— Elbert Hubbard
U.S. writer and philosopher
My wife says over the years, especially the past decade ... maybe two, maybe more ... that I have forgotten how to relax.
My wife is probably correct.
I have loved this woman dearly for 37 years — two in a pre-matrimonial state and 35 in its “I Do” aftermath — so it is her counsel I value most. Besides, she is the kind of best friend who tells me what I need to hear and not just what I want. But it always is done with kindness and with a touch of reverence to personal feelings and professional ego.
Much to the surprise of many on the outside, newspaper folks do have feelings. And we all have egos. No shock there. We are trained to walk through life with thick skin, but even Perry White grimaced on occasion when an angered reader would call The Daily Planet to brand him as a heartless excuse of a human being. Little did the caller know “Chief” harbored Superman among the stargazing writers of his newsroom.
But I digress. Lois Lane is just a memory and Jimmy Olsen a bow-tied has-been.
Back to relaxation, and why my wife says it has become a forgotten treasure in my lifestyle.
It probably has something to do with this.
A few weeks ago I declared my intent to take three weekdays off work. Not a long weekend, mind you ... that’s another lost gold mine. But three weekdays: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
“That’s great!” my beloved exclaimed. “You can get a little rest, sleep late, take in a movie, sit out on the deck and watch the leaves fall, breathe some fresh air and think about the rest of the world hard at work while you’re at home drinking your morning coffee and watching the birds.”
“Huh?” I asked. “In what parallel universe are you living?”
That’s when I whipped out my hand-printed “Ricky Do” list that I had prepared at the kitchen table the night before. Before moving on, let me clarify. This was a “Ricky Do” list because it was fashioned by ... Ricky. Had it been authored by the love of my life, it would be recognized more appropriately as a “Honey Do.” There’s a difference.
She scanned the “Ricky Do.” Already aware that it would include predominantly outdoor chores — my personal favorite — the household editor took note of two.
“Balance the checkbook and iron shirts?” she asked.
“Those are the easy ones,” I explained. “I figure I can knock those out with the morning coffee first thing Monday. Kind of a warmer upper to the real thing. Scratching off two items quickly will build the momentum toward the bigger stuff that lies in wait.”
To further clarify, around our house we share domestic responsibilities. In today’s age where both spouses must work — on average — in order to pay the bills, it is only fair. We both vacuum the carpets. We both cook. We both wash the dishes. We both dry the dishes. We both clean the bathroom. We both scrub the tub. We both sweep the laminate flooring. We both do the laundry. We both fold the laundry. We both iron.
We both dust, but we both hate to dust. It is why we dust only as needed. Little sprouts springing from the top of the big-screen TV will generally trigger our Pledge alarm. And no, I don’t know why we hate to dust. Perhaps Sigmund Freud addressed this anomaly.
Assured that my pre-chore reasoning was flawed as usual, my wife handed me the “Ricky Do” and offered her moral support. She wished me well and refrained from adding chores of her own. In our world, it is understood the spouse is limited in her right to add to the “Ricky Do.” To do so means mixing the “Ricky Do” and the “Honey Do,” and this leads to time management chaos, household calamity and undue confusion as to priorities. Nothing good can come of such actions.
She kissed my cheek and suggested in her loving way, “You are hopeless.”
“Thank you,” I beamed. “Er, that was a compliment ... right?”
She smiled. It was her wifely smile, one I had seen often. It came with dual messaging. I call it the spice that seasons our union.
To other male types with similar tales, here’s a look at the rest of that “Ricky Do,” minus balancing the checkbook (No. 1) and ironing the shirts (No. 2).
3. Move old bed frame from carport to storage shed. Done.
4. Clean utility room, purge excess items and deliver to Habitat ReStore. Done.
5. Return yard figurines to storage for winter. Done.
6. Trim landscaping shrubs. Done.
7. Chainsaw three small junk trees into firewood. Done.
8. Pull frost-bitten coleus plants from the ground. Done.
9. Clean storage shed gutters. Done.
10. Mulch leaves in our yard. Done.
11. Mulch leaves in neighbor’s yard. Done.
12. Move around master bedroom furniture. Done.
13. Dismantle old computer. Done.
14. Replace leaky water hose in back yard. Oops.
15. Dust. Oops.
In analysis of my three days of rest, I figure 13 out of 15 objectives “ain’t” bad.
Of the leaky water hose, I simply ran out of time.
Of the dusting ...
Did I mention I hate to dust?