I'm one of those insomniac-freaks who, when I find myself lying awake in bed at 2:30 in the morning, I can't just continue to lay there until I fall back asleep. Most likely (as is the case tonight) a little thought will snowball into a bigger thought until it finally rolls up into a giant ball of something insuppressible. That being said, it is the middle of the night and I'm supposing this post is meant to be learned by me (always) and heard by one of you out there since the Holy Spirit won't seem to let me go back to sleep until I get it out! (Sometimes these things just happen, so here we go.)
After a long, tiring day with the girls, the last thing I want to do before crawling into bed and vegging out in front of a brainless CW show is have to do one. more. chore. I had spent the day catching up on mountains of laundry (which is no small task when you live in an apartment community where you don't have your own washer and dryer in your unit and it involves two toddlers, a roll of quarters, and dozens of little baby socks just waiting to get lost). We had taken a nice long walk in the morning, and spent much of the afternoon playing with a neighbor friend. Overall, it was a pretty good day, but all I wanted to do was take a shower, fold those ridiculously-full baskets of laundry, and say "Sayonara" to the day!
As I got out of the shower to get my jammies on for the night, I looked down, only to discover what every wife despises seeing: an empty toilet paper roll. And, as if pulled from an old script of "Everybody Loves Raymond", my tired brain jumped to the first annoying conclusion it could muster: Are you kidding me? Does he think it just magically appears there out of nowhere? Would it KILL HIM to EVER change a toilet paper roll???
My husband had suddenly become target one of the night. But, before I could even roll my eyes in annoyance, it struck me, out of nowhere, as if Jesus was standing in front of me with His own arms crossed and eyebrows raised and retorting right back at me, "Emily - would it kill YOU?"
A flurry of questions jumped into my head. Was I even actually annoyed at my husband? Was he even the last one to use the toilet paper? Am I just too lazy to do anything about it but not tired enough to let him off the hook? Am I seriously going to nit-pick a battle over something that I use to wipe with? And the biggie....What are MY toilet paper rolls for him?
This last one perplexed me a bit. Just as it annoyed me that he never changed the toilet paper roll, there MUST be things that I did/didn't do that got under his skin in exactly the same way. What's more, how many things were "magically appearing" throughout my marriage that I was taking for granted on a daily basis? That was a frightful thought, as I begin to imagine how I couldn't possibly begin to add up the number of things I wouldn't even know I would miss if he stopped doing them. These are the unseen blessings, the thankless tasks, the forgotten favors that I so easily lose sight of as exhausting days of parenthood and normal life take their toll on our relationship.
So, I changed the stinking toilet paper roll. And, it didn't kill me! Amazing. I took a deep breath and exhaled the cobwebs of the day, doing my best to blow away the silly annoyances that were extremely fleeting and totally unwarranted.
I understand that little things like toilet paper rolls can feel like jabs of disrespect at the end of a long day where the last thing we all feel like doing is taking care of one-more-freaking-little-thing. I get it. But, it's amazing to me how Satan can use something so ridiculously minuscule to set me off, and then I have the power to turn it into an actual "issue" or not. And you know what? It's not. It's in the "don't sweat the small stuff" category of life that is simply not worth bickering about. Change the stupid toilet paper roll and reserve your energy for more worthwhile details!
So, the next thing I decided to do is one of those rare moments where I would highly recommend being in a neutral state of mind before you take on the challenge; I asked my husband to name one of my toilet-paper-roll-habits. Something non-volitile. Something I could actually apply effort to. It's very rare that we have critical assessments like this. Team Pardy (as we so endearingly refer to our marriage) believes strongly in what we call "Playing Favorites" and focusing on the positive strengths of what we bring to our relationship. But, in this particular case, I wanted to know something silly that I could get a heads-up about.
As soon as he said it, I was completely NOT surprised. "Maybe the water glasses on the nightstand?" I had to laugh. YUP! Guilty! I had a terrible habit of every single night getting a glass of water to take my vitamins before bed and only drinking half a glass and NEVER remembering to return it to the kitchen. By the end of the week, there are very often 4 or 5 half-full glasses of water on my nightstand. (If you've ever seen the movie "Signs", I joke that I'm just like the little girl in that movie who always leaves her glasses of water around the house! Haha!)
But, my hubby brought up a great point after reminding me of my silly habit. He said, "The thing is, when it comes to things like toilet paper rolls or water glasses, you never notice those things until you need them. It's not like every time you use the bathroom or go to get a drink of water you're going to thank someone for putting something where it belongs anyway. It's only when it's out of place do you decide to make an issue of it, so it becomes only a device for the negative."
Too true! (I know, I know, you're amazed at our stimulating conversations about toilet paper and water glasses at the Pardys!) But seriously, this is what made me really start thinking about those unseen blessings I am not even aware enough of to know that I'm taking them for granted. My husband locks the doors each night, he makes sure our cars are up-to-date on their oil changes, he updates my iPhone's software, and a zillion other things that I have no idea about. Once I started thinking about all the little things he does that I would have to do if he wasn't around...well, a toilet paper roll began to look exactly as it should: like a stupid toilet paper roll, and not as a personal jab of disrespect.
Too often, I find myself wanting to plead my case for "Don't-you-know-how-much-I-do-for-this-family" in my head (or worse, out loud). Seriously, if that was a tv game show, I bet nearly every housewife out there would apply to be on it and each of us would walk out carrying one of those giant checks or a new car with a big red bow on it. As wives, we are champions at belittling and nagging - we can do it in our sleep with our hands tied behind our back and blindfolded we are so good at it that we can do it all day with even the best of intentions, silently driving a wedge into our marriage. (You can admit it, it's a safe place here, I won't tell.) But, don't you think your husband might feel the same way? Don't you think he is thinking about all he does for the family too? Why wouldn't he? Wedge-wedge-wedgie-wedge-wedge.
This is marriage, not a contest!
Valentine's day is just around the corner. In a world where married love is unattractive and flings and fantasies are flaunted at every turn, it's easy to lose focus of what truly matters. Satan would love nothing more that to use the most ridiculous things (like toilet paper rolls, I mean, c'mon!?!) to drive a wedge between Christian couples. He must have been laughing with malicious joy when I fell into the trap of blaming my husband for a completely non-issue-lack-of-tissue! Good grief. But, I got stopped in my tracks and made a choice, and the entire evening took a new spin because of it. Instead of going down the road of bickering or going to bed totally annoyed, we had a good laugh about our differences and I stayed awake thinking about what a blessing my husband is to me.
I'm not married to a perfect guy. He has annoying habits and his wife blogs openly about them - let's think about this! Haha. (Say a prayer for the chap, will you?) None of us married flawless people, but we all have a choice to look for the good in our spouse. As Valentine's day approaches, I'm going to spend this next week looking for those hidden treasures in my man. I'm unaware of so many of the tiny, totally-taken-for-granted things that he must be doing to keep this family going, and I'm going to ask God to show me what those little things are.
Until then, I hope you'll drift off to sleep tonight counting your blessings in your mate. If not your mate, then your loved ones around you who want to support you in life. Look for the hidden treasures this week. And for heaven's sake...smile when you change that toilet paper roll.