Peter Francis May

Making a Bed

My wife Ruth and I had a fight. You’d think I could take on a woman half my size but no, she won this one, even though, technically, she didn’t even know we were having a fight.

See, we recently downsized. From a 4000 square foot house that I loved to a condo that I’m learning to like. It was Ruth’s idea.

Now we live in a place where I can see into every room except the master bathroom standing at the kitchen sink. And when you downsize, you’re not just giving up space, you’re giving up everything that fit in that space. That was traumatic. And 1200 square feet, that’s traumatic too. In 4000 square feet, you can always find someplace to claim, someplace to get away. I can have my space and Ruth can have her space; her cluttered, disorganized, messy space

Ruth and I are different. Nothing gets to her and everything gets to me. I mean, I can only look at the crumbs and stains and that dessicated carrot sitting on the bottom of the refrigerator for so long and then I snap. I pull out all the food, disassemble the shelves and scrub it down. Even if we’re late for work.

In this smaller space I see every mess and it’s amplified in my mind. We talked about it before moving. We knew it was going to be a trigger for me.
But we didn’t actually assign tasks or anything. I thought we’d just kinda fall into the jobs. So when we moved the first task I adopted was making the bed. It started as an art project. All new bedding, pillows – ten of them arranged just so. Very stylish, very inviting. Weeks pass and I’m making the bed every morning. After a while I said, “Seems like I’m the one who makes OUR bed.” She says, “Yeah.” And finally I just ask, “Why is it that you never make the bed?” She says, “Oh, you’re so much better at it than me!”

So I keep making the bed and feeling used until one day I’m spoilin’ for a fight so I decide to make a powerful statement. So I didn’t make the bed. If she wants it made, she can make it. I’ll wait.

Day 1, there it sits unmade. Day 2, still a mess. Now, I think I indicated, I’m a little OCD so, just imagine the strength it took me to not jump in on Day 1 and make the bed. And I didn’t not make the bed for one day. I didn’t make it for two days! Even though it haunted me and taunted me every minute.

Day 3, I can’t stand it. I’m in full on battle mode. Standing by the bed shaking my head. Making snarky comments,“I hope no one stops by. I’d hate for our friends to see how we live.” Looking at the bed and heaving sighs. I get quiet for awhile and she touched me and said, “Is something wrong?” I want to yell, “Hell yes! The bed hasn’t been made for three days! Doesn’t that bother you?” But instead I said, “No, nothing’s wrong.” Because there was nothing wrong.

I keep saying that nothing bothers her but that’s not true. Me being sad or angry or upset, that bothers her. And here I was pretending to be upset and angry to make a point. Hurting her on purpose. It just shows how petty and juvenile I can be. And what an inept communicator … but she still loves me. And I still love her. She won. My surrender was complete and unconditional. Even though it was almost bedtime, I went in and made the bed. And now I’m back to making it every day because, what’s ten minutes a day to do something nice for us in our new house? Besides, I am way better at it than she is.