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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Fight that Didn’t Go Anywhere

I use brown sugar in my hot cereal every morning. About l ½” of brown sugar was left in the sugar container but it was hard and lumpy and I asked my husband (he does all the grocery shopping) to get some more brown sugar.  Looking in the cupboard he answered, “There’s plenty of brown sugar right here. Use this up first. “

“It’s lumpy and hard.” I complained. I don’t want to wrestle with it.

“I’m not buying more brown sugar when there’s plenty here.”

“Don’t give me a hard time, just get me some more brown sugar, for God’s sake “

“No,” he shouted angrily as he stormed out of the kitchen leaving me smoldering with anger.

We’re all adults here, right?

I had a booksigning that morning and I left shortly after my husband did. I thought about the brown sugar later in the day. This was an old, old scene we had played for decades, the particulars changing but the same case of totally illogical emotional outburst without restraint on my husband’s part yelling and refusals coming down upon my usually reasonable and innocent head. Of course, I'm the psychotherapist, right?

I felt around for the anger. I could certainly dredge it up if I wanted. In any court or public opinion he would be judged totally unreasonable and illogical that he should refuse to get me 50 cents worth of sugar for whatever the hell reason I wanted.  We are both extremely frugal but this was an insult, wasn’t it?

What were my options? I could get really mad, no problem. But did I want to get mad ? What was my husband’s crime? He was just emotional and illogical and had no trepidation about pissing me off. Not so terribly criminal, was it? What was I supposed to do, retrain him so he “worked better.”

Or should I just ignore him.  Repressing anger wasn’t good so I kept looking to acknowledge any of that.

Should I feel bad and ruin my day over it? What were my options. I could buy my own damn sugar. I could dump the sugar down the drain. I could throw the damn sugar bowl on the floor and break it. Or throw it at my husband. Not my personality.

Or I could use what was left somehow by fixing the lumps and set the whole anger business aside.  

Or I could be furious with my husband and be surly and nasty when I got home.

I knew my husband would have forgotten all about the sugar  “incident” by then. His anger was always a flash in the pan, quickly started and quickly over. I could just set the whole thing aside, couldn’t I, and use forbearance?  A word out of fashion in today’s world. I didn’t really feel threatened or unable to take care of myself. Just how did I want to take care of myself was the question.

I’ll think I’ll just let it ride, I thought.

When I got home, it occurred to me that I could pour the sugar out on the chopping block and use the rolling pin on it. It took about 30 seconds. I scooped it up with a pancake turner and put it back in the sugar bowl. Problem solved.

When my husband got home I casually informed him how I had fixed the sugar. He gave me a big smile and a hug. I guess some would call me a wimp for not standing my ground and demanding respect from my husband. But, in a way, I don’t need respect from my husband, thank you very much. I already respect myself.  Day saved, argument avoided.

It really is an epiphany to realize that "being right" is not necessarily the answer to anything. Being right is not the way to any kind of essential truth. "The truth," as Joel Goldsmith often admonished us, "cannot be reached through the reasoning process." In a way, I think he is saying that the truth is always a surprise.

We’re all adults? Not really. We’re all children of the universe bumbling and struggling along a little narrow path of togetherness. Sometimes we can make space for one another’s flaws. Forbearance is a great word.

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