Every day, for the past month, I’ve asked my girlfriend the same question. I try to ask it in as casual and lilting a manner as possible so as not to make her feel threatened or pressured. But as the days progressed, and I still did not receive an answer that will allow me to stop asking this question, my voice has taken on a certain edge that some might define as hysteric.
The question is: “Have you started packing yet?”
Early on, I tried to wrap it in something flattering. “Gee, you’re pretty. Oh, and by the way, have you started packing yet?”
Then I tried asking it in various foreign accents. Not German, of course, because I didn’t want to scare her. But the accents of love: Italian, French, and something that could be characterized as a messy mix of all the accents from the movie Casablanca. “My darling, have you started packing yet?”
I also tried to make a game out of it. “Hey! Have you started packing yet? If not, let’s get started tonight. I’ll race ya!”
But each day, my question, no matter what pretty dress it was cloaked in, was greeted with the same cool stare and a single word: “No.”
Finally, today, I fell to my knees and pleaded. “We close on the house in two weeks. Start packing!”
My girlfriend and I have different philosophies on the subject of getting things done. She’s a thinker and I’m a doer. This generally works to both of our advantage. She knows not to mention an idea to me until it’s fully baked because I will act on it immediately.
For example, she quietly considered architectural changes to our summer cottage for months before raising the subject. Then, when she was ready for me to act impulsively on her idea, she made casual mention that she’d like to knock down the wall between the kitchen and living room. I arranged to have it down by the following weekend.
It was her idea to buy a new home. So she wisely scouted the properties on the market and didn’t mention it to me until she had thoroughly vetted the notion internally. A week after she put me on the case, we made an offer on a house.
This system works perfectly as long as she’s able to focus on strategy and I’m occupied with carrying it out. It gets tricky when either of us is forced to perform the other’s duties.
And that’s why we’re at a packing standoff. There are certain tasks (those that require some amount of critical thought) that she will not allow me to perform. Packing is one of them. Sure, I’d get the entire house packed in a day, but kitchen stuff would mingle with pet supplies and clothing would be dumped in boxes with garden tools. In her mind, this would be akin to creating a situation similar to what’s going on in the Middle East: complete chaos and tension among our inanimate objects that would take generations to resolve.
Today, I grabbed her hand and led her to the pile of empty boxes. Normally, I would be thrilled at the sight: empty boxes waiting to be filled! A challenge to be conquered! But now, denied the ability to begin filling them, the vacant mountain of cardboard simply depressed me. And to her, the boxes were as foreboding as Everest. So she pivoted us back to our comfort zone.
“How about if I tell you what to put in each box, and you do the labor?” she said. And, suddenly, the Earth returned to its axis.