Do you ever argue with your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, or wife about stupid shit?

I do.

Do you ever win those arguments?

I don’t. Not really. No one ever really wins an argument. Never. Because to win, you have to destroy a part of your opponent: their self-worth, self-esteem, sense of knowing, etc. And if you’ve done that, you haven’t won them over to your way of thinking, you’ve just beaten them down, and lost them as a friend, foe, or significant other.

Exhibit A: The Great Shed Debate


Our Crappy Shed

The other morning, Paysh and I were sitting in the office after breakfast, just chatting before she had to get ready for work. At some point in the conversation, she got up, walked to the sliding glass door which looks out over the back deck and our garden, and said, “I want a cute little shed like you and dad are building over at the farmers market. We could even build it this summer!”

I was instantly annoyed and irritated.

“When do I get to build my kitchen? Is that ever gonna happen!?” I snapped back.

“Were you planning on building it this summer?” she asked, with an elevated pressure of the blood.

“You know I was!” I shot back, “We’ve discussed this numerous times!”

“Have you talked it over with dad? Is it on the calendar?” Paysh launched back. The argument was now in full swing, and it had just begun.

“No, it’s not on the fuckin’ calendar; I’m still in the middle of finishing the market shed project with your dad. I can’t even think about scheduling another project until I fuckin’ finish that one!”

And the whirlpool of piss, the Waring Blender of dog shit n crackers was in full gear. Both of us were pissed off, upset, and it took several hours for the storm to subside fully, at which point, we had both apologized several times.

What happened?

How did two people, who love and care about each other deeply, get into such a shooting match? What emotions fueled it?

I think what happens when two people get into an argument, it’s because they’re both already whirlpooling, and the two whirlpools run into one another, like peanut-butter n chocolate, or dog shit n crackers, and BAM! You have a mega-whirlpool! Maybe even a Hurricane Steve, Category 6!

But I’m gonna try to analyze the Great Shed Debate, to see if there are any lessons to be learned, and I suspect there are.

My Whirlpool

As I was sitting there, listening to Paysh complain about our broken down shed, and how she wanted another one, the following thoughts ran through my brain:

  • I know you want a shed, and yes, ours is not optimal, but it still mostly keeps the rain off of the stuff you didn’t want in the garage, stuff that has no other place to go.
  • I don’t have time to tear down one shed and build another one this summer. We’ve already discussed this several times. There are at least a handful of other projects that I can think of that have higher priority.
  • Does she really not remember all the times we’ve discussed building the kitchen this summer?  I put it off last summer to do a host of projects that she wanted to get done: pressure-washing the house, sprucing up Bubble’s bathroom, building raised beds, compost bins, a firepit, a rock wall, fixing the retaining wall, several things to keep water out of the basement, and on and on. Does she not care about what I want?

All this, and more, went through my brain in the seconds it took for her to tell me she wanted to build a shed this summer. It’s amazing, simply stupifying–which I’m quite sure is the correct word in this case–how quickly the mind can turn a simple statement into a fuckin’, suckin’, whirlpool of piss. I’m always astonished at how quickly mine can do it, that’s for sure.

Paysh’s Pool…?

Now, I don’t know what went through Paysh’s head, exactly, but I can attempt to guess.

  • I hate that shed. One of the doors is broken off, the roof is caving in, the floor is rotten, it’s fuckin’ ugly as hell.
  • When are we gonna do something about the muddy pathway around the tree? Are we gonna get some rock to go around the garden path? What about moving the tiger lilies that look pathetic under the tree?
  • When are we gonna put a pond and fountain in the middle of the yard? What’s that gonna look like?
  • When are we gonna do something about the ugly axe-throwing station next to it?
    The Axe-Throwing Station, whirlpools of fear

    The Axe-Throwing Station

    Not to mention all the piles of pallets stacked up behind the garage? The yard looks like a construction zone (This is a low blow from me, because she’s used that phrase to describe it before, and it always triggers an argument and similar reaction from me, lol. In my mind, it’s as if all she ever sees is the untidy stuff in the yard, not the flowers, the trees, the birds, etc. Which is fucking untrue, of course, but whoever said my mind told the truth to me? Sometimes it’s full of ridiculous, illogical lies!)

I’m sure I’ve probably guessed about half of that wrongly, but only half. Most of those things Paysh has spoken aloud, so I know she thinks them.

