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November 2, 2007

House and Home

I didn't write down my wedding vows. I knew that I could write something really eloquent, but I felt that polished words often outshine their true meaning. As I wanted to speak from the heart, I decided beforehand what things I wanted to say... and I simply said them as they came. It worked out well, happy ending.

Today, a little over three years later, I don't remember anything I said. Once, in a rough season, my wife left her vows on the desk where I study. At the time I felt that was a very passive-aggressive way of invoking a contractual obligation, yet I was remiss in not having a list of my own; a ninety-five theses of marital guidance that I could nail to her closet or something. My words would be forever lost in the warm October afternoon where our lives were joined.

I do remember one concept, however. It was a simple one (which may explain why it has stuck with me): If she gave me 110% and I gave her 110%, no matter what befell us, we'd have love to spare. Simple? Yes. Romantic? Undeniably. Mathematically possible? Let's not push it; the concept was enough.

And I intend to stick by it. A while back I noticed that my general unkempt-ness and deferring was placing an unnecessary burden on my wife, a patron saint of neatness (though I am the Archduke of organization). I tried to pitch in with household duties but my tolerance level of these menial tasks was so high that I literally missed the opportunities to act; her unswerving adherence to cleanliness swooped in and handled the tasks long before my alarm started ringing.

But that was me giving a fair try; I was in it for the 110%. So starting around June or July I forced her to turn over all household duties to me. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, garbage--you name it, it was my responsibility. I explained to her the purpose of this initiative:
  • To give me a glimpse of all the work she does
  • To cultivate in me a lower threshold for messiness
  • To give her time to pursue goals and ambitions
I patted myself on the back for coming up with such a novel idea. Surely any wife would shed a tear of joy for such a selfless, earnest gesture. In reality this process drove my sweetie up a wall; it took a while for my efforts to kick in, and the act of leaving things was painful as it went against the grain of her very being. Additionally, her eschewing of all things confrontational meant that any helpful nudges to prod me into action were basically given about 45 seconds before bludgeoning me to death with the cleaning instrument unused would start becoming a reasonable alternative.

But I stuck it out. That's what 110% means, right?

Today, after about 4 months, I'm ending the initiative. On a whole I think it was a failure, perhaps even my own little great leap forward. Even in saying that, though, I know that I've become more aware of household duties and more keen to the energies my wife puts toward the appearance of our home. This morning, after she slipped out of bed, I could hear her moving the clean dishes from the dishwasher; to not do these tasks, I discovered make her feel less a part of her home. I would not have made the duty=ownership association had I not seen her inability to let go.

Well, that was that. I anticipate that the general cleanliness of our house will go up again in a short while. My sister also moved in with us during that period, so we have extra hands to get the work done. Hopefully we three can still maintain a goal of 110% each to the excessive benefit of our house and home.

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