I don’t remember who it was but I think it was a client that I had years ago. We were talking about a break up of her marriage or relationship or something and she was telling me about her mom’s reaction. We had focused in on this one thing that seemed to distress her mom, or maybe it was just part of the argument for why she should try to keep her relationship. Her mom said, “Well, who is going to open jars for you?” As I remember it, the comment was matter of fact and so very out of context of the pain the person was feeling both in the relationship and because of the break up. However, it did seem self-evident to her mom that jar opening was a thing you wanted a man around to do.
There is a part of me that can imagine writing this piece from a place of grief after death of a partner and taking that phrase in that sense. I vividly remember my own mother’s grief after the death of my dad, encapsulated in the question, “Who will watch the snow fall with me?” This evocative moment speaks to connection, shared pleasure in company and its loss. The jar could be the same. I walk into the living room to find my loving partner and hand him this jar so he can do me this kindness, but he is not there and my heart breaks.
Except, that isn’t what that client’s mom meant. She meant that we need a man to help us with the hard and heavy and strenuous things and that we should put up with all manner of crap to keep that presence. Or alternatively, she thought so little of men that she only kept them around to open jars and clean the eaves in the fall. Either way, connection, pleasure in company, jars as symbols of love, this was not what was getting evoked.
I have been thinking about the jar issue as I adjust to being the only adult in my home that houses me, two pets and an occasional child. I am thinking about what it means to be self reliant and relying only on myself. Last week, I came home at 10pm after starting my day at 7am. It was garbage day the next day and my dog just refused to take the garbage out for me. The nerve. The cat was similarly uncooperative. I took it out myself. Laundry baskets that are full to the brim and well over 20 lbs must be carried upstairs. Snow was shovelled all winter. Bags of salt need to be emptied into the softener and cat litter needs to be moved from car to litter box. And yes, there were jars that I had to open. These were all things I used to defer to “someone stronger than I was”. It’s based on a rational division of labour, at least in theory. Yet I have come to think that I was doing myself a disservice by deferring even as much as I did. The dependence it can create, when we fear we can’t manage the heavy or hard things, can cloud judgement. It can stoke fear. The fear is that of being alone, lost and struggling, protectorless, perhaps vulnerable.
I’m not saying I’m not vulnerable. I’m just saying I’m strong. I’m strong enough to lug the garbage and the laundry and the salt and the cat litter. I have friends to lug motors to boats with me and honestly, I haven’t met a jar that ever beat me. It may take me a while, it may end up looking like the lid has been in a car accident, but it’s open.
Lasting companionship and connection is lovely. Lives don’t always work out that way. Opening our own jars gives us options and a certain clarity. I like that quite a bit. 💪🏻
7 thoughts on “I’ll Open My Own Jar, Thanks”
I often follow this thought process with large insects and little critters in my home. I will often abdicate the removal to my male partner. But he’s not around all the time, so I’ve done it enough times myself to know I can. I just don’t really love squishing or capturing giant waterbugs (for example) and if someone will do it for me, I feel taken care of. But you’re so right–there’s a fine line between the loving element of being taken care of and the helpless element. For me, it’s knowing I can take care of whatever it is myself, if I have to, that’s critical.
Such interesting thoughts. My own husband is occasionally doing graveyard shifts which means being gone overnight and sleeping during the day. It’s interesting the things that have come up due to that, that I normally would have him do. Killing a bug in my daughter’s room, taking the dog out for a last pee break at 10pm or later, and just this morning, putting the trash to the curb while he sleeps. Not the same, because of course , he is still here ,but it’s definitely made me think about these same issues.
I’ve lived alone for decades. One of the nasty features of aging, is losing strength/grip in one’s hands – I’m told my L thumb joint is deteriorating/crumbling, but my MD says, “Those can be replaced now!”
So, yes, jars have become an issue. BUT, there are clever and handy “assists” out there, from purveyors like Lee Valley (better to spend $$ on a good model).
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