For years I have toyed with the idea of writing a tongue-in-cheek essay (article? booklet?) on Living With OCD. That’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, for those not into acronyms. No, I don’t suffer from that mental condition. The essay would be from the point of view of a husband living with a wife whose habits border on, or cross well over the line into, obsessive. At least, that has been my perspective over the last 44 years or so. I used to think of her as simply a perfectionist, but then I learned that acronym.
Example? I subscribe to the philosophy of mind over matter, stated, “If nobody minds, it shouldn’t/doesn't matter.” So if, say, I allow a single drop of water to fall from the edge of the kitchen sink to the tile kitchen floor, and I fail to blot it up with a paper towel because I know it will dry to invisibility in a few minutes and never be noticed by anybody . . . well, no big deal, right? I mean, it’s not worth the effort to take any action because it just goes away by itself. But if my wonderful wife were to notice a drop of water falling to the floor, even if we were on our way out the door – already late – for an important function, she would stop and carefully wipe up the drop and the area for at least a foot all around where it fell to make sure she got all of it up.
My response to that action varied with her mood. If she were in a good mood, I’d sing, “Oh, See, Dee,” to the three-tone tune of the television network NBC. If she were not in such a good mood I’d turn away and quietly roll my eyes. Hey, after 44 years of marriage I KNOW she can hear an eye-roll if it’s not done very discretely. And even then, sometimes.
Another example: When I come in from outside and she tells me to take off my shoes because, “I just vacuumed the floor and I don’t want grit tracked across it!” I’ll point out that I just carefully wiped off the soles of my shoes on both the outside AND the inside door mats, but her response? “Take them OFF!”
I take them off . . . with another discrete eye roll.
In the last few months, however, I’ve noticed a significant change in my attitude. I retired! I stopped going to an office 5 days a week, and it’s a wonderful lifestyle change! In preparation for that major event I made some commitments. I would NOT be one of those husbands who retired to vegetate and expected his wife to keep on working as a homemaker. I would establish a fitness routine to keep in shape and control my weight. I would make the bed, empty the dishwasher, vacuum the carpet and help with the laundry. Carol and I would be partners, sharing both the inside work and the yard duties. And I’m proud to say that for the last 6 months I’ve lived up to all of those promises.
Within the first three weeks of retirement I washed all the windows in the house, inside and out! I even did those small glass panes in the top of the overhead garage door. That hadn’t been done for so long, we were both amazed at how much clearer the view was without the spots and streaks. We then embarked on a long overdue whole-house cleanup, involving going through every room, closet, cabinet and drawer to remove what we no longer want or use and rearrange the rest. I’ve made numerous trips to Goodwill and a local church to donate clothing and “stuff.” We deep steam-cleaned the carpet, repainted woodwork, and just got everything in order. The whole process took months because we didn’t work on it every day, or for whole days at a time. Hey, in retirement there’s no time pressure!
The results have been very gratifying. And, I’ve noticed a change in my perspective about things. A couple of weeks after washing all the windows, while the glow of satisfaction from the noticeable difference was still fresh, I fussed to Carol about some spatter on the pane above the kitchen sink. I grabbed a paper towel and polished the surface clean.
Then, a week or so after the last carpet had been scrubbed and steam-cleaned, we both came inside from some yard work. I slipped out of my shoes and looked critically at Carol as she wiped hers and started to walk into the house with them on. Noticing my look, she paused, nodded, and said, “Makes a difference when YOU’VE been doing the cleaning, doesn’t it.”
As she turned back to slip her shoes off, I swear I distinctly heard her eyes roll. Followed by that familiar three-tone tune from the TV network.
Perspective! I think I'll skip that essay.