Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Tempest in a Tea Jar

I want to thank everyone who commented on my last post. As always, your comments made me reflect on what I'd written.

I wanted to address a couple of reader questions from an Al-Anon perspective, and share a silly story about my husband's tea.

Why didn't I call the pool man myself?

Because we have always made financial decisions jointly. If he wanted to hire a pool service, and I didn't, he wouldn't hire one either.

Since the recession, frankly, a pool service is no longer an option.

The dilemma was that neither one of us wanted to do maintenance on the pool. I had a solution. He had a different one.

One characteristic of my disease is that I always think I'm right and I want people to do things my way. So in letting him try his solution (salt-water system plus barracuda), I was allowing him to solve the problem in his own way.

It didn't work out as he hoped. But I didn't want to "force a solution," as we say in the program.

I could respect that he didn't want to spend the money on a regular basis, but I didn't have to clean the pool, either.

When the pool got green and I asked him to take care of it, and he said he would (the second part is critical), then in following my principles, I have to trust him to do it in his time and his way. If I don't, then I'm trying to control the situation by deciding when it gets done.

Of course, if I had asked him to take care of the problem and only assumed his consent because he didn't answer, that would have been wrong.

I do have choices. Of course I do. One thing I've learned to ask myself is "how important is it?" which is an Al-Anon slogan. It wasn't important enough for me to make it an issue.

One of the things I'm learning in Al-Anon is that everything doesn't have to be perfect. I've learned to let a lot go.

Of course, reasonable people could argue that letting a pool get forest green has taken that principle to far. LOL

This comes with a major caveat. I didn't talk this out with my sponsor. Often, I do things I think are according to Al-Anon principles to find that I'm just distorting them. I didn't get into this program for my clear-headed thinking. LOL I find it's good to bounce things off someone else.

So thanks for being those people.

Another story of something I let go:

I had a resentment over making my husband's sun tea. I don't even drink the stuff, yet I had taken it upon myself to make sure his tea was always made. I put it into little containers he could take to work. If we went out of town, I put it in little containers to take with us. I actually stressed about this.

One day, he was on his way to work and emptied the tea container. "I'm running late," he said. "I'll leave this to you."

Well, that did it.

"Why is it that I don't drink this stuff but it's my job to make it?" I wanted to know. I was indignant. I quit making his tea.

For a while, I worried when his tea got too low or he left it outside overnight or in general took less care about his tea if I did. Then I realized he wasn't concerned about it. Why should I be?

Talk about a tempest in a tea jar! The whole thing makes me laugh now, how upset I can make myself over small, unimportant things. These things remind me why I need Al-Anon.

BTW, my sponsor disagreed with my decision to stop making the tea. She very astutely pointed out that I had created his expectation by my own actions. She would have liked to see me work on the resentment without refusing to make the tea. "How important is it?" would be a great slogan to apply.

But for me, this was a clear case of "if it doesn't have your name on it, don't pick it up." I was relieved to be free of tea duty. Though I could have been nicer.

In such situations, I always hear the voice of a certain Al-Anon member who used to offer this advice: Mean what you say, say what you mean, but don't say it mean.


  1. Kathy,
    I used to do this with my husband's lunch....One day he was irritated because I didn't make it. We had a discussion and now amazingly he makes his own lunch every morning. You are free of tea and I am free of ham and cheese and I get to sleep in if I want. Thank you Al-anon.

  2. that's great. i really think i get where you are coming from about the pool now. and can relate to what you wrote about the tea. funny story :) thanks for explaining your thinking further on all this. i feel like i have a lot to learn...and that feels nice in this case :)