I think my wife might have poisoned me tonight…

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Photo by Terry Vlisidis on Unsplash

I haven’t told her and I am not going to. Because, if I’m right, that’s not what is important. What’s important is that IF she poisoned me then she poisoned all of us and I want us to be as strong as possible emotionally so that we can help take care of each other physically if need be. Having a conflict at this moment will not help to meet this end.

I never used to be so concerned about uncooked meat. I’m not really sure where the fear came from. I suppose perhaps since I’ve felt food poisoning first hand and I don’t really want to feel it again if I can help it. Cooking meat well seems to be a way that *might* reduce my chances of that happening.

Bring the sausages to a boil first. That’s what we usually do. Well, at least I thought we did. Turns out, that’s only what I do. My wife boils the water first and then drops them in. I don’t know how long she boils them for afterwards. And, if I’m being honest, I don’t think she really knows either. And, that’s not really a big deal because I probably do the same. I don’t use a timer. I have a thermometer at home that I am able to check the temperature to know that they are done. 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If they are at least that temperature in the center then they are cooked through. They are usually always 185 or 190 when I check. I guess I really do like to be certain.

When I notice that she's boiling the water without anything in it, I immediately ask her what she was planning on cooking in there - the sausages or the quinoa? It was a trick question, of course, because either answer wouldn't have made much sense to me. Personally, I ALWAYS add the ingredient to cool water first and bring that to a boil. It seems more certain that way. I never boil the water first (OK, maybe if I'm cooking a lobster I would).

It was clear that she was not doing it this way. And this way makes much more sense to me even if it's not clear why. What doesn't make sense to me is why I seem to need to have a reason for why it would be any other way before I can let go of the fact that the way I know to do it is the "better" way to do it.

She knows what I'm up to. She's not having it. She tells me that she hates it when I tell her how to do things.

I get defensive. I tell her I wish that she wouldn't take it so personally when I offer advice. I sound genuine because I actually believe what I am saying at the time.

She explains to me that I behave this way frequently. I'm always trying to give my two cents even when it's not necessary. She's probably right.

I don't really want to tell her how to do things.

My main concern is actually just that those sausages get cooked well enough that the entire family won't be regretting it later and I'd like to help us avoid that scenario if at all possible.

Expressing myself has never been one of my strengths.

Conflict is happening. I don't really know what to do so I pull out. She's already told me that she's got things under control in the kitchen. I'll just give her some space and I'll take some of my own in the meantime. I go and watch my daughter draw and colour a picture while offering words of how proud I am and how good she is.

The smoke alarm goes off. My wife likes to cook things on HI. I guess it is faster but it's also how things burn easily. Another one of those differences that I'd probably have reminded her of had the smoke alarms (2 of them I realize later) are taking care of that for me.

She starts fanning one of them with a towel from the bathroom but it doesn't seem to be working. It's still making the same pulsing blasts to our ears. She rips it from the ceiling hoping to take the batteries. I witness from the corner of my eye that it doesn't have batteries because it's hardwired to the cottage's electricity. I'm still watching my daughter colour her picture and we are both just trying to wait it out.

I feel like I should help but after the recent discussion about the sausages, I'm also not so quick to offer it. It's a chance for her to prove that she can handle it herself.

She must have heard that there was more blaring from another part of the house with the one in her hands only being responsible for half of the noise. She went upstairs to the loft of the cottage (this is when I realize there were 2 alarms going) and tried to at least get that one disarmed. Same luck there.

I’m waiting for her to ask me to do something although I won’t have any idea what more I can once she does. Ours at home have batteries, that’s all you usually have to do...

"They won’t stop!" she said to me, defeated by the second one and coming back down the stairs.

That’s my cue. I get up quickly and head straight for the one up the stairs. This whole moment still feels like a conflict between her and I even if we have said nothing. ‘Higher ground' seems like a good idea.

I start to look for any sort of clue on how to shut the thing off but there’s nothing but the reset button which seems to do diddly squat. I find the hole where the sound is coming from and put my thumb over that. At least the noise is less now even if I haven’t made any real progress towards a solution.

I take a look around the room and realize just how smokey the place is. There's no winning or even out-waiting this alarm. I let go of it with my thumb and go back down the stars. I walk over to turn on the ceiling fan and on my way the alarm I was just fiddling with stops.

"What did you do?" she asks.

"I did nothing" I tell her.

She sees that I'm turning on the fan and silently agrees with me that it's a good idea. I notice that she has already opened the door and the windows and I silently thank her.

Of course, neither of us can be sure what the other one communicated because we didn't say anything. Silent communication is not always the most effective.

The alarms finally stop and I jokingly tell myself that at least the sausages are probably cooked enough now.

Dinner is quiet. For the first little bit I don't really make much eye contact with her. I'm feeling withdrawn. I don't even really know why. I'm not actually upset. Maybe I'm waiting for her to say or do something specific though I don't really know what that might be.

