the rooted digital journal

January 8, 2020

Don’t Reload The Dishwasher

My parents divorced when I was ten years old. Perhaps some of the best lessons I have learned come from that great division between two people who were once bound by eternal vows. Both of my parents have been open about their shortcomings in marriage and shared with my brother and I how to avoid them in the future. Darryl and I are a coming up on our sixth wedding anniversary and I can honestly say those lessons have strengthened our marriage substantially. While I do not recommend divorce as a means to growth, it can be a wealth of knowledge for those who are willing to learn from it. 

My mother is a strong, wise, capable, and independent woman. These are characteristics that she passed down to me throughout the years and I am forever grateful for. But she had some warnings for me as I began the path towards marriage. “It is easy for women who think like us to eventually take over and do everything our way. In marriage, this can be devastating to your husband and actually set him back. Be careful not to ‘just do it yourself’ all of the time. A truly good man will be secure in your independence as a wife, but that does not mean that you are completely independent of each other anymore. You are a team; you need to act like one.”

There are many more lessons that my mom passed down to me, but there was one in particular at the center point of health in our marriage. I made a decision before we got married not to reload the dishwasher. You may already be laughing because you have a sneaking suspicion where this is going. I have heard the “my husband loads the dishwasher wrong” conversation more times than I can count. Perhaps it isn’t the dishwasher. Maybe it’s the way they fold the towels, load the laundry, mow the lawn, clean the bathroom, or whatever other task they have responsibility of. 

Darryl and I share the chores in the house, as I believe all households should. We divided these up before marriage so we would be prepared when rubber met the road. When it came down to cooking and doing the dishes, we equally loathed both tasks. So, we made a compromise. I would take responsibility of the cooking (sorry babe!) and Darryl would take responsibility of the dishes. Those first few times watching him load the dishwasher were painful. It is amazing that a woman who is relatively disorganized and far from a clean freak about freaked out over how her husband was loading up the dishes. THERE WAS SO MUCH MORE ROOM IN THERE DANG IT! But I made myself a promise. Do. Not. Reload. Don’t say anything. Don’t point it out. Don’t mention something in passing. No reverse psychology games. Nothing. Just let him do it the way he wants to do it.

At the end of the day, the dishes are still going to get washed. If he decides to hand wash the few dishes that he didn’t fit in there, who cares? In the time that it would take to explain the optimum capacity of the dishwasher and enlighten him on “the right way”, he would have been done and we would have been in a much happier mood. To this day, I have never reorganized the dishwasher. On one occasion we did have a discussion about the difference between just doing the dishes and cleaning kitchen, but other than that I have let him load as many (or few) dishes as he so pleases. I am just thankful that I have a husband who is actively involved in maintaining our home. 

I know it sounds like a silly thing, but the lesson runs deeper than simply redoing something that someone else didn’t do our way. My rule of Don’t Reload The Dishwasher is really Don’t Waste Your Time on Something That Steals Joy in Your Relationship. Menial household chores can lead to major strife in any relationship. In some cases, there is legitimate reason to work through that disagreement. But if your spouse is willing to help, isn’t allowed to, then berated for not helping out more, how do you expect to foster a deeper relationship? Eventually resentment takes root and walls are built. At the core of every human lies a number of insecurities we battle on a daily basis. When we have to fix our spouses work to fit what we want, it often leaves that person retreating inward in confirmation of those insecurities. 

By all means, if your spouse is about to drive off of a cliff tell them! But many times it is the smallest and unexpected things that trip us up in big ways. Is it truly the end of the world if the towels are folded slightly different than how you like them? Will all Hell break loose if the lawn isn’t mowed into perfectly straight lines? Will taking a different route in the grocery store end your life? These are common conversations I have heard among married people or those in long term relationships. Unfortunately, these habits also get passed down to children as well. I am not a mother but imagine the effect to be similar. 

Though I have made this promise, I have certainly failed many times. I can remember a time very recently where Darryl and I were tiling a bathroom. I had experience, he didn’t. He watched through some YouTube videos and was giddy to give it a try. Almost immediately I was directing his every move and pointed out all the ways he was doing it wrong. Gently he looked at me and said, “Hon, I really want to learn how to do this. Can I just try to figure it out and follow along with these videos?” I was reminded very quickly about the commitment I had made and shut my dang mouth. The tile turned out beautifully. 

This is an encouragement to all of us to focus on the things that matter most in our relationships. Are there areas that are stealing joy in your relationship? If folding the towels exactly how you want to is that important, is there another task you can release, even if it isn’t done exactly how you’d like it? Let me reiterate that these are not big ticket issues I am referring to. These are the small routine tasks that most humans have to keep up with. These are things that do not require your best energy. Is there a reason you are holding so tightly to a standard of how efficiently we load the dishwasher when there is someone capable of doing the task, just differently?

I am not a counselor but I would be willing to bet that letting go of a few of these things may bring some relief to you and your relationship. There are untold number of situations that I am not living in personally and therefore cannot directly speak to. But I think the overall lesson is a good lesson to bring with you wherever you go. Don’t waste your time on things that take away from the joy in your relationship. Or, as I like to call it, don’t reload the dishwasher.

