Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Day Five Thousand Three Hundred and Fifty Three . . . Change Your Whole Room Around

My downstairs neighbor must think we moved out. 

Perhaps he's wondering where the loud couple who lived above him went (at least the husband)--or maybe he may be thinking his hearing is going. 

But it's neither of those things. It just seems like I'm changing. 

Today, as I was closing one of the cupboard doors in the kitchen I noticed something was different--I didn't let it slam shut. Instead, I closed it slowly and gently and the soft and low "boosh" sound it produced was almost comforting. The noise I previously made closing said door (somewhat akin to a mid-toned "bakk") is just one of many my mere existence on this earth in any room creates that would be considered louder in Japan than in my home country of the US, where--if my observations from our recent visit are consistent--anything goes. I added some felt pads to the inside of the doors, and while they do help in this instance, it's still my hand that is in charge of how much noise is made from almost any given motion. 

My wife and I live on the top floor of a four-floor apartment building and are lucky enough to have high ceilings. Every now and then we hear a strange "click" sound out on the balcony that to this day (and after four years) we still can't figure out the source. But that's about the extent of the extraneous noise from the outside world. And now that I come to think of it, even going back past the homes we lived in since 2009, I haven't had upstairs neighbors since well before the turn of the millennium--and that's a long time ago. So it's safe to say I don't know what it's like to have another person's life-sounds forced upon us, literally. We occasionally hear our downstairs neighbor sneeze, and when we do I always am shocked at how thin the floors must be. Other than that he is very quiet, and that sometimes makes me nervous. 

"You're not going to change me!"

These words I have said in varying shades of overblown dramatic contempt to my selfless, patient, brilliant, kind, compassionate, and beautiful wife since, oh I don't know, maybe the first six months of our fifteen years together. And every time I'm pretty sure I meant it. And every time I was saying the words I knew what I was really saying was "You're not going to make me a person more aware of my surroundings, Goddammit!"

This is a hard lesson to learn from a male, only child, raised by women. 

Each time I am reminded of how loud the sound is coming from my potato farmer feet shuffling across the floor the more it speaks to how unfortunate it was that I was raised as a little king by my mother, God rest her soul. Though she did the best she could as a single mom in the 1970s, the word wasn't yet out on the street that if you tell your offspring he can do no wrong, he will believe you and will carry that kidney stone of regrettable parenting in him for a lifetime, fumbling with it in his pocket as the person most near and dear to him stands arms folded waiting for a response to the question of why you didn't hear that door slam . . . again. 

Well, I didn't. And, of course, I did. 

You see, I've changed so very much since I quit drinking in 2008, that it's hard to really keep track of what's different. Of course, along with all the plusses that come with that kind of lifestyle shift come the odd changes age brings--graying hair, extra hair, reading glasses, creaky bones, shifting facial features, and all the rest that I'm not going to get into here. 

My hearing has gotten worse. I do use earplugs at concerts and stuff tissue in for some of my louder kids classes (I teach groups of 5-8-year-olds, and it does get loud). But simple things are harder to hear for me, and I feel awful for my wife who has to constantly repeat herself. This could possibly play a part in why I don't think I'm as noisy as I am. Maybe I just can't hear myself like she can. But then again, I'm always the closest person to me, so I guess that theory just got nosily shot out of the water. 

About two decades ago a good friend of mine had a fling with a mutual friend. One night this friend drunkenly confided in me that one morning, as a joke, she had taken certain items in his bedroom and put them in places they didn't belong. She moved his golf balls from the closet and put them in his underwear drawer, balled up his T-shirts, stuffed them in his pillowcase, and mismatched all his shoes and sneakers.

"I changed his whole room around!" she chuckled as if this was the funniest thing that anyone had done to another person. Thinking back on it, it was pretty hilarious considering who it was done to. But the end result was simple and pure--someone was forced to look at their world differently not due to any major calamity, but from a completely harmless prank that was easily reversed. It made him think and it made him laugh, and, while ultimately this dalliance was short-lived, it provided a quote as famous in our little circle as any line from a movie. Following any life event one could be certain to hear, "That ordeal really changed your whole room around, eh?" Or if someone was stuck in an impasse and needed some life advice, "You really need to change your whole room around," would likely be among the suggestions. 

We all knew what it meant, and we all knew it was right and true then as it is today. 

Well, it's safe to say that when I met my wife she changed my whole room around. 

Whether it was making sure to take our shoes off at the front door or placing glasses upside down so dust wouldn't settle inside, the changes came. There was the shift from curling my finger at her (admittedly it is probably something I wouldn't even do to a naughty dog now) to a softer whole-hand bending motion. Why nobody ever told me to close my mouth after filling it with popcorn as I chewed I will never understand, but my wife showed me the way and it simply blew my mind. 

It's easy to forget these things all happened for a reason. And it's also easy to get mad when I'm shown new ways to do things that are just clearly better. 

 But the words "You're not going to change me" have become somewhat of a punch line in my head.

I say them as I'm making sure to put my slippers on as I walk to the bathroom at 5 a.m. to cut down on the squeaking.

I say them as I slowly open the bathroom door in an effort to prevent the air from rattling the sliders to the living room.

I say them as I slowly turn on the faucet in the kitchen sink.

I say them as I hold the door to the refrigerator until it is softly shut--same goes for the freezer. 

I say them as I let my wife decompress from work before peppering her with honest questions about her day like a little puppy who just learned how to speak. 

Hell, I even wrote a song about it. 

It's amazing to me to say things like "You're not going to change me," even as I know full well that it's already happened. 

Even when it's clear that there's no turning back. 

Even as the sounds come out of my mouth like I'm practicing a new language.

Even as I look around the room and see that it's completely different from the way I went to sleep. 

There's just no arguing with a better way.

Thanks for reading,


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It’s a GOOD thing, this changing thing……if you’re not, you’re dead🤗🥰🤣