My husband leaves his shoes in terrible places. Strewn best describes their daily fate. Birkenstocks or old leather boots laying across the path to the bathroom like land mines.
It used to piss me off. Now, as I gently scoot them to the side with my foot, I smile, my home filled with family, my husband close.
It didn’t take a near death experience to shift this perspective, it just took some imagination. There were a few weeks where I tried to reform this shoe and boot fiasco. He’d smile wryly and say “but that’s where they go”, like they’re adventuring children paused for a rest.
One night I lost sleep fighting with him in my head. As we do. Someone could get hurt. I could trip in the darkness. What’s so hard about putting your shoes away? (She says as her laundry is piled so high on the chair, there’s no chair in view).
And then, my imagination took a turn, as it can late at night when shadows are dancing. I imagined him gone. I thought about all of my friends and family who’ve lost their nearest and dearest, how their objects stay right where they left them until grief leaves enough room to tend to them, to move them.
I imagined how desperate I’d be to trip over those boots, lain in a new spot by the life that had just filled them. How this one idiosyncrasy would be something I’d miss, something I’d cherish and wish I’d enjoyed the way we love all of our lovers’ quirks at the beginning.
Those strewn shoes used to signal to me that my husband is inconsiderate. But he is not. He’s one of the most considerate people I know. There’s only a small beat between an event and our story about it, how we interpret it. With a little awareness, curiosity and generosity we can fill in with a new, equally as believable story. A kinder story. A generative story. A story that brings us together instead of pulling us apart.
So now I enjoy it. Those strewn shoes signal life. A creative and active man sharing a life with me, a space with me, a family with me. We’re not tolerating each other. We love being together. With all of our idiosyncrasies.
The other morning, when I woke up before the family, I walked out of our bedroom to find a pile of my husband’s clothes right there in the hallway. Agitation started to rise in me. Inconsiderate started to attach itself as a story to my mind. And then I realized that pile was there out of consideration for me. He came to bed late, he didn’t want to wake me with rustling and undressing, he slipped in quietly and kindly. Considerately.
I often wonder how humanity can possibly resolve the major tensions and divisiveness that are ripe in the collective right now. How can we possibly meet each other, across differences, when many struggle to meet and be met by those they love the most?
Perhaps the answer is starting close in.
There’s a place for boundaries, for asking others to change, for expressing needs and preferences. It’s very reasonable to expect others to compromise or wake up, grow up and rise up. There’s a need for challenge and debate and wrestling with one another. Calling each other to evolve is a wonderful thing. I’m not suggesting we just go around tolerating our grievances. And I’m definitely not suggesting we do that when others are causing harm.
I am suggesting it’s worth pausing and wondering what our stories are made of and how they’re helping or hindering what matters to us. Just because they feel more real than someone else’s, doesn’t mean they’re correct.
Maybe that person’s worldview isn’t wrong. Maybe it’s simply the culmination of their life experiences. Maybe you’d feel similar if you’d had their life.
Maybe that guarded and hard friend is protecting the most vulnerable wounds.
Maybe that person who keeps letting you down is deeply struggling to even show up for themselves.
Maybe your dear lover has no good reason for behaving how they do. Maybe it’s annoying. Maybe it’d stop being annoying if you changed your story instead of changing them.
I sure do feel more relaxed when I have space in my own being to accept reality as it is occurring, and not attach myself to how I’d prefer it be.
How about you? Is there a story shift that would free up some energy, free up some love?