Love doesn’t keep a Life List

Ah, the elusive “day off.” One of those days that is free of meetings, but best spent addressing loiterers on the ‘ol To-Do List. A day for sweeping floors (all of them), reorganizing bookshelves (I made the Dewey Decimal System look like child’s play), and copious vacuuming (look for my cat hair sweater on etsy). Despite these dull endeavors, my “day off” was far from uneventful. Oh no. Today was full of love and birding.

It was a challenging day for both these items.

I won’t rehash all the details, but I’ll give you the overview; it may sound familiar. A situation agitated me, and instead of confronting my mate, I brooded silently. This allowed an acute annoyance to spiral into overblown doubts about our priorities and values. I ultimately arrived at the unfounded conclusion that our relationship was, in short, doomed.

Amplified emotions drove me to look beyond the situation in question. I found myself combing through the archives of our relationship, subpoenaing any little injustice I could recall from weeks or months gone by. I dragged these out from their quiet resting places into the harsh light of a grumpy day, where they could serve as further evidence to support my wild mind’s ridiculous conclusion.

Well, as usually happens given a little time, I am no longer so emotional. I’m writing this in bed, beside Kristina. We took Stella for a long walk at Maumee Bay State Park; I hoped to glimpse their resident saw-whet owl, but alas, it was too cold for even him. Kristina made a delicious dinner, and despite it being before 9 pm, I feel ready for bed. (I’m picturing a toddler who collapses into deep sleep minutes after a tantrum.)

Before I rest, I wanted to share this experience, and the revelation that bridged the gap between the preceding paragraphs. Somewhere between “she never cleaned out the garbage can three weeks ago” and “what a great lady, let’s watch some Friends and hit the hay,” I recalled an observation made in an old book. With my thoughts lingering on the saw-whet, my brain produced this statement:

Love does not keep a Life List of wrongs.

Listing is for birds, not for every little thing that you have ever found remotely bothersome about your partner. Unless your Life List of Injustices involves serious offenses with grave implications, it is far better kept unlisted. Why? Because just like in birding, every day is a clean slate, and a chance to make a new list – preferably one of happy things, like birds observed, or times your partner made you smile.

Despite having had a mildly standoffish morning, and a rocky start to our Maumee Bay adventure, Kristina was still there to give me her gloves when my hands were cold. She was there to tell me a corny joke when I grew weary. And perhaps most importantly of all, she broke the stony silence between us by asking, “so what color is this bird we’re looking for?”

That “we’re” is what helped me get over myself and my melodrama. She isn’t a birder; she wasn’t there to bird. Despite this, she inquired about the bird that we were looking for. Because even on the hard days, the long days, the emotionally exhausting days… We are a team. And we do much better as a team when we bury our little hatchets and focus on the adventure at hand.

When we dwell on past annoyances, we close our minds to the bright spots that appear all around us, in a  far more important time frame: the present. After all, I would argue that we can only really truly focus, with all of our energy and our emotions and our logic, on one thing at a time. So if we’re stewing over yesterday’s dirty coffee mug, how can we possibly hope to appreciate today’s corny joke?  If you’ve been keeping a mental Life List of Injustices, I encourage you to crumple and toss it, and start keeping a Life List of Happy Moments in its place. I promise you that growing that list is far more rewarding.

Kristina and Stella on a very frigid Maumee Bay State Park walk.

Kristina and Stella on a very frigid Maumee Bay State Park walk.

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