“It was the cherished belief of each that he did more than his share of the work.” -Jack London, The Call of the Wild
It’s a lot easier to see the work I’m doing than the work you’re doing. When you washed the dishes, I just noticed that the counters were empty; when I did them, I noticed all the sticky burnt bits on the frying pan, and how oily the water got, and the scrub scrub scrub of the sponge. When you took the car to the mechanic, I saw the check engine light wasn’t on anymore. When I went, I struggled through my confusion, my fatigue after everything else that day, my worry about getting cheated. I see my efforts inside and how they end up outside, but I only see your results.
There are some partnerships where one person really is working much more than the other. I’m not sure what to say about those. There are others where both of us are working, or trying to, although maybe the stuff doesn’t seem to be getting done, and we’re both sure that we’re working harder. How do we get out of that trap?
Well, there are lots of ways, I suppose. I can be more aware of others’ efforts. I can imagine, every now and then, as well as I can, what it took for someone else to do this. I can appreciate all the ways in which I’m supported. I can, because London already brought it up, think about love. London’s characters “cherish” their belief: they not only think that they’re doing more, they’re in love with that thought. When I do that, it makes me the victim and the wounded hero and the unappreciated genius and the great provider all at once. A great gig, right? Except it isn’t, because it makes you into someone who victimizes and wounds and takes without giving, which in turn prevents me from appreciating (or maybe even receiving) all that you offer.
I can cast us in those roles, but I don’t want to. There’s so much to cherish (myself; you; the work itself; the world we’re sharing; what I’m working for) once I stop repeating, stop loving the idea that I’m doing more than I should have to. There are so many other things to love. There’s so much more meaning in what I do. And there are so many other people helping, too.