Shut My Mouth

Life is filled with all kinds of opportunities to learn and one thing I’m learning is to keep my mouth shut. Or, more specifically, when to keep my mouth shut.

As much as I think of myself as an easy-going and carefree guy, I almost hate to admit that I actually have a lot of routines and have become a creature of habit. You have to do something this way or that way. Well, you don’t have to do it a certain way but there are certainly better ways of doing something.

Or at least that’s the mindset I realize I have. Or had. Have. But I’m trying to shake it.

Marriage will definitely show you areas you need to work on and brings to light all of those rough edges that may need smoothed out a bit. Sarah, whether she wants to or not, has been teaching me that I don’t have all the answers or know all the “right” ways. I know. You’re probably as surprised as I am, because I pretty much thought I had everything figured out.

The biggest area I’ve been challenged on, oddly enough, is cooking. Sarah approaches the kitchen differently than I do and I can learn something from her outlook. Let’s say the subject is a pasta dish. I’ll go online or check one of my cookbooks and find out what I need. If it calls for a cup of sauce, I’ll measure out a cup. A half teaspoon of garlic warrants a half teaspoon. I follow the directions step-by-step and am usually rewarded with a tasty meal.

Sarah tackles it entirely differently. If Sarah wants to make that same pasta dish, she jumps in and just….starts to make it. Tackling it from a I-think-this-is-probably-what-goes-in point of view, mixed with a what-if-I-put-this-in approach straight from Ratatouille she goes to town. Measuring cups and measuring spoons are nowhere to be found.

I found myself warning Sarah about doing it “that way.” You can’t just throw things in there and hope it’s the right combination. That’s not how it’s done, shouldn’t be how it’s done, and is only a recipe for disaster.

And sometimes I was right. Sometimes there was too much garlic or things would burn. But being right never brought the satisfaction I would normally get from proving myself correct and I wasn’t sure why.

Some girl once told me that Elijah Wood (he played Frodo in the Lord of the Rings trilogy) played the little kid from E.T. I told her that no, that kid’s name is Henry Thomas. And she insisted it was Elijah Wood. We went back and forth and I finally had to email her a link to IMDb (Internet Movie Database) to prove I was right. And that felt good. I showed her.

But in the case of Sarah and her cooking, I never felt good or vindicated when it turned out I was correct in my warnings.

And I don’t think I should.

It shouldn’t be about who’s right or wrong (or more specifically if I’m right or wrong). I was thinking about this early this morning and realize now that every time I tell her that she’s doing it wrong, her method is incorrect, it sends the message I don’t trust you.

And the most ironic thing about it? I end up criticizing one of the things about her I love most: her zeal for life, the fact that she goes into it knowing she can do it the fact that she can’t never enters her mind — doubt never settles in long enough to tell her otherwise. I could use a little bit of that myself.

Last night Sarah wanted to make quesadillas. I’ve never made them myself but have been in the kitchen when my uncle John made them. The point is I’ve never made them myself. And yet for some reason when Sarah said she was going to try to cook them in the oven I still felt the need to point out they are cooked on the stove top in a griddle.

And then I stopped.

I wasn’t helping. I wasn’t doing any good. If anything, I was taking the joy of cooking out of it. And even though my tone was friendly what I was saying was wrong. She’s showing love by cooking my dinner and all the thanks I had to offer was to let her know she wasn’t doing it the right way?

I was instantly angry with myself. Who was I to say what’s right and what isn’t? How long ago was it when I was trying things for the first time and they didn’t always turn out like the picture on the box? It wasn’t so long ago that I should have forgotten about it already.

I decided to shut my mouth and let Sarah do her thing. And she rocked it out. I don’t even know how she ended up making them and I didn’t ask. I ate an entire plateful and even had some of hers that she couldn’t finish. She did an amazing job and I was again upset that I would ever think to tell her she was wrong.

I’d like to blame the fact that I was sick all weekend for my lack of tact and thought, but why make excuses? To paraphrase Steve Martin, sometimes I’m just a big dumb guy.

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5 comments

  1. wow, i admire your honesty! you seem to have been very humbled, and very astute to your own error. the thing about cooking, where you need to follow the correct recipe etc, and your wife is more creative/inspired, and not so concerned with specifics – i can totally relate to that! i honestly think it is a girl thing. and its all about enjoing/sharing/learning to appreciate etc each others ways and uniqueness. so cheers for that, glad i read it!

  2. My friend, you’ve learned a valuable lesson: being right isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Nothing is lost if most arguments are not won. Welcome to married life. There’s plenty of lessons yet to be learned… ;-)

  3. wonderful!! My husband has this habit of always warning, advising, suggesting, correctiong and telling how and what I am doing wrong at any given time and over any given thing I set out to do. As a result, either I loose my confidence or feel like not doing it at all. He always cautions me about even the smallest thing in life. It has tremendous negative effect on my behaviour and how I feel.

  4. Ed,
    This is one of your many cousins. This is David one of your Aunt Emmas sons. Anyways, I just wanted you to know that I was here on your website and appreciated your honesty on this particular blog. I think I should say congradulations on your marriage. I know the two of you will have many happy years together. I too tecently got married. I got back together with my ex-wife and we were remarried on Jan 4th. I agree with you about how marriage shows you what you need to work on. and about smoothing out those rough edges. I’m very thankful that I have been given another chance to smooth out all of my little (well, not so little) edges with my wife Amy. It’s great that you can admit your faults. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    Your cuz,

    David

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