In many a good relationship, each person will bring something unique to the partnership. The trick is to nourish these differences, to foster a trusting environment where each person feels his/her talents are appreciated. Not to toot our own horns, but Alan and I do a pretty good job of this. We recognize that we possess complementary skills, and it is our celebration of these differences that makes the foundation of our relationship.
For example, Alan is a fantastic runner. He can run and run and run, and then when he’s finished with that, he can run some more. I, on the other hand, yearned to be a good runner, but after running in a few races over the years, had come to terms that these knees were made for walking. Still, though, if we were ever left to fend for ourselves in the Sub-Sahara, his running technique would come in handy in chasing down prey for our dinner. This is not something to be taken for granted, so whenever I can, I let him know that I appreciate his knack for running. One year we were training for the Wharf to Wharf 10K and decided to go on a run around the lake together. As I huffed and puffed along, Alan bounced along beside me. Every few bounces he would sprint ahead and then double back to keep me company for a bit. Sometimes he would offer helpful tips like, Right foot, left foot or Relax or Lengthen your stride! After about 20 minutes of Alan’s incessant cheerleading and energetic running (as I willed my body not to drop dead), I let out a scream like I had never screamed before. I mean the man was not even breaking a sweat. I had to do something, but notice that I did not tell him to stop running. After all, I like to be supportive.
While Alan is the runner in the relationship, I am not without my talents. I can find anything Alan’s misplaced, as long as it’s in the duplex. Have you seen my left shoe? he might ask. And there it will be in plain sight, wedged right behind the toilet. Or if he can’t find his sweater, I will locate it hanging on the dish towel rack. This week he has been desperately searching for his reading light, a clever little invention that clips right onto his night time reading and that saves me from harsh overhead lighting while trying to fall asleep. On the fourth day of his searching, I finally decided to lend a hand out of pity for his poor detective skills. As I positioned my glasses on my face, he taunted, “Oh, you think you’re so smart, do you? You think you can find my light, huh?” And after letting me know he appreciated my help, he slipped into the bathroom to finish brushing his teeth.
“Where did you last leave it?” I asked. I scanned the bedside table. Nothing.
“If I knew where I left it, I wouldn’t be looking for it!” he laughed, as if I were the most ridiculous person he had ever met.
“Oh, is that so?” I asked, buying some time. I could hear him gargling, so I decided to look in the space between his side of the bed and the wall. A place almost too painfully obvious for his reading light to have fallen, a place where a rational person would first look… a place where Alan’s reading light would be. I reached my hand in and pulled out not only his reading light, but the book he had also misplaced from weeks ago. I held the light in the palm of my hand, and waited for him to come out of the bathroom. When he finally appeared, I stared at him and said, “Bow to your master!” I said it in a way that indicated I appreciate your talents and as he did a series of bows at the foot of the bed, I could tell he appreciated mine as well.