Don't Reload The Dishwasher
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March 25, 2016

The Art of Beginning Again

It is certain that we all will walk through dark times in our lives. I have observed two kinds of people that walk through fire; those that get singed and those that get incinerated. They both get burned; one survives and the other is completely consumed by it. This is only a metaphor of course, but we all know people who have faced unspeakable trials who have survived and brought so much joy and wisdom that we are surprised that they could have such an attitude. We also all know of people who have faced unspeakable trials who have survived but were left an empty shell. Pain is pain, and yet, in my short years here on earth I have noticed a trend in others, as well as myself, on beginning again after a season of darkness.

The metaphor of the caterpillar, through struggle, turning into a butterfly is often quoted during hard times. Except I would like to amend that visual. Life feels like becoming a butterfly and then getting your wings ripped off and then going through the whole process all over again. Because if we are honest with ourselves, our lives end up going in cycles just at different levels. Abundance, trial, healing, learning/reevaluating, abundance (or something along those lines). In every trial I have faced both past and present, I have observed these four choices rise to the surface in the face of trial. It is not an exhaustive list, nor a text book on how to process the hard roads. It is merely an observation of these forks in the road and how our choices change the trajectory of the outcomes of our challenges.

Grieve it. Sometimes, you just have to cry over spilled milk. Many times, when I find myself in the valley of the shadow of death, I tell myself it is not fair for me to grieve. I haven’t lost a child. I still have my health. I still have a roof over my head. But I can remember when God so tenderly said, “It’s okay to cry. I know it hurts.” When we hit bumps in the road, its okay to grieve it. It may hurt like you’ve scraped your knee, or it may hurt like you stepped on a land mine. Either way, no matter how short or prolonged, it hurts! Your glass of milk got spilled. You really wanted that milk because you’ve had a long day, a flat tire, two screaming babies, a sick spouse, rude coworkers, an unkind boss, and fifteen bills you can’t pay. You cry over that spilled milk. Because sometimes that feels like the last straw. Grieve, but grieve well. Be angry but find a healthy outlet to let it out. Be upset but do not allow it to define the rest of your life. Be numb but do not forget to reengage with the loved ones around you. The times that I allowed myself to grieve over whatever hurts I was facing were the times that I felt more ready to see the bigger picture and move forward in my healing process.

Gain Perspective. Eventually, grieving must progress towards a process of healing. We go through our personal grieving processes at different paces and with different steps. Once we are able to get up off of the floor, we have an opportunity to gain perspective. This is a fine little phrase that I have added to my personal library. Gain perspective. It isn’t that personal battles are not hard and do not feel like the biggest knife in our backs at the time.Yet, it is near to impossible to cut yourself off from the world when you see the world through another pair of eyes. You may even be able to find something positive to come from it all. I am not a psychologist, expert, nor have gone through all things, but from those who have gone through the loss of loved ones, major rejection, and more, this is one common thread among those who come out the other side of dark places. They are able to zoom out of their situation and see more. Some are inspired to start organizations for those in similar situations and shepherd a community of hope. Some are able to find a new zest for life. By gaining perspective in our situations, it helps us to say, “This was terrible. And it hurt. And I admit that I am not okay. But I also admit that I will eventually be okay.”

Learn. This of course is the advice we hate the most. Because when our lives are falling apart, the last thing we want to do is sit down and take strategic notes as if it is some sort of quiz. Yet again, we can see those people around us who have walked through fire and made it to the other side always talk about what they learned in their darkest moments. Once we have grieved well, stepped back and gained a little perspective, we can also see lessons being shaped in us that we couldn’t see when we were on the floor. We have two options when we fall: to break or to become stronger because of it. We do not have to feel strong in it, but we can find, many times much later after the trial, that we are stronger because of it.

Always get back up. There is a phenomenal video of a college athlete participating in the women’s championship 600 meter race. Going into the last lap, the gal frontrunner fell flat on her face just moments after taking the lead. When you watch it, you assume the worst. There is no way that she is going to catch up. It is too late in the game and there is no way that she could come back and even place in this race. Without a second thought, she hops back to her feet and runs the full final lap and wins the race. Its truly a breathtaking video. Some people have had a rough go of it and have been knocked down more times than they can count. But we all know of someone who, no matter how many times they got kicked in the teeth, got back up to face the music. There is a powerful message in that. The application does not have to be easy to make it true. We have a choice when we fall or get knocked down. We can stay there, or we can get back up. The end of the race ins’t where you last fell; its in the final jagged steps you take afterwards.

There truly is an art to beginning again. These cycles of trials that we run through are different, and yet the same. Fire burns and pain hurts. Getting knocked down may feel like the end, but it is not. You would be surprised what you can endure and survive. Many people are hurting. As Jesus said, “The poor will always be among you”. There will always be pain in this world. But when it comes to be our turn to go through the fire, we can know that it isn’t over, no matter the depth of pain we feel. We have a choice when we walk through fire; to be consumed and destroyed or to become like forged metal. Here’s to beginning again….and again.

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