Last week the "low coolant level" indicator came on my dashboard. My husband said he’d check it when I got home but since I got home dark, he couldn't get to it. The next day I was driving to an appointment, late, with wet hair, no coat and the heat wouldn't go on. I called my husband and asked if the cooling system had anything to do with the heat. Of course it does. I was freezing and I was mad at him for not being on top of the maintenance of the car.
My head instantly filled with all of the things that he said he would do and didn't do and so many other ways that he’s disappointed me. After my appointment I’d calmed down considerably and remembered that I had worked late the previous day. He hadn't had a chance to check the coolant. Sure it was POSSIBLE for him to have done it in the dark after dinner but it was clear that neither of us realized that the coolant had anything to do with heat. Suddenly that seemed like an unrealistic expectation on my part.
Then I saw it. I had the idea that he should have thought through my day. In my annoyed state I hated to admit it, but it was undeniable. It didn't represent irresponsibility. Now his intention stood out more than anything. I remembered the surprise in his voice when we discovered the connection of coolant to heat. I could see what I KNOW of him, that if he knew it was going to mean there’d be no heat, he would’ve gone out in the dark after dinner.
The whole thing looked understandable. I could have even made the argument that in fact I could have taken our other car or come home earlier that evening. Just an hour earlier, in my mind he was unreliable, uncaring and prone to mistakes that put me out. I had a list of prior offenses and it validated my feeling of disappointment. The problem was real, documented.
When I think back on that morning the extreme swing in perception seems almost psychotic.
And yet, if I hadn't reflected on it for the purpose of this blog, it likely would have gone unnoticed. It's amazing the inconsistencies in our experience of our lives that we take for granted but seem crazy if you look closer. That's the nature of thought. It fooled me into thinking my husband was uncaring and neglectful. It's so subtle and seamless that it can change the scenario 180 degrees and we often don't notice the difference. I'm not saying that there's no such thing as unreliability and that you should look to the innocence of your spouses.
We are constantly informed by our thinking and we are either awake to that and seeing a bigger picture, or we’re lost in our thinking and don't know it. As my mind cleared I saw the influence that my thinking was having on me and then I saw a more complete picture. In this particular instance, when I took it all in, the mishap made perfect sense and wasn’t his fault, and wasn’t even my fault. It had neutralized.
Of course there are plenty of other instances in my marriage when I’ve turned on him and never looked back, because we’re only human. But that's another blog!