I had dinner with my friend Sheri last week and, as usual, at some point in an evening filled with intellectual and mind-stimulating topics, the conversation turned to our husbands. She mentioned that she and her husband were currently in a 'debate' (read: heated, argumentative tiff) over who did more in the house. She joked that this happened every few months, which gave us a good laugh.
I knew all too well the scenario she was describing. In our house it happens (give or take a few details) like this: Monday night I make dinner and wash the dishes and do a load of laundry. The next morning I send Mr. 31 out the door with a kiss and a packed lunch and head to work myself. After work I run to the grocery store, come home and unpack bags, make dinner, and do the dishes. The next morning we repeat the kiss, lunch, work routine and after work I head to class at the local college. I get home at 9:30 pm and there is a pile of dishes in the sink! Just sitting there. At this point, I begin the 'angry banging'. (Come on ladies, you know what exactly what I mean.) I clean the dishes, and the kitchen, with deliberate force and noise. I bang each dish in the sink, slam the cabinet doors open and closed and stomp my feet till they hurt on the tile floor. Mr. 31 comes downstairs and looks at me, even (bravely) attempts conversation, which I respond to in short, attitude-filled, sentences. He gives up and goes back upstairs. Maybe I cool off before bed, maybe not.
This cycle repeats itself for several weeks - not always around dishes, mind you. Finally, at an undisclosed moment in one of these little hissy fits, Mr. 31 pointedly asks 'what is wrong with me?' and, well, you know how it goes. It's not a pretty scene. And, so, for a few days after that Mr. 31 goes out of his way to help around the house and I am content. But, as with all vicious cycles, it is cyclical.
Now, here is the thing. Mr. 31 works much harder than I do. He does physical labor all day long, and often on the weekends too, if I beseech it of him. I am a young, healthy individual and there is no sensible reason that I can't do the small amount of housework that is asked of me on a daily basis. The other thing is, Mr. 31 is always appreciate of me. He thanks me for meals (even when he doesn't like them) and he never minds if I am days behind on the laundry, or if there are dust bunnies running across the living room floor (ummm, not that this ever, actually, happens at my house, of course...). He thinks it is important that I take time to relax, and never thinks bad of me if I slack off of the housework to snuggle on the sofa with him. In all honesty, he doesn't put any pressure on me. And, since, there are only two of us in the house, I guess that leaves me putting all the pressure on myself. And unfortunately when I feel under pressure, when I think I 'have' to do something, it makes me cranky. And when I get cranky, I get moody and even less motivated to do the work. And there you have it folks, it is this enigma that truly creates the nasty cycle I mentioned earlier. Sadly, it is Mr. 31 that suffers. (Well, I guess myself, too. I mean, it is really hard being that cranky all the time, you know. <eyeroll>)
I was thinking about all this as I drove home after dinner with Sheri. And then I remembered something that one of my facebook friends had posted on her wall months ago. She had written that she was 'cleaning the house unto the Lord'. It stuck in my head, but in a different way than I think I needed it to. I had chuckled over it and thought how crazy that was - I hated cleaning my house. I certainly couldn't imagine doing it with a good attitude unto the Lord. (And I guess I could have done it with a bad attitude, but, let's face it, that would defeat the 'unto the Lord' part.) Anyway, I decided to give it a try this week. I figured the worst that could happen is that I had to tell God I was taking the house chores back to myself.
Now, before I share this next part, lets just clarify one thing. I don't mean, in any way, that I have enjoyed doing the dishes and laundry this week. Let's not get crazy here, people. But I do need to admit that I have noticed a bit of an attitude adjustment. Monday I decided I would take the time while I unloaded the dishwasher to pray. When I finished, I still had a lot I wanted to talk to God about, so I moved onto wiping down the counters and washing the pots in the sink. After that I figured while I was at it I might as well sweep the floor. Surprisingly (or not), it all took me less than a half hour and I didn't mind at all.
The next day I got home late and there was a pile of dishes in the sink. I felt frustrated for one minute, but than I thought about giving that pile of dirty dishes up to the Lord and a weird thing happened. The thought crossed my mind that if God wasn't blessing Mr. 31 and I so much in our lives, I wouldn't have a sink, or dishes to be sitting dirty in that sink. It was very humbling.
Tonight I came home, ate dinner, threw in a load of laundry and ran some errands. When I came home I remembered I had to go downstairs and finish the laundry. For one second I moaned abotu it, and then, in the next second I thought of a friend of ours named Dan, who has been paralyzed for over 30 years of his life from the neck down, due to an accident in his early 20's. I thought how he would probably give anything to be able to walk down to the basement on strong legs and fold the laundry with healthy arms. And here I was, griping about the 5 minutes it would take me! Wake up call again about how blessed I am. You better believe that I folded those jeans with all I had unto the Lord, and, just for good measure, threw another load in to wash!
So, maybe you could all send a prayer up for me (try doing it while you wash the dishes!) that I can make this new attitude a habit that lasts. I would really appreciate it! I think my pots and pans would, too - they sent me a postcard saying they're a little sore from all the banging around.