Our friend, Laura, is living with us for a few months as she finishes up her senior year in college, works a few part-time jobs, and plans her wedding.
Laura lives her life on a completely different schedule than we do ours, so it’s been an interesting experience for us. When she comes home in the evening, we’re typically in bed, if not dead asleep. Occasionally I hear her still moving around downstairs when I wake up, as I always do, multiple times in the wee hours of the morning. And she doesn’t begin her day until long after ours are underway.
I say none of this in complaint. Not in the least. Instead, I offer it as potentially ironic background information to something J said the other day as I was washing a dish in the sink, probably the cereal bowl from my evening snack.
This is what he said:
We’re better at being the people we strive to be when we live in community.
Okay, so maybe he didn’t say those exact words. I’m being approximate because I knew this is what he meant. For example, I know that if he had said it in his more philosophical voice, which he sometimes uses, he would have said it like this:
We’re our best selves in community.
He was talking about getting the dishes washed, but he meant it more broadly. You see, when it’s just the two of us, it’s easy to let the dishes slide. The dirty bathroom slide. The unbalanced meal slide. The let’s-just-watch-a-movie-instead-of-eat-at-the-dinner-table-and-talk-about-our-day slide.
(I’m sure none of you know what I’m talking about.)
But when there is someone else living in your space, and you ask that person to please wash up her dirty dishes, well, you’ve suddenly created an expectation, haven’t you?
The other morning I was in a hurry to a meeting but hadn’t yet washed up my breakfast dishes. Since I was heading out and knew I would be back relatively soon, I jotted a quick note to Laura, on the off chance she might rouse while I was gone. Sorry about the dishes, I wrote. I’ll wash them when I get back, should be soon.
I didn’t want her to feel like she needed to wash my dishes–or at least that’s what I told myself. The truth is, I didn’t want her to look down on me for being a slacker, to judge me for being messy, or, quite frankly, to assume that because I hadn’t done my dishes she had any excuse not to do hers.
That’s a painful admission, isn’t it?
I ran upstairs to grab a few more things and on my way back through the kitchen to head out the door, I passed the sink and the note he counter next to the sink. I paused. I sighed. This is ridiculous. I tossed the note in the trash can and grabbed the soapy sponge. It took all of two minutes to wash those stinkin’ dishes, probably not much longer than it took me to grab the paper and pen and jot the note in the first place.
I’m not saying that I deserve an Oscar or anything, but it made me think of what J had said just a few days before.
And it hurt just a little bit.
Because I realized that if left up to me, I am not my best self, whether it’s in the silliness of doing the dishes or the seriousness of my physical or spiritual health. It’s just too easy not to be.
Those best selves–the people we want to be, the people we are, dare I say, called to be–we find those in the accountability of community, my friends.
If you don’t have that, you best be getting yourself some.