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Lessons Learned Through Hand Towels

For those of you who don’t know, we live in the beautiful, golden state. Yes, glorious California where we’re within driving distance of the mountains, desert, and the beach…that is, if you are willing to sit in traffic in all directions (I’m not bitter). The golden state where people wear shorts and flip flops year round, because…well, it’s summer year round. You know how some cars have speedometers that go up into the high hundreds, but those numbers seem a bit extra? For some of us, we obey the posted speed limits, and for others of us, we’re not entirely sure our cars could hit 160 even if we wanted them to. Well, it sort of seems like that’s the case for thermometers in certain parts of the states. Like, why do some analog thermometers go up to 120-140 range? Surely the temperature doesn’t actually approach that threshold. We’re not on the surface of the sun after all. Well, welcome to the Golden state, friends. (yes, I know the surface of the sun is much hotter. Don’t “@“ me.)

Summer is in full force here in Southern California. The heat advisories and figuring out what meals taste good cold, because heating up the house even a single degree for the sake of a cooked meal is unthinkable sort of “full force.” I know it’s September, but apparently the weather didn’t get the memo, rude. We’re all doing whatever we can to keep cool, so the other night, my sweet, sweet husband came to bed with a wet hand towel to keep cool, also rude. Not rude, because the bed might be wet or something. We have two labs who seem to think the bed is actually theirs. They just let us sleep there. Needless to say, wood chips, dirt, and little bits of nature are not uncommon. So the risk of our sheets being damp, because of a wet towel isn’t why Marc’s choice raised my eyebrow (yep, you know exactly what I’m talking about. That single-brow-raise complete with the dead-pan expression and the slow head turn).

We were preparing for someone to come in and think this is how our house looks all the time. Y’know…like liars...Every home has dust in it. Why do we have to pretend like ours doesn’t?

So there I was, relaxed, impassive except for a single eyebrow, whose arch had rocketed up towards my hairline, because the hand towel that my dear husband had soaked in the shower and brought to bed to keep cool looked like the very same hand towel I had just placed on the hand drying rack in our bathroom. I was preparing our house for visitors. You know those types of visits where we take out the best linens, clean and dust for the first time since…well, since our last visitors. We were preparing for someone to come in and think this is how our house looks all the time. Y’know…like liars.

Why is that by the way? Every home has dust in it. Why do we have to pretend like ours doesn’t? Why do we equate dust bunnies to irresponsibility or not taking care of our things? When the reality may be that we are just prioritizing other life things over wiping off a credenza that we don’t use. Yes, we have a piano, yes, it is a great place to display picture frames and knickknacks, no we don’t play it, but yes, we need to dust it to make sure you might think that we do. Geez, what is this, social media? We should stop that. Let’s start that campaign to end dust bunny shaming. Instead, when we see varied layers of dust accruing at our family and friends' homes, what if we are prompted to ask what sorts of things are keeping them busy, because dusting is farther down on their priority list for some reason, whether good or bad. If there are #dustbunniesonthebackburner then maybe there is something compelling on the front. Where were we? Oh! The eyebrow and the hand towel!

So! When I saw that my sweet, loving husband had used our clean new hand towel set aside to impress our company to cool himself off, I was a bit irritated. I took a slow, deep breath and through gritted teeth masked as a smile, I asked if he took the new towel from the rack. He very nonchalantly told me he had taken the towel that was hanging on the shower door. Now, I knew I didn’t leave this towel on the shower, I left it on the towel rack where it was supposed to be, where our guest could see it and marvel at our bathroom with its checkered hand towel hung neatly next to the sink, where they are most aesthetically pleasing and functional…(I know. Just wait. It gets better). I pushed back, explaining that I had not hung that towel over the shower door. He unassumingly answered that he didn’t know where I hung a towel, but this one that he grabbed was hung over the shower door. This sweet man, with his simple, honest answers had no idea what he was talking into. (Listen, some of you are reading this and jumping ahead. You have to understand that the two-towel theory didn’t resonate at the time, okay? Is it reasonable? Yes. Did I go down that path? Certainly not).

If there are #dustbunniesonthebackburner then maybe there is something compelling on the front.

We went back and forth about the location of said towel for a couple of minutes...him adamant that he had not taken a towel from the hand drying rack and me wondering why he would fabricate a story about some other identically-patterned towel that he just happened to find across from the one I had placed. He sighed deeply and told me he believed me, and then he didn't really feel the need to defend himself any further, obviously because he was convinced of his own falsehoods. It needs to be stated that my husband does not regularly lie and especially wouldn’t feel the need to lie about something so trivial as a hand towel. He’s more of a, “Oh. Yeah, I did that. Oops. Sorry about that,” sort of guy.

The next day, I got up and started getting ready. While I was in the shower, I tilted my head up to survey the scene. At some point in the middle of the night, he had gotten up and placed the hand towel over the shower. This seemed like a lot of work just to bolster his case. I was surprised that he would be going through all this trouble. Then I looked at the hand drying rack. Yes, you guessed it. I noticed the towel I placed on the rack was still there. As it turns out, we have two identical checkered towels, and he had used the second one, which was apparently draped over the shower. The thought of our little argument was now absolutely ridiculous. He walked into the bathroom, and I pointed it out to him. He chuckled about it and went on getting ready without giving another thought to it, while I wondered why I had chosen to go to bed gaslighting my husband about hand towels.

