Monday, November 18, 2013

The toothbrush

Over the past couple of years, I've come into the bathroom at night to find Larry's toothbrush like this over and over.

After brushing his teeth, without shaking off the excess water (at all), he balances it like this in his toothbrush holder.  I know that he is thinking it will drip-dry through the night so that it'll be ready for him again in the morning.  But it really bugs me.  Probably a lot more than it should.  It drips all over the counter & if I happen to bump into it, I get wet.  And then in the mornings, I have to clean up the counter where it's dripped all night.  And so, at least a million times I have taken it from the balanced position in the cup, shook off the excess water and put it back into the cup (ahem) the right way.  Like this.

Not too long ago, Larry pointed out to me one morning that he noticed I was doing this.  It bothered him.  To him, it felt like I was subtly correcting him, treating him like a child.  I pointed out that I really wasn't trying to do that, I just felt like it should be shook off & stood up in the cup so that it wouldn't drip everywhere.

But maybe on about the 417th time I did it, it was because I was irritated with him and WAS ever so subtly correcting his actions.

After a brief discussion about how much it bothered me to have to clean up the drippy toothbrush mess every day....and how much he was determined to leave it precariously propped every night (probably to spite me at that point), we dropped it and moved on with life.  After all, who has time for silly fights about dumb stuff like this when there are MUCH bigger fish to fry?

Oh wait.  I do!  After all, I was right.


Even though he specifically asked me to leave his toothbrush alone at night, I continued to adjust it.  I would go into the bathroom to brush my teeth, pick up his toothbrush, shake off the drippy water, and put it back in the cup.  Or if I was feeling particularly snarky, I'd balance it the way he'd left it.  He would think it dripped off as he planned and I would know that I kept it from dripping all over the place & making a mess.  {Plus I got the satisfaction of feeling like I got my way no matter what.}

Tonight, as I saw his toothbrush in the holder, balanced & dripping everywhere, I grabbed my phone to take the pictures above.  I really intended to send them to my BFF to gripe about my husband's irritating toothbrush habit.  But as I took the 2nd picture, I remembered a talk at a MOPS meeting 10 years ago.  

The speaker, a woman who I've adored for years, a precious Godly lady who is such a hero to me, talked about her husband's annoying habit of leaving his shoes in the living room every night.  Much like my feelings about the drippy toothbrush, she grew irritated that he left his shoes there day after day, no matter how many times she asked him to pick them up and take them to his closet.  She tried subtle reminders.  She tried nagging.  Nothing changed his behavior.  She learned, though, that he really wasn't doing it to bug her.  He just forgot.  That bugged her even more because, she felt, that she had a million things to take care of every day with their 3 young children, and somehow SHE could remember to pick up his shoes every day.  So why couldn't he?

And then her perspective changed.  She was convicted one day that her husband worked hard for their family.  She thought about how he got up early every morning and tip toed around the house, trying not to wake the children too early.  He spent hours every day doing a difficult job to make ends meet and to provide a few little luxuries along the way.  She thought about how her husband had chosen to work where he did at least partly to provide her a way to stay home with their children in their early years.  She considered how he always remembered her birthday and their anniversary and sent flowers now and then.  She thought about how tired he was at the end of every day, but he still came home and helped with their kids and allowed her a night off now & then to do something with her girlfriends.  And suddenly, she realized that if all she needed to do was pick up his shoes every day & carry them to his closet for him, it was the least she could do.  After all, it was such a small thing.  It took her less than a minute to walk them from the living room to their bedroom.  They weren't heavy.  She was going into the bedroom a dozen times each evening anyway, so why not carry his shoes with her on the way?  You see, she realized that it really was less of an issue that she "had to" carry his shoes to the closet...and more like she "got to" help her husband by doing this one small act of kindness.

I remember listening to my friend talk that day, thinking of all the ways I could serve Larry graciously with small acts of kindness.  After all, he was working hard to provide for our family and deserved a little pampering in the evenings after work.  I took her message to heart that day and began looking for ways to help Larry out.

But I guess over the years with the kids growing and my returning to full time work and changing responsibilities and money and stress and well.....all the things that change over the years.....I suppose I forgot that lesson my friend spoke so eloquently about all those years ago.

So tonight, as I shook the water out of his toothbrush & stood it up with a bit more force than was probably required, I paused and remembered the lesson of walking shoes to the closet.

Is this drippy toothbrush thing really THAT big of a deal?  Does it take longer than 2 seconds to clean it up when it drips?  And so what if it drips?  Is it really so important to make my husband feel like I am treating him like a little kid?  If I do shake it off & return it to the cup, balanced on the edge, can I do it with a heart of service and as a way to help him out rather than with a snippy attitude and an eye roll?

Tonight, I choose to serve my sweetie.  I choose to love him and help him out without feeling obligated to tell him how I fixed it for him again.  I choose to quietly honor him and leave his toothbrush alone.  I choose to wait til morning & wipe up the drips without complaint.

Are there shoes you need to carry to the closet tonight?

No comments: