Janet Sheridan: Dealing with relationships
When I scanned an online list of behaviors guaranteed to nurture relationships, two items caught my eye — keep a sense of humor and compliment generously. “Hmm,” I thought, “Maybe those suggestions could improve my relationship with my vacuum.” So the next time the voracious machine began to eat an area rug, I pulled it back gently and said, “I want you to know I really appreciate your enthusiasm for your work;” then added, after a pause for dramatic effect, “Have you heard the one about the lady who complained her vacuum didn’t do anything but gather dust?”
With my vacuum soothed into cooperation, I decided to see what I could do to ease my relationship with water. Due to medications I currently take, I’m supposed to down at least two quarts of water daily. By the end of each day, I approach the innocent and essential liquid reluctantly, down it unhappily, and blame it for the predictable eventuality of one more trip to the bathroom. Perhaps another suggestion from the list, share goals, could help: “It’s important for my health that I get enough sleep and drink lots of you, so could you try to be a bit zingier and appealing as the day wears on and linger a little longer in my bladder when I’m napping?”
The list also advised me to admit my mistakes, which could help my relationship with crocheting. The next time I create a granny blob rather than a granny square, I’ll take a deep breath before saying, “I’m so sorry; I obviously misread the directions. Again. It’s not your fault. Give me a minute to go drink some water and compliment the vacuum, then we’ll try it again.”
Another item on the list cautioned against taking relationships for granted, which is the mistake I made with George RR Martin, author of the series, ”A Song of Fire and Ice.” I read the first book in 1997 and over the next fifteen years read four more books as soon as they appeared. When I finished each, I assumed Mr. Martin would eventually write another. And he did. So when it was time for winter to arrive in the sixth novel, I believed the rotund, heavily whiskered author was working diligently on book six.
Then HBO’s blockbuster series, “A Game of Thrones,” based on Martin’s series, sidetracked him for eight years by making him a co-executive producer. So I waited in vain for book six. Now I realize I took his masterful, complex writing for granted. Perhaps if I’d written fan letters glowing with appreciation every month, followed by letters of pleading when the sixth book didn’t appear, he would have spurned HBO’s offer. But I doubt it.
The list also recommended working through difficulties, a notion which might benefit my relationship with pillar candles. Their tiny flames mesmerize me and bring a feeling of warmth and beauty to my home. Unfortunately, they are usually scented, and perfumed candles make my headache and my nose drip. I’ve tried working through this difficulty by switching to battery-operated candles, which glow rather nicely but cannot duplicate the fascination of a flickering flame. I’ve also considered wearing a surgical mask when I use perfumed candles but fear doing so would startle my husband and destroy the ambience of a candlelit home. Thus my relationship with perfumed candles is as doomed as a Kardashian marriage.
The last item on the list urged me to strengthen my relationships by being forgiving when necessary. So here goes: I forgive those who love hot chili peppers and look askance at me because I don’t. Go ahead, friends, siblings, and husband, rave about hot peppers, crave their heat, feel your face flush, let moisture drip from your eyes and run down your cheeks while you exclaim about the deliciousness of the food you’ve ruined by inserting them. I forgive you.
Stories enrich our lives. We tell them, listen to them, read them, repeat them, write them, watch them on TV, enjoy them in theaters. Stories teach us, entertain us, make us laugh, ease our social situations, and cement our friendships.