Marc and I have been married for just under two years. This is my second marriage. My first marriage lasted a grand total of three years in my early twenties. I gave birth to a sweet boy who became my partner in crime for sixteen years before Marc came into my life. I rarely dated and did not have relationships prior to Marc. I was the adult of the house. I made all the decisions necessary; I was the one in control. When Marc and I got married, all of MY decisions became OUR decisions. To say it was a shock to my daily life, would be an understatement. It has been jarring in a whiplash sort of a way, at least for me. He takes it in stride and is very understanding. this a morally "right" or "wrong” sort of a thing? If not, then there is a strong likelihood that there is not a single correct way of thinking

During podcast #1 I mentioned having the “single Melissa” mentality. I still struggle with it now. Even today, I have the mentality that my way is usually the best way because it’s been the only way. So, when I sat and looked at the clean towel sitting nicely folded on the towel rack, I had to apologize and accept that I am not always right. Yes, Marc. You read that clearly… BOTH OF US CAN BE RIGHT!

As funny/ridiculous/embarrassing as that story is, there are a couple of lessons in there. When it comes to disagreements, we have to stop and ask ourselves two questions: first, is this a morally "right" or "wrong” sort of a thing? If not, then there is a strong likelihood that there is not a single correct way of thinking; rather, different thought processes may lead down similar or divergent paths and conclusions, none of which can be quantified as, “right,” or “wrong” for that matter. Second, if you answered, “yes,” to that first question, the follow up question becomes, “Am I prioritizing being right over being in relationship?” I’ve heard this same idea asked different ways, “what’s more important: being correct or being in community,” or, “is this really the hill you want to die on?” They all lead to a similar conclusion: sometimes we pursue being right instead of pursuing a deeper connection with and understanding of another person, and to take it a step further, that need to be right is often revealing some unmet needs or unaddressed insecurities rattling around unresolved within us.

I remember not catching on at first as Marc began to subtly insert this way of thinking into our relationship. He would ask things like, “what is your way of doing this?” insinuating that there are actually multiple perfectly viable ways of doing something?…ridiculous, right!? Even word choice is purposeful, preferring to refer to things as “different” instead of “wrong” or “weird.” Oh, and one of my most/least favorite conversation-freezers, “why does anyone have to be right or wrong with this?” Because, Marc! BECAUSE! Imsorryiyelled.

...sometimes we pursue being right instead of pursuing a deeper connection with and understanding of another person...

One of the more meaningful ways that this way of thinking has impacted me actually has very little to do with the way we communicate or disagree; this mindset has started to impact the way I treat myself. Like many of you, I am my biggest critic. I am constantly evaluating how I…well, how I do everything. The decisions I make or don’t make, the way I handle situations, my responses, my lack of responses, so much is under careful scrutiny. This is probably the most recent example I can think of. My doctor recommended that I take two weeks off to recover physically and mentally from my D&C. For a number of reasons, from office politics to a strong urge to not sit home alone longer than I needed to, I instead took a whopping two DAYS after the procedure to recover…one of which I helped my son lift and mount two T.V.’s to the wall, much to Marc’s dismay. I don’t sit well! I’m sorry!

In the week leading up to the procedure and that two day recovery period, I had multiple conversations with several people, including Marc, where so so many of them encouraged me to take longer than two days. Finally, at one point I had had enough of all the input and opened up to Marc about my frustrations. After explaining everything I was thinking, I apologized and told him that I was going to make wrong decision and probably just regret it later on. In true Marc-fashion, he told me there was no need to apologize to him. I had nothing to be sorry for, and this wasn’t a decision that even need to be labeled wrong or right. We can only ever make the best decision we can with what we have available to us at that moment. To look back on a non-moral decision later and evaluate it in hindsight is unfair to ourselves and to others. I know, frustrating, right? Ugh, he’s so understanding sometimes. It’s gross and I love it.

He’ll probably say that he is this way, because of his own traumas and family of origin issues growing up. That feeling invalidated has prompted him to help others feel validated. I get this thought process now. It’s taking me a while to fully understand it. It’s certainly different than what I’m used to, and although there was a pretty steep learning curve, it’s freeing to practice it. I still judge myself, a lot actually, but every now and then, without him saying anything, I will pause in the middle of self-criticism and remind him (and probably more so myself) that this probably doesn’t need to be a "right" or "wrong" thing. Marc smiles knowingly and loves me well as we process these moments together. He is patient as we reframe experiences from both of our individual pasts, baggage and all. He chuckles, because he knows that we have two identical checkered hand towels.

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1 comentario

08 sept 2022

Man, it’s refreshing to know that others go through the same struggles…self judgement. I remember vividly early on in our marriage I told Spencer he didn’t load the dishwasher correctly. Very kindly he asked if I would like to do it. Then and there I decided I would rather have him load it “in correctly” than do it myself. I still catch myself doing it, but i am usually able to correct what I am thinking before I blurt if something I’ll regret.

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