We all eat. The mood is pleasant enough but we definitely aren’t connecting with each other much. We clean up after dinner. I start washing the dishes because she prepared the meal for us. She goes off with our daughter and the picture she was working on to finish colouring it in.

By the time I’m done with the dishes, I realize that I don’t know how to get things back on the right track again. I decide that I’m going to go out for a little bit.

I tell them that I think I may head out for a drive. Not long, maybe just an hour or so. I’ll be back soon. I might run a couple of errands. (We’re on vacation so there aren’t many things that actually need doing.) My wife understands my need for a moment to myself even if she doesn’t have a reason ‘why’. She doesn’t question it. She says that it’s totally OK with her and it is.

I leave in our Jeep. I don't really know where I'm heading exactly so I stop at the end of the driveway to make a quick plan and also pick out a good album to listen to on the drive.

I decide to head towards the city. I don't really need anything at this very moment but there were a couple of things I had planned on doing tomorrow so I might as well cross them off the list a bit early and be efficient. We'll have more time to spend together tomorrow this way. I assure myself of the good intentions and the soundness of my improvised plan.

I decide that I will bring her flowers. Along with a couple of other things to actually take some time for myself... but the decision to buy her flowers came rather quickly.

I don't feel like I did anything wrong earlier. Not at all actually. And I don't feel like she necessarily did anything wrong either. There was no apology necessary from either of us. And that was exactly WHY I wanted to buy her flowers.

I wanted to buy her flowers to prove a point, sure.

To demonstrate with a gesture that I love her. To remind her that we love each other and that is more important than anything.

I am proud of myself. I wouldn’t always have granted myself the time or space needed to find a clear solution.

I don’t think that either of us owe the other any sort of apology or has wronged the other in any way. We both could have expressed ourselves better and we did get upset. We also already explained ourselves and more or less each felt understood by the other.

And yet it didn’t feel like we had been able to get back on the right track after the initial conflict. Something was missing...

And so, the flowers. A little bit of extra nice colour added to our life for the next few days... That little gesture given out of love.

That's all it is.

My daughter adorable narrated "look at the beautiful flowers he brought for you and for me!"

And I pointed out that they were for me too. That I liked flowers too and that they were actually for all of us.

And feeling the joy that I was able to bring to them really made that true.

* * *

I’m far from perfect. This story is from my memory and it is surely distorted by my own perceptions. There are probably some details I’ve left out that would leave me in a less favourable light. But I do feel like I found a solution to this particular situation and I wanted to write it so that I could remind myself that I am capable of turning conflict into a positive outcome.

This story could have had a completely opposite outcome. It’s all too easy for me to blow things out of proportion in my mind. On my drive, I could have picked out different music and fed the anger that I was feeling. I could have planned out a giant speech about how my partner always takes things the wrong way and makes me out to be a persecutor. I could have tried to get her to see MY point of view and perhaps even have ‘won’ the argument. And probably have ruined the rest of the vacation with the same words.

Often times, I don’t always act in ways that I am proud of. I can be quick to react sometimes, especially in times of tension. I’m learning to take more time so that I can respond with better actions and be more conscious of my reactionary feelings.

I'm also learning that time is the key thing. It does take time. Time for the practice and also time in the moment.

Sometimes (and ideally) a deep breath in and out might be all the time needed. Other times, it could take more time like I took for myself tonight to actually really sort through my thoughts and find the right response.

Flowers aren’t always necessary but I can’t imagine a scenario where they would ever hurt.

That's the question I have started to ask myself regularly. As someone who always has my particular way for things to be done, it can sometimes be quite challenging for me to remember the obvious answer.

If winning an argument is the most important thing, nobody will actually win.

It isn't though.

Love is. That’s it. Nothing can ever matter more.

There are so many ways to see how we are different. Love is the only one that shows how we are the same.

I will continually try to let my actions and thoughts be motivated by loving kindness and less influenced by my anxious little "monkey mind.”

It’s a long journey and it’s going to take a lot of practice but I’m working on it honest and wholeheartedly. I don’t always allow my every action to be motivated by love but I have realized that when I don’t, it’s because I’m not fully aware of my intention. And awareness is something that can be grown.

Being aware of the “why” behind saying certain things or acting certain ways helps me to be sure that I am acting with love and compassion instead of unconsciously reacting to a given situation. It helps me to remember that being right is not as important as being happy.

* * *

I’ve maybe felt a little grumble in my stomach but I don’t think it’s food poisoning. Even if it were, I wouldn’t say so. Our daughter was running a fever the night before. She seemed better throughout the day but if we were all to be sick now, it could easily have been 'the flu' that our she must have been showing early symptoms of.

Either way, it wouldn't matter how it happened...

The important thing is that we’d be here for each other and acting out of love, not fighting about who was right.

Explorer of conundrums and amateur self-therapist

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