When It Works

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Some days I'm not sure if I'm entirely capable of cohabitation with other human beings. I've had good roommates, and bad roommates, and good roommates who turned bad. I've dealt with insane dogs that whiz at the drop of a hat, uncovered pot stashes hidden in bathrooms, been walked in on during more "intimate moments", and had my stuff borrowed, used, and stolen.

Given, I've had plenty of great experiences too, but all and all, I like my privacy. The fact that Rob and I have been living together now for about three years is nothing less than a true sign that Satan is ice skating in a freshly frozen hell. When it comes to living together with my partner, Rob and I work pretty well considering we're polar opposites in so many respects.

I am an OCD neat freak. Everything has it's place and must be in that place at all times when it's not in use. I pick up trash as I walk and throw it away, and the thought of sitting down and attempting to relax with an episode of Xena and a glass of wine while there are dirty dishes in the sink is on par with brushing my teeth with a cheese grater.

Rob on the other hand is a card carrying member of the "throw and go" way of life. Where ever something lands, that becomes it's new home. CD's, clothes, empty boxes, junk mail, cereal which has permanently glued itself to the carpet with a determined refusal to budge. Milk glasses of days gone by have actually molded under piles of clothes, warmed by the soft hum and heat of the computer in his lair (i.e. the office of no return). Is it any wonder the cat box is in the closet (read: storage space) of this room? And the mess in the car is a battle I have relinquished; a fruitless war not meant to be fought, at least not by me.

It's actually a shock that we haven't killed each other yet, as The Mess is the usual cause of any arguments we do have. But somedays I seriously just want to take the nearest saucepan and bludgeon him over the head with it. "Doesn't seem so hard to put your dishes away now, does it!?" I would laugh maniacally over the now dead Rob corpse. I would then systematically dispose of the body cleverly by turning it into sausage and serving it with polenta in a very Silence of the Lambs fashion at a dinner party (I heart Dr. Lecter).

Still, I find ways to work around it, bitching and moaning being my usual go-to method, with underhanded trickery coming in close second. Once when a friend was coming over Rob started cleaning and actually vacuuming the house. Moments later the friend texted me and had to cancel. A moral dilemma: Do I tell Rob he can stop cleaning and go back to doing something he enjoys? -OR- Do I let him keep cleaning and take advantage of this rare opportunity at sanitary exploitation?

Later, the apartment now spotless without my help, I informed him of my friend's sad situation and how she no longer could join us.

Yet in all of our craziness we make cohabitation work for us both. At times, I don't know how I managed living before and not end it all by hurling myself into oncoming traffic. Take a few nights ago for example. I was attempting to make a grilled cheese sammich. I say attempting because I was in one of my high stress, freak out sessions which are a regular event for me and to which Rob has learned to kindly tune out until I calm down 10 minutes later. I was buttering the bread with cold butter when the bread then tore smearing butter into my palm.

I'm not sure what happened, what caused me to snap and lose it. I guess it was the proverbial straw. All the stress from school, from work, from life, from family, from the coming holidays, from the pets, from the blog, from the magazine all bubbled up and exploded.

"GOD FUCKING DAMN IT!!!" screaming as I threw the butter knife across the room, slamming it against the wall. The cats ran from the room assuming they had done wrong and expecting the spray bottle to punish them. And as I watched them hide and looked at the torn bread lying butter side down on the floor I just started to cry.

"What the hell!?" Rob called from the office of no return.

He paused. He came out and into the kitchen. He picked up the bread and wiped up the butter. "Why don't you go sit down on the couch, okay? You go rest. I'll make dinner, okay?"

"Okay..." I mumbled wiping my eyes.

"Do you want one or two?"

"One please."

"No problem, and I'll add some mushrooms and onions to it to make it healthy for you."

"Okay." The weight slowly lifted and I knew all the stress was in my head and I just needed to get it out. Ten minutes later I was fine and had begun plotted everything I needed to do calmly in my day planner, the smell of grilled cheese sammiches wafting from the kitchen.

And that is when you know you're in a good place, and all the dirty dishes, and the barring opposites, and all the other crap in the world fades away. That is how you know it all works.


  1. I teared up as I read this, wanting to give you a hug to make you feel better. I know, you're thinking - "thats weird - woman who doesn't know me, sitting half way across the world!".
    But it's not all freakily unselfish, I'm glad that you had someone to make that grilled healthy sammich for you after all - it's probably got to do more with how I identify with that "last straw" and yes, butter not spreading on bread can be send me over the edge at those times.
    I'm glad you have Rob to make you that grilled sammich after all.


  2. Remember how well it all worked for the Odd Couple atthe end of the day! You are lucky to have a roomate that comes through in a pinch!

  3. Hang in there. If it makes you feel better, a stack of paper plates went flying across my kitchen this morning when I was trying to pack up your delicious apple cardamom cupcakes to get to work. (They really are fantastic cupcakes by the way.)

