A funny thing happened earlier this week. It was 7:30 at night – Maggie had just gone to bed. Cliff was out of town. Sam was sitting in the kitchen eating a bowl of grapes, and I began to pick up the house. Three glowless glow in the dark bracelets found a new home in the trashcan; two pairs of socks, scattered in four corners of the living room, were relocated to the laundry basket; a pile of school papers was sorted and filed in the recycling bin.
What’s so funny about that, you ask? Good question. You see, I’m not much for picking up. I’m a very clean person (for a little on this topic, see Toothbrushes, Toilets, and the Same Darn Lesson Over Again), but not especially neat. I can live with clutter, at least a little. That pile by the side of my dresser? That’s yesterday’s clothes: why put them away when it’s probable you’ll wear them again sometime in the next week?
Cliff is not this way. He is really, really not this way. His college roommate’s girlfriend used to tease him by intentionally brushing against the books on his desk so the corners wouldn’t be perfectly aligned.
At our house, Cliff is the picker-upper. I do my share, but usually only because I don’t want to force Cliff into doing more than his share. Or because company is coming. So Monday night, as I returned stuffed animals to their full upright positions, I had to admit: something has changed. I could have let the house sit at my comfortable level of disarray for another few days, until Cliff was about to return … except that I didn’t want it that way anymore. It’s seems funny for me to say, but somehow I’ve become a “neat and orderly” sort of person. (Though I’m still sloppy, by comparison to Cliff.)
Marriage changes people over time. You find yourself liking things you didn’t understand before (football), had never tried (spicy food), or thought you were genetically predisposed to find impossible (picking up the house).
Cliff has changed in this area too – he can stand a little disorder on the bookshelves. He tolerates the pile of papers I keep on the corner of our desk. It is now permissible – even encouraged – to have a few toys on the living room floor. When he found he had an unused drawer in his dresser, he gave it to me to use however I wanted, and he hasn’t been at all critical that I’ve filled it with unfolded pajamas and work out clothes.
You know how in movies they say couples grow to look like each other over the years? It’s not that she starts to look like him, or he takes on her facial features: it’s that somehow they become something new together. Likewise, it’s not that I’ve become neat, or Cliff has become messy … it’s that we’ve found a new symbiotic state of order and chaos we can both live with, even prefer. And that, at least to me, is pretty funny.