I am a worrier. A world-class worrier, I suspect. My father taught me well: always ask, “What if?” MIT taught me well: they gave me a degree in Planning. But my native curiosity and imagination were probably more than enough on their own.
The other night, I was sitting on the sofa beside my husband when I smelled smoke. I asked him if he smelled it. Nope. But, to humor me and out of a recognition that I notice a lot of smells he does not, he went upstairs as I checked every possible source downstairs. No heat. No flame. No spot where it smelled even as strong as on the sofa.
I am a worrier. I kept worrying. He did not.
Once upon a time, I would have expected that my worry was reason for him to continue searching for a problem. And now that social media makes it so much easier than when I had to get to the office kitchen to play, I probably would have enjoyed an immediate game of “Tell Me My Spouse Is Awful.” I would have asked others, folks who know me and not him, to validate my sense of urgency to do something about my worry as an obligation of anyone claiming to love me.
But I am different now. I don’t play that game, because I know how badly it backfires. People who have only the information I give them and care only about me will, of course, amplify my fears of burning to death in my own home and of being mistreated, of not getting what I have every right to expect from my husband.
Instead, I sent a friend a WhatsApp message: “The house was smelling smoky for no good reason. Ed fixed it by frying onions. He’s much less curious than I am.” And she laughed. Three ROFL heads. Three minutes later, she texted, “I’m still laughing. FYI.”
Ed returned to the sofa with an onion omelette. I returned to my reading. The smoke smell was gone. I relaxed. We really had done enough about it, given the extremely sensitive smoke detectors throughout our home. And the smell was no longer there to trigger my worrying mind, thanks to those onions.
A few hours later, Ed was brewing coffee, and I noticed that the day’s blend smelled like smoke.
It’s a pleasure sharing my life with someone who doesn’t act as I learned to expect, who won’t pursue a very unlikely fear for longer than is reasonable. It’s a huge relief not to add more worries about the state of our relationship when he doesn’t. And it’s a delight to make my friends laugh with observations of our life together instead of inviting them to tell me my husband is awful.
Expecting love without trying to write a laundry list of specs for it has brought me benefits I never imagined. Fried onions as an act of love. Who’d have thunk it? Life is good.