Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, and I was thinking about my resolution to “think of small treats or courtesies.” The Big Man and I usually don’t give each other Valentine’s gifts, so I thought it would be fun to pick up some little thing—especially because studies show that people get more pleasure from surprise treats than from expected treats. Maybe he’d like a book, or a silly pair of bright red boxer shorts, decorated with hearts…
Then it hit me: I know what would be a real treat for him. He’d be really happy if I got his bedside wall-mounted lamp fixed. It blew out a few weeks ago.
I thought I’d taken care of the lamp two weeks ago, but it has turned out to be one of those boomerang projects—once you think it’s off your hands, it comes right back to you.
I’d resisted calling an electrician, but then, as a treat for the Big Man and to further my happiness-project goals, finally called. The electrician’s phone was disconnected. So I had to hunt that down. Then the electrician finally came, and I thought the lamp would be fixed. But no, it needs to be taken in for repairs.
I detest this kind of errand.
Love is a funny thing. I would joyfully give the Big Man one of my kidneys, without a second’s hesitation, but I have to wrestle myself for hours to get myself to get a lamp repaired for him.
Given that the Big Man doesn’t need a kidney at the moment, I know that the lamp repair would be a treat, so after much internal foot-dragging, off I went to Gracious Home. I had a fantasy that the lamp could be fixed while I waited, but turns out I’ll need to come back in a week, then call the electrician to attach it…etc. This is really a gift of love.
I’m reminding myself of my resolution “Don’t expect praise or appreciation.” The Big Man isn’t good at giving praise. In fact, this very lamp blew out once before, and when I finally called the electrician and got it fixed, he gave me just a quick “Thanks.”
I’m so motivated by thanks and praise; I know I’d be more likely to get the lamp fixed this time if I thought I’d get a standing ovation when it was done. I beg the Big Man, “Manipulate me! Lavish me with praise, and you could have me jumping through hoops like a bear at a circus! Just give me my gold stars!”
He laughs, and he understands my nature, but he still doesn’t do it.
I shouldn’t do these things for the gold stars. As St. Therese wrote, “When one loves, one does not calculate.”
In any event, as always, my commandment to “Act as I would feel” is uncannily effective; doing a loving action has noticeably boosted my loving feelings.
Another of my resolutions is “Identify the problem.” As I write, the nature of the problem is at last dawning on me: confusion over responsibility for the lamp. Is it the Big Man’s problem, because it’s his lamp, and his inconvenience? Or is it my problem, because I’m in and out of the apartment and the neighborhood more? Maybe I see this undertaking as a favor, because I’m doing it as a treat, but the Big Man thinks of it as a task properly assigned to me, so isn’t particularly grateful. Hmmmm….
Nevertheless, I plan to wrap a box of light-bulbs in red paper, tie on a pink bow, and give it to the Big Man tomorrow, as a symbol of my promise to get that lamp repaired for him, however many times that darned boomerang comes back to me.
I just discovered a wonderful new blog, Zen Habits. Despite the name, its focus isn’t exclusively Zen, but more like…a happiness project. Each person’s project is different, each person’s project is fascinating. Great, great stuff here, particularly about setting and keeping goals.