerate us. The dog hasn’t run away. Everyone gets along as much as 4 people who are forced to eat and travel together can. All good signs that we’ll make it through.

The key to our success as parents (and by success I mean that we haven’t harmed each other yet) I think lies fully in our decision when our first was 5 months old to have date nights about twice a month. It is a glorious opportunity for me to remind myself why this man – who makes mind-bending noises and emits smells that cause my eye lashes to molt – would be worth picking again.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m no picnic either. I believe I’m being coy when I ask “So, what did you do today?” when I really mean “What?! You haven’t started dinner yet?” But all memories of that which drives us crazy about each other melts away when the back door clicks shut, and we scurry to the car to make our escape.

So, here are my words of wisdom gleaned from 9 years of date nights:

  • Keep it simple. A cheap meal and walk around the mall holding hands is sometimes the best.
  • Don’t always do a movie… you can sit in the dark and not talk anytime.
  • Have it start early enough that you still get home in time to get a decent night sleep, or whatever you might want to do.
  • Don’t over plan them. 80% of our date nights are decided in the driveway before turning onto our street. We have a few options, decide at the last-minute and don’t sweat it. I tried for a while to plan elaborate date nights (anything that requires a ticket in advance is elaborate for me), but my life is already full of responsibility and decision-making… date night shouldn’t be.
  • Don’t stop. We took a break from date nights after our second child was born – boy did we miss it.
  • Pay for a good sitter. You won’t worry and that’s worth a ton (nothing dulls a date night more than fretting about the kids). There have been times when the budget was such that all we could afford to do that night was pay the sitter – we didn’t care. Our sitter is the best ever: one of our kids’ prior day care teachers who has children of her own, knows CPR and I trust with my kids unquestioningly. As Visa says: Priceless.
  • Related, make the expense a line item in your budget. If you asked me “date night or housekeeper” or “date night or no new purse for 2 years” I would pick date night without hesitation (and then get my mom to buy me a new purse). I plan to be with Frank for the long haul, and I don’t want to be one of those couples who, when married 30 years, does nothing but bitch about each other to anyone who will listen (jokes about body functions don’t count). Date night will prevent this.

Alas, if you were looking for something about how date nights have kept our love life wonderfully alive and hot-hot-hot, well, you missed the part about us being married for nearly 19 years and having 2 kids. That isn’t the point. The point is: I love what we were before we were parents enough to keep tending it.

And so the balls trilogy comes to a close.

The Purger vs. The Accumulator – Cage Match

 “Hic sunt dracones”
The man-cave sign states boldly.
I smile and walk on…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The day of giving stuff to other people has come and gone. We now have more stuff. An amazing amount of stuff.  Before Christmas I purged the kids’ toys to make room, but somehow it never seems to be enough. (Plus, thanks to the Toy Story series, the kids have a very emotional attachment to their toys now and fear pain and suffering will ensue should I get rid of any toy, so they are quite watchful… so far, so good, they haven’t missed anything.)

So I’m left with a question that I ask a lot these days: Why do we have so much stuff? What good is it?  I love reading Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits – I’ve learned a lot from him about how to not have so much stuff.  I don’t aspire to his level of minimalism, but the idea of culling the crap if only 20% would be a treat for me.  I’ve done a ton already… we’ve packed or unpacked our possessions 6 times in the past 7 years (from the US to England, from England back to the US into a rental home and then from that rental home to our current home… all since 2005).  As such, I am now a true blue “purger”.  I buy a lot less than I used to – I can go to Target and leave having bought only what was on my list – hah!   For the stuff we already have, well, if we don’t have a use for it, I give it away, sell it or throw it away. I have very little patience for keeping things “for when we might need it someday” because I am keenly aware I can’t remember if we have milk in the fridge right now, let alone whether we have an extra set of curtains in a box in the basement for just the right need.  (To be fair, despite the purging, we still have a lot of stuff… including enough Christmas decorations to delight several households, so I’m not perfect.) Most importantly (and with a head nod to Zen Habits), I have tried to become less attached to things and more attached to memories and experiences, which has been a nice substitute.

Here’s the rub: I am married to an “un-purger”.  Actually, I would most accurately call him (say this next part in your best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice):  The Accumulator. Not in a creepy hoarder-keeps-his-used-toilet-paper kind of way.   More like this:  he has never met an obscure motorcycle part, car part, airplane part, spare part or hand tool that he didn’t buy/try to buy/almost buy.  Unlike me, he has the memory of a computer – aware that back in 1994 (“you remember, we were looking for that Greek restaurant in Warren County?”) we stopped at a garage sale on some back road and he found a doo-hickey that did something special at 10% of what it cost new and we had to have it because he had always dreamed of owning a doo-hickle and this would be crucial to its maintenance. (The fact that nearly 20 years later we still don’t own a doo-hickle is irrelevant.)  So he has a lot of man-stuff from his 48 years on earth.

Interestingly, our moving over the last few years has never involved moving his man stuff, thanks to a large barn we owned on some property, so he hasn’t had to face up to his stash of stuff… That is until this past Fall, when we sold that property and my dearest had to vacate his 3000 square foot man-cave barn.  “Ah! This will require him to purge” I gleefully said to myself.  “This will mean less stuff since it all has to go into storage!”   Well, not exactly…

To be fair, he did do some purging. One day I visited him during pack-up and he showed me his (amateur) garbage pile:   “look, a spare leaf blower motor I was saving to motorize a skateboard some day; two old faucets I was saving for parts – all in the garbage!”) but all I saw was bin after bin of things I couldn’t identify.  I couldn’t believe how one person could stand to have “that much stuff” and chided him about it.  I talked about how it “took up emotional energy” and “cluttered his metaphorical space” leaving less room for the here and now.  Pause for a moment and imagine the look he gave me; it was quite funny.

And then I realized something really important.  For me, my stuff does take up emotional energy. I don’t like seeing it unused, don’t like the look of all the storage boxes, get frustrated when I realize I have something I just bought another of because I forgot I had one already.  I feel overwhelmed and get pissed I need to dust around it all or remember where it’s stashed. I like having well-loved and well used things that I enjoy regularly.  My beloved?  Well, he is a man. He derives tremendous glee from “the hunt”… the hours spent on eBay searching for the unique; the months spent watching Craig’s list search engines for this or that… this accounts for 85% of his satisfaction with the item. The owning of it is about 10%.  And the last 5%? Well, for him, he either uses it or he doesn’t, but he isn’t bothered either way.  He’s doesn’t care about how much space it takes up – energetically or otherwise – and certainly doesn’t consider remembering what he owns to be a bother (recall he has the mind of a computer).

Bottom line is we will continue to work it out in marital bliss: I will continue to happily purge and streamline my possessions (and never, ever talk to him about the “metaphorical energy of stuff”).  Him? The fact that he doesn’t own a doo-hickle and thus his doo-hickey collection goes unused? He would say, with a wicked grin, he doesn’t own a doo-hickle YET… there’s still more time.

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