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Lesson 5: …to be flexible

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Lesson 5

Lesson 5

Dear readers, let me start today’s post by saying I am a little OCD. {Pause for comedic effect.} Okay, if those of you that know me personally would stop laughing now, I will admit that I am perhaps a lot OCD. I have mellowed some with age, but I still prefer most things to be done a certain way. I am also a big fan of schedules and routines. Think Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. Thursday night is laundry night and Chinese food.

When I was a young man it was much worse. I liked training people to do things because then I knew they were being done the right way. Most of the jobs I have had throughout my adult life have involved some form of teaching or training others.

The little things are very important. The toilet paper should come over the top. The toilet lid should always be closed when not in use. The shower curtain should always be closed. When cooking, most of the prep dishes should be cleaned before the meal is ready to be served. Shoes should not be worn in the house unless they are house-only shoes. The house should be quiet by 9:00 PM to give everyone some quiet time to unwind before going to sleep. And do not even get me started on the big things.
Toilet

It is no wonder that my first and only roommate was an utter and total failure. We lasted about seven months, and our friendship did not survive the experience. Though in that instance, I am confident that our friendship would not have lasted regardless. But I digress. My point was that I was a difficult person to live with, to date or even be friends with.

I cannot say when it was that things finally started to click in my mind of just how insane I was acting. We all know that there is more than one way to do most things. It was not a problem of not having the knowledge. I was just particular. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Particular. Except that it would probably be more accurate to say that I was exacting and inflexible and, sadly, at many times, unreasonable.

What was probably the craziest thing was that when someone did something differently than I might have, it not only frustrated me, but tended to make me very angry. It felt like something was wrong with the universe, or like a personal affront to me. Now you can see why my wife sometimes called me, “The Beast.”

angry-1297540

Credit for my change must largely go to her. My dear wife had a way of training me in such at way that at the end it felt like it was my idea from the beginning. That seems to be a skill that God only gave to women, and maybe that is why as men we are so often frustrated with each other.

The details of what had happened are long forgotten, but her words to me still echo loud in my head. Something had been done in a manner I did not like. My wife reasoned with me that the important thing was that the task was now complete. That should have been the important thing, but once again I found myself fixated on how it was completed. When she finally got me to admit that, yes, having the job complete was all that mattered, she moved on.

“Now as to how it was done,” she had a sparkle that would appear in her eyes when she was accomplishing a goal and a little hint of a smile that always melted my heart. “Does it really matter?”

“No,” I answered begrudgingly, “I guess not.”

“Because, as you can see, the task was completed, and the world did not end.”


She turned around and walked away from me then to give me a chance to mull over her words. She knew I was a wordsmith even with the spoken language, and that sometimes those words too quickly became vicious. She seldom allowed any conversation to get to a point where negative words would even start to be spoken. That might have been the secret to our marital success.

It took a lot of effort, but in time I was able to assign tasks to people and celebrate the fact that they were completed even if in a manner different than what I preferred.

Don’t get me wrong. There are still days when I would much rather take over a job than to watch someone do something the “wrong” way. For the most part, though, I hear my wife’s voice in my head, and it holds me back. When the task is complete, I can tell myself, “And the world did not end.”

Couple Bench

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I have been an avid writer and reader since I was old enough to write and read. I grew up in a small midwest community. Now I am most at home in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. Getting Home is my debut novel. Others will follow.

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