Our kitchen table is one of the first things you see when you walk into our house. It was my grandmother’s dining room set, beautiful dark wood and green fabric high-backed chairs. They remind me of her, and I love that I can see and use them every day.
With its centralized location and large surface area, the table is a tremendously convenient place to pile mail, bills, papers that need attention, wallets, pocket knives, eye glasses, cell phones, and empty gum wrappers. I’m not entirely sure how piles multiply like fruit flies on wood surfaces, but they do.
It stresses me out, and so I have declared the kitchen table to be a Clutter Free Zone. I have designated boxes, in other rooms, for cell phones, wallets, etc, and also for papers, bills, etc. I have asked that they be utilized.
Out of all the living space we have, the table is 24 square feet. That leaves *does math quickly in her head* quite a lot of space for all the clutter that previously landed on the table. If you don’t like my designated places, go find your own. It’s your clutter.
I know transitions are gradual and new skills take time to perfect (especially for us older folks), so I’ve tried to be patient and extend grace (sometimes through gritted teeth). The boys and I do pretty well with this new plan. The main battle is with my husband.
Unfortunately for us both, it’s a battle I am losing.
My reactions to the continuance of kitchen table clutter vary from slightly-annoyed-so-I-nicely-place-the-offending-items-where-they-are-supposed-to-go, to hell-bent-on-destroying-every-item-within-the-area-that-is-not-mine.
It’s a respect issue to me. I have asked that something stop happening. I have provided alternatives that are neither difficult to find nor use. I have been patient and extended grace when mess ups happen (although I have been known to be quite vocal about it).
Several nights ago, as I was planning my next tirade, a tiny question entered my even tinier mind.
Is there any way I’ve been disrespectful, where he has asked me to do something and I’ve not done it?
That’s when I felt the 2x12 gouge my cornea (metaphorically speaking, of course).
Guilty as charged.
I hate when that happens.
My husband has asked for us to go to bed earlier. Repeatedly. As in, over a few years’ time.
Believe me, I have tried. For some reason my brain capacity, creativity, and energy level seem to surge about 9:30pm, and all of the things I haven’t thought of or done the rest of the day take on a sense of urgency. Shutting them off has proven more difficult than I imagined.
I won’t go into all the ways I’ve tried to deal and failed. I could offer them but they’re still excuses. He has asked, I have attempted, but I have largely given up.
Speck in his eye: 1
Plank in my eye: 0
So to that end, I can’t complain about address the table until I first address a consistently earlier bedtime.
Because *grumbleundermybreath* that’s what love does.
So I am, once again, taking steps to get to bed earlier. I’ve learned about the Night Shift feature on my phone, which I’ve told to turn off the stimulating blue backlight at 9pm. I’m changing my self-talk, telling my brain that as the phone’s blue light shuts off at 9pm, so does my brain. If there’s something I need to look up after that, I write a note about it instead of googling it.
I’m walking the plank, if you will (see what I did there?).
It’s a process, I know, but the past three nights we have gotten to bed earlier, though to varying degrees. I’m focusing on progress, not perfection. I’m being gentle but firm with myself while I make this transition, because honestly we both need a LOT more sleep.
And after the bedtime situation is adequately under control, I will turn my attention, gently but firmly, back to the Battle of Kitchen Table.
I think my grandmother would be pleased.
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If I had to use only one word to describe the prevailing attitude in America today, it would be grouchy.
When I’m in pain, or frustrated, or worried, I tend to be grouchy. I’m thinking a lot of our communal grouchiness is the result of those same feelings, though on a much larger scale.
It’s okay to be grouchy sometimes, but it’s looking like an epidemic.
We can’t take away the pain, frustration, or worry, but restoring a little bit of faith in humanity will go a long way toward curing the Grouchies.
How can we turn those frowns upside down?
We can love our neighbors as ourselves (AKA Leviticus 19:18 and Mark 12:31), or as it’s better known, The Golden Rule.
You may have heard The Golden Rule to be He Who Has the Gold Makes the Rules, or even Do to Others Before They Do to You.
To refresh our collective memories, the Golden Rule is Do to Others as You Would Have Others Do to You. The reverse applies as well--Do Not Do to Others as You Would Have Others Not Do to You.
What does that look like?
If you want someone to smile at you, smile at them. If you don’t want the door slammed in your face, don’t slam it in theirs. If you want someone to respect your person, property, and point of view, then respect theirs. If you don’t want someone stealing your stuff, don’t steal theirs. Embracing and living this one rule alone could solve a world of problems.
I think you get the picture, but if that doesn’t work for you, we’ll up the ante.
What’s the quickest and surest way to make Mama Bear grouchy? Mess with her cubs. I mean, hurt me all you want, but don’t you dare lay a finger on my kids. In Golden Rule speak, that would be do to others as you would have others do to YOUR CHILD, and don’t do to others as you would not have others do to YOUR CHILD.
In other words, don’t do anything you wouldn’t want someone to do to your child, but by all means, feel free to do all of the things you would. Be kind. Be patient. Encourage. Support. Teach. Let love be your guide.
Then there’s this angle: If people loved their neighbors there would be a distinct decline in theft, assault and battery, even murder and human trafficking (both with sellers and buyers). The news media, one major source of our collective grouchiness, would be out of fear-mongering stories. That alone is worth it to me.
Hmmmm. I take back what I said earlier about not being able to take away the pain, frustration, or worry. If we lived The Golden Rule, it would be entirely possible for the prevailing attitude in America to become love.
Creating Systems for Courageous Kindness
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