60: The Sign Solution

60: The Sign Solution

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life!

The Sign Solution

What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility.

~George Levinger

When I joined the at-home work force, I thought my biggest problem would be the demands of the new job. Or maybe interruptions from friends or drop-in neighbors. Possibly even the rowdy antics of Sally, the crazy dog. But I didn’t expect my number one problem to be my husband.

After all, it was my husband who encouraged me to take my freelance writing bull by the horns. “It’s time you gave yourself a chance,” he said. “You have talent; now follow your dream!” he said. So I did. I followed that dream right into the room where my husband’s home office was set up. That’s where the old, extra computer happened to be situated. I dragged a file cabinet up from the basement, stuck a bulletin board on the wall above my computer desk, and voila! I was all set up for business.

“Are you going to be here ALL THE TIME?” my husband asked after the third day. Er, I thought that was the idea of working at home.

Here’s the thing: my husband is an occasional work-at-homer, too. About every other week, he’s on the road, doing his business thing all over the country. But those in-between weeks, he’s at home, snug in his office, doing his business thing. Somehow, amidst all the encouraging words and merlot, he’d completely forgotten that he’d be sharing office space with me. And oddly enough, after twenty-five years of on-and-off the road connubial bliss, we found working together in VERY close proximity to be a bit of a strain.

The trouble started with music. My husband, a former DJ, loves rock music. Apparently, Led Zeppelin, playing at twenty decibels, is necessary for him to achieve optimal business efficiency. I, on the other hand, require absolute silence and a Zen-like atmosphere in order to achieve optimal writing brilliance.

Except for that golden moment after I’ve written something scathingly brilliant! See, I have to read my works-in-progress aloud — over and over and over again. Any writer will tell you that this is a necessary part of the process. My husband considered my reading aloud an extremely annoying part of the process.

You can see where this was going. The funny thing is, I didn’t see where my husband was going the day he left the house and returned home with a spanking new laptop and printer. He carried them upstairs to my off-at-college daughter’s bedroom. Well, I can take a hint. I relocated my business.

I’d barely figured out how to use a wireless mouse before trouble came knocking again. “Who’s been working in my room?” said my little Goldilocks girl. She’d decided to move back home. Papa Bear groaned and Mama Bear packed up the writing stuff.

It was back to the corner in my husband’s office. Week after week, the music blared and I glared. I read aloud, annoyingly, and my husband turned the music up louder. Neighbors hinted about a noise ordinance. If friends called, I didn’t hear the phone ringing. Sally, the crazy dog, put her paws over her ears. It was the Battle of the Work-at-Home Spouses!

But as my husband had noted back in the early days, I had writing talent. So I got to work… and wrote up a sign.

“QUIET,” it read on one side. “ROCK ’N ROLL” it read on the other. Now when my husband and I happen to be working at the same time, he can look on my bulletin board. If I’m doing research, or answering e-mails, or playing games (sometimes necessary to jump-start the creative juices), I’m happy to rock out. But if I’m writing, then I need quiet to make the big bucks (sometimes necessary to jumpstart connubial bliss).

And if I need to read my works-in-progress out loud, I wait until my husband goes to bed. Because let’s face it. That reading out loud, over and over and over again… really is annoying.


~Cathy C. Hall

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