I think them, too, but the two of us organize our thoughts very differently, and that is the rub, I believe.

Power of Visualization

I can hold a vision of the backyard, as I think it will look years from now, in my head. I don’t have to see it visually, or to have the plan down on paper, or on a calendar. Paysh prefers that it be planned out, written down, scheduled. If it’s not, then her brain begins to spin. She also likes to see a drawing, or some kind of visual aid, to help her imagine the final product, if you will.

I do like to my to-do lists, sometimes. But not so much for long-term stuff, because it’s been my experience that long-term plans are mostly a waste of time, unless they are of a very vague nature. “One day, we’re going to build a new shed,” not “Next July 29th, we’re going to build a shed.” Trying to pin-point a project that precisely is a waste of time, because life happens in between, and fucks those plans up, a topic I touched on in my article, Barbecuing with Lesbians, awhile back. I like to be a little more flexible.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that Paysh is a time-Nazi, or over-planner, or something. She’s not. But she does like to write stuff down and put it on a calendar.

I’m not really opposed to writing it down, on a list of things we’d like to get done. It’s just the calendar part that I push back on, because it takes a good deal of effort to align several people’s schedules. And just because you’ve managed to do that, doesn’t mean it will stay that way, and then you have to do it all over again.

But none of this is the underlying lesson I’m trying to get to.

It’s really about whirlpools of Fear.

What really happened that morning, was that my Fears and Paysh’s Fears, slammed into one another when our respective whirlpools of piss collided. Fear is the main ingredient in dog shit n crackers, and especially in pissy whirlpools. It’s kind of like the yogurt in your kale smoothie. Personally, I think yogurt tastes a lot like Fear and dog shit n crackers, but that’s just me.

What did she and I have to be afraid of?

She was afraid that the backyard would never look the way she wanted it to, that the shed would fall down before we got around to building a new one, that the pallets would always be there, that the axe-throwing station would always look like something from the set of Sanford & Son. But down deep, I think there is a deep-seated Fear of Chaos.

Most of us, probably all of us, are uncomfortable with disorder, chaos. For some reason, probably very ancient, the human species loves order.

Chaos is evil, disruptive, dangerous. A shed with a broken door, isn’t just a shed with a broken fuckin door; it’s a sign that Chaos is at the door, that we are not in control of our little world. And that’s a scary thing.

It’s less scary for me these days. I’ve come to accept Chaos as a worthy adversary, if not sometimes, my friend. We still argue, Chaos and I, but I’m coming to terms with the fact that he’s not going anywhere, and in fact, the more I try to suppress him, the stronger he gets. Some days, I win; some days, Chaos kicks my ass. It’s all Yin n Yang, baby.

My Fear, in the Great Shed Debate, was that I would never be able to get it all done to Paysh’s satisfaction. That no matter how many projects I completed, there would always be a growing list of them to think about, plan for, schedule, and complete. That we would never actually have time to just sit in our garden, or look out the door at it, without planning another thing to do, to build, to fix.

And I suspect that my Fear is well founded. Why? Because Chaos does rule. There always are more projects to do.

And what if there weren’t? We’d be dead.

I’m trying, more and more these days, to appreciate what I do have, already. When I look at the backyard, I see a garden full of living things. Some of them, granted, are a bit too lively–the ‘grape’ vine that doesn’t actually produce fuckin’ grapes, for instance. But there’s loads of green and flowering stuff out there. And there’s a huge potential for it all to be even more amazing. You can see some of it in my spring article, A Tour of Bag End Gardens.

I see a Hobbit hole where the shed now stands, with a new, Hobbity shed on one end, a pool and waterfall falling off the other end, running into a stream that feeds into the central pond in the middle of the yard, a Zen-gravel pathway winding around the pond, over a small bridge that spans the stream, past the Hobbit hole, surrounding the firepit, and enveloping the kitchen space. I see a fountain in the middle of the pond, with the harp from my grandmother’s piano as a sculpture feature as part of the fountain, water flowing down over the strings, making them ring, splashing back down into the pond, soft, Taoist music playing in the background, and the sound of our new Ninja Blender, grinding up ice, coconut milk, pineapple, and rum into frothy, frozen Pina Coladas.

Now that’s a vision worth working on.

It won’t happen over night, but it will happen. The vision is 90% of the road to success.

See y’all next time. In the meantime, watch out for those whirlpools of Fear!

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Sellers, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians,The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE