Like Luke Skywalker, I only know ONE thing. Well, two things.
Behind every pile of laundry, there is a laundry basket.
And the size of that pile is commensurate with the size of the basket.
Have you got a Grand Canyon-deep laundry basket? Well, one of these days–maybe today, or tomorrow, or sometime next week when a strange odor begins to emanate from that corner–you are going to find yourself a Mt. Everest-high pile of laundry. This led me to a revolution of the self, a reorientation, an unashamed zealotry.
#1 Buy a smaller laundry basket.
I am so very serious. I used to have one of those laundry baskets that, if I were six years old, would have been Hiding Place # 1 during a game of hide-n-seek. Straight out of the World Market style book and constructed of that twisted grass material, it was an adorably masqueraded black hole for my clothes. In a hilariously complete reversal of Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, nothing good came out of that laundry basket and everything I wanted to avoid could go sailing in ad infinitum.
It got to the point where I was convinced I had no clothes: “Where are my socks, my tanks, my pants, my t-shirts, for goodness sake? Oh, look–Old Navy has some for 75% off right now! Thank heavens. If they didn’t, I might have to deal with That Which Must Not Be Named–the contents of which are slowly gaining sentience.”
I had to face the facts. My laundry basket was 80% too big for a procrastinator at my skill level. I tossed the fancy one and got myself a woven cloth iteration that basically holds one load of laundry. Granted, this presents problems when there’s not quite enough of any one category (darks, lights, brights, etc.), but this is a hiccup in comparison to the
weekly–who am I kidding–bi-weekly laundry campaigns I was forced to perform with the other basket. It also makes me think ahead; I try to wear one category of clothes for a few days, so that I have a clear load to do. Plus, it’s like my clothes had babies. *so many workout pants* I’m loving it. I highly recommend!
Now, moving on to more serious topics.
#2 People make others feel the way they feel.
This one isn’t instructive, but it has helped my life, multiplied my peace and is slowly chipping away at my lack of compassion. Very slowly. *so don’t test me* 😉
When someone ignores me, or leaves me out, or I go to an event where my sense of Otherness follows me around like a specter of childhood fears, it is hard to think this in the moment. For now, I try to debrief and intentionally recall some truths:
If someone ignores you, it’s not unlikely that they feel ignored, or are afraid of it. If someone leaves you out, it’s not unlikely that they feel left out or are afraid of it. If a group isn’t welcoming, it’s probably because everyone is trying to make sure they are welcome, themselves! The potential for this is literally endless.
The heart of compassion is a desire to understand. Even asking the question, “I wonder how they were feeling when they did that?” can flip the script and revolutionize your thinking in seconds. I seem to be using the concept of revolution quite a bit in this post, but I mean it! It’s harder to be bitter, mad or despairing when you’re reflecting on another person’s experience of the world.
#3 Don’t go into war for other people.
If only. If only someone had told me this when I was a teenager. Many unnecessary proxy wars have been waged, if not directly then indirectly, on behalf of friends and family who I felt had been wronged. I gave cold shoulders, I avoided, I even glared.
There is a place for loyalty. And there are times to defend another person. But neither should exist at the expense of kindness, respect or a full understanding of both sides of an issue. It should never replace someone making an attempt to stand up for themselves, or speaking their mind first. Waging under-the-radar, social wars for people often looks like division, a lack of clarity, bitterness in the relationship with the person you are defending (ironic, but true), behaviors you regret, odd outbursts of defensiveness and–most damaging–a dreadful atrophying of the defended person’s muscle for voicing their own thoughts.
This last one is, I think, the greatest wrong of all. If I truly love someone and want their best, I should want them to learn to speak for themselves–articulately, accurately, and in a timely way. Committing to avoid the whirlpool of over-commiserating, while voicing your belief that they can handle this, may be the truest form of friendship in certain situations. I say this as someone who received this wondrous gift quite recently.
The conversation went something like this: I voiced my concern. She listened. I voiced a little more. She listened. Then I began to spiral into ‘what ifs’ and ‘whyfors.’ And that was when she presented me with the most terrifying, empowering question:
“What would it look like, if you made a change? What is your plan?”
Basically, what was *I* going to do about it? She didn’t rail against another person. She didn’t offer to ‘talk’ to someone for me. She didn’t shake her head and leave it at that.
She listened with compassion, examined the weight of the matter with me and gently reminded me that I am–by the grace of God–strong enough to deal with whatever the world throws at me. I have options. I can make a plan. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about how strong I felt after that. I want to be that kind of friend. A woman who goes into war *with* a friend against passivity, bitterness and fear, while fighting for confidence, freedom and the ability to embrace life’s challenges!
Thanks for reading.