Monday, February 15, 2010

Seeing Green

My pool is green. Not just a little algae around the edges, needs to be brushed kind of green. It’s forest pond green. The shade of green that concerns neighbors of foreclosed properties. The shade of green that breeds disease-carrying mosquitoes.

The saga of our pool is almost as long as my seven-year marriage. We live in a part of the country where it's difficult to find a house without a pool. When we got married, my husband owned one of those rarities. For reasons that had nothing to do with the pool, we decided that I should move into his house after we got married and sell mine.

It worked well for a while. It was a nice house and we were both happy, except for the storage situation. Even after selling or giving away much of my household effects, we had too much stuff. Our garage and closets groaned with the weight of it. We considered ways to add on or expand, but none of them seemed feasible. So eventually, we set out to look for a house that would neither be his nor mine, but ours. One that was right sized.

It didn’t take us long to find a house we both loved. We tell people that we liked the house but bought the yard, which looked like a lush, green park. In the center, stood a large diving pool.

I’m more a soaker than a swimmer, but I enjoy a pool. Until I got skin cancer a few years ago, I spent many happy afternoons on the top step of my pool with a book. Throw in some cheese and crackers, a glass of wine and a nap, and you have my idea of a perfect afternoon.

My husband worried that the pool would be maintenance issue, but I wasn’t concerned. I had pools before and they were never any trouble. I always hired a pool man. It cost $25 a week, and was money well spent.

But my husband didn’t want to pay a pool man. Unfortunately, he didn’t really want to maintain the pool, either. If prodded, he would tend to the chemicals, but the brushing fell to me.

This was before Al-Anon, of course. I brushed the pool every week, and resented every stroke. I begged for a pool man. Instead, my husband installed a saltwater system, which would produce its own chemicals, and a barracuda, one of those rubber things, that roams around vacuuming the bottom. Once outfitted, it would be virtually self-maintaining.

Except that it wasn’t. The cell had to be cleaned, the barracuda didn’t reach everywhere and the salt-water system couldn’t keep up in the summer. Soon I was back to weekly brushing. I whined and complained. I asked for a pool man for my birthday, thinking that would certainly make my husband do what I wanted him to do. But he remained unmoved.

Then I started going to Al-Anon. I learned that I was powerless over my husband. He could choose not to hire a pool man. I could choose not to brush the pool if it created resentment. I let the pool go.

So we entered a new phase of pool maintenance. My husband would ignore the pool, and I would tell him when it was green. I never suggested what he should do about it, I just mentioned its color, and my husband would eventually take care of it.

This worked fine until the cell needed to be replaced. Last summer, between the bad cell and the summer heat, the pool got quite green. Then we had some sort of event and I asked my husband about the pool. He called a pool man, who got it cleared up in two or three visits. Then winter came and we were out of town about half of every week, and the pool was once again neglected.

My sponsor has taught me that I can say something once, then I have to let it go. If I say something twice, it’s like a yellow warning light. Three times, and I’m definitely trying to control.

So the pool became a dilemma. I mentioned it was green. Months went by. It got worse. We had company coming and I asked if we should do something about the pool. That made two times and I was seeing yellow, but the pool was still green.

By now I’m thinking this is an issue for the health inspector and I’m in a quandary. If I say something three times, I’m in the red zone. If I take matters into my own hands, it’s still an attempt to control. It’s me saying, nonverbally, “You obviously can’t do this, so I’m going to do it myself.” Either way, it’s a manipulation.


I realize that this is a luxury problem. It’s the type of thing Al-Anons struggle with when we are no longer struggling with the things that brought us to Al-Anon in the first place. I’m happy to have this problem. But it still presents a conundrum because either way I’m screwed.

So on the way to work this morning, I asked my husband what he thinks we should do about the pool.

Turns out he called the pool man that morning.

Which brought me back to one of the first Al-Anon principles my sponsor taught me. Sometimes, if you keep your mouth shut, things will work themselves out.


  1. This was a really good story and a really back to basics kind of post.

    Thank you.

  2. I think that if there is something that you enjoy in life like a functional pool you should have it. Unfortunately, if you are like me, I can talk myself into being needless and wantless pretty quickly. But that's CoDA philosphy, not Alanon.

  3. I love how our Al-Anon steps; traditions; concepts work in all areas of our lives.

    I love this story. :)

  4. This part was new to me:
    My sponsor has taught me that I can say something once, then I have to let it go. If I say something twice, it’s like a yellow warning light. Three times, and I’m definitely trying to control.
    Thank you, I will keep that.

    That said, if it was me, I would hire a pool man myself. I don't think it's fair for him to controll you, either, but it feels like he is. I'm not as far along as you are... so maybe I am off in this. I don't know. I just know that my sponsor says we always have choices.

  5. Hi Kathy,
    I love this story.....I have these problems, the luxury kind. I am daily letting go. Sometimes I go through a red light, and the Holy Spirit gently reminds me. Sometimes I stop at the yellow. Little steps toward freedom.

    A funny story in my past....My Dad was an alcoholic and our pool would get so bad that we had what I called the "frog plague" we had tadpoles and then millions of baby frogs jumping around. I still laugh at this. It was like living in a swamp.

    Thanks for reminding me of that funny story.

  6. i actually was going to say the exact same thing as shen :) it's funny, i even copied the same text as something i really appreciate and want to keep for myself:

    "I can say something once, then I have to let it go. If I say something twice, it’s like a yellow warning light. Three times, and I’m definitely trying to control."

    thank you for that. i can really relate.

    but like shen, i'm confused on how it's controlling for you to just go ahead and be the one to call the pool man. why is it only your husband who can call? the current set-up sounds like an aggravating situation for both you and your husband. it seems to put you in the position of feeling like you're between nagging and saying nothing. neither of which feels very good, in my experience.

    that being said, i do think that there is power in learning to be more patient with our partners and learning what matters most, and when it's ok to let things go and not obsess about them.

    wishing you well in this situation~

  7. Whew, that is a tough one. I think you showed an awesome amount of restraint. You only got to the yellow light a couple times. You sound much calmer than I would have been able to be. I think that is one of the nice things about reading each others blogs and hearing how we deal with things in our relationships.