  4. I hope things calm down for you, but I have had that same moment. I believe mine happened when I was attempting to put ketchup on a hot dog and squeezed too hard and it splurted all over the plate, bun, and countertop.
    Rob sounds like a nice guy. Glad you guys get along so well.

  5. It was really sweet of Rob to make the grilled cheese sandwich for you! I hope you'll feel better and that the stress will less overwhelming.

  6. Rob sounds pretty special... I can totally relate to the meltdowns. There are days when my phone rings off the hook with irrate customers, reports are due, etc. and everything is fine. And then I go home and completely lose it because I can't find my favorite red sweatpants.

  7. You know, I've read this post more than once today. Because when people can get it right like this, it gives me hope that it isn't all straight to hell in a handbasket.

    I clearly remember having more than one moment like your failed sammich whilst completing my Masters degree. And, while my partner is generally quite good at tuning me out until I've finished feasting on crazy pie, he also knows when to step in with the offer of finishing dinner or pouring me a glass of wine and sending me off to sit in the bathtub with a magazine or a cheesy novel. In retrospect, I'm not sure how I would have finished sans straightjacket without his help--and I'm so glad that you have Rob and that it works.

  8. This is a beautiful essay. Thanks for sharing this story that joins us together in the human experience called life. Creative writing classes?

  9. Dear Garrett:

    I was afraid that this day would come. You see, being a "non-stop flour force, armed with butter and a cup o' sugar" is a high eminence not without some hazzards. I do believe that from your described symptoms, you are suffering from...

    ...white lung disease.

    This malady comes from inhaling too much all-purpose flour. You've probably not heard about this as The King Arthur Flour Company has spent millions over the years keeping this silent affliction out of the public eye.

    You'll be okay. I think you and Rob need to enjoy a weekend in Napa and let someone else bake dessert for a few days. I wish you a speedy recovery my friend!

  10. graduate school can turn even the most "normal" of us into Satan's warriors. Having a partner to help you out at those times does make it all worthwhile.

  11. I'm so there with you on this one. I tend to bottle things up inside to the point where something stupid will just set me off. I once yelled at four, count 'em, four family members becuase I had locked myself out of my house. I was actually just stressed from a midterm I knew I had bombed that day. Trust me, bud, you're not alone.

  12. Oh honey - when is semester break?

  13. I remember the stress of grad school well. It's so great you have someone to help you ease things back into perspective. But what really saved me were massages when the stress got really bad. They are worth saving up for. Hang in there!

  14. Well - to be naughty - co-habitation works out just swell if the sex is grand! LOL

    Seriously - I have foudn the differences really do work. Paul and I are quite different yet in the end we form a great pair. I am sure that you and Rob do as well.

    He is a sweet guy for not crapping all over you and whipping up a grilled cheese.

    Hmmm - I'd like a grilled cheese . . . I feel a tantrum coming on . . .

  15. Hi, Garrett! I am so glad to know that I am not the only one who does that. It is nice to know that I, too have someone in my life who is calm and can help me de-pressurize when I have placed to much on my shoulders. I have just found your blog today and will keep on coming back! :o)

  16. Garrett-
    Once again, my mom sent me to your blog today, figuring I'd likely relate... and do I! I could totally feel the temper tantrum, and agree and a well-made cheese sammich (especially made by someone who loves you) is some of the best comfort food (next to squash risotto).

    Hang in there. :-) You have my thoughts and those of every other student and blog subscriber with you.

  17. Garrett - Thanks everyone for your outpouring of sympathy, support, and for tossing your own stories out there as well. Always nice to know we all have the same problems out there, and the same great supports. =)

  18. Life can be overwhelming and suck masterfully. Then you blow up ....and feel guilty...then only a person who truly loves you (occasionally the same one that pissed you off) makes you food and beverage so life is good again. I think this is evolution. Oh, and relationships.

  19. Oh god you poor thing. I've had moments like that when the stress is insurmountable, and then the counters in our tiny kitchen get dangerously cluttered, and then things from the tiny, crowded cabinets start falling on me. I always yell "It isn't safe to LIVE LIKE THIS!" and then cry.
    One time, Rob made me my mother's chicken in white wine sauce - it's literally the only thing I've ever seen him cook - and he did it all with a few barked commands from my end of the couch. I love how your Rob took over the grilled cheese. He sounds like a good egg. Sometimes you just need to be taken care of for a little while!

  20. G, I can so relate. You wouldn't like being around me when I cook..which I LOVE to do.

    Just last night Dave says to me, "I know you are happy when I see the kitchen look like a tornado just hit..and that makes me happy." Awwww.

    Hang in!

  21. Lovely entry on a topic that can feel less than great when we're experiencing it in the moment. I liked how your partner came to your aid and how you let him help. I am experiencing grad school too and have had several of these kind of last straw moments. Thank you for sharing yourself in such a genuine way. junemoon

  22. That's a beautiful story. It gives me hope that someday I too will find the person who can pick the pieces up and put the whole situation back together, who can make me whole when I don't have the strength to do it for myself. Hold on to that one.


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