My husband has a nice little habit of dropping his clothes on the floor rather than putting them away. Through conversation amongst other married friends, I have discovered how popular this habit is. It used to be a major pet peeve of mine, being the neater person of the two of us. I would watch the pile grow day after day – shirts, jeans, dirty socks. It became a sore spot in the room. I hated the sight of it and hated cleaning it up. I’d huff and puff and nag at him to stop. To no avail. He was not going to adopt my good habit of putting clothes away every night before bed.
One day I went to the store and bought a basket. A large, lidded, wicker basket. I proudly carried this basket up the steps and into our house, and set it beside his dresser. Ta-da! A place for him to painlessly drop his clothes, without having to fold them or hang them in the closet. And the mess would be happily hidden from my view. It seemed to me like a perfect compromise.
The basket was used for a short while, but soon clothes began to make their way beside the basket, instead of inside, or halfway in and halfway out. Hanging there, helplessly, like lazy sloths. Sometimes in a morning’s mad rush to find a particular item of clothing, the entire contents of the basket would get turned over onto the floor. A massive pile would greet me, once again, upon entering the room. The basket was also large and took up a lot of space in our bedroom. The wicker pieces would get pulled off by my toddler and chewed on. It has now been retired to the basement, where it comfortably holds a selection of blankets.
And the pile of clothes? It still makes its’ way to the floor. But the mess doesn’t annoy me like it used to. Sometimes we even say hello to one another, in passing, like old friends. Other times I will enter the bedroom and notice, much to my surprise, that the entire pile of clothes has been put away. And I had nothing to do with it.
When I turn my gaze from the pile of clothes to my actual husband, I find the beauty. The overwhelming good. How attentive he is with our children, how supportive he is to my dreams, how hardworking he is in his job. The pile of clothes does not define my husband, our relationship, or my attitude. It just is. A pile of clothes.
How wonderful, how powerful, is the small (yet excruciatingly difficult) act of releasing our tight grip on life, and on the people in it. There is nothing more freeing than letting go of our desire for control. When we give others the space to be themselves, we gift ourselves with the space to love them more completely. And we grow in compassion for ourselves, too.
And if we are being utterly honest here, there’s a little pile of clothes beside my side of the bed right now, too.