When Tim and I were newly married, we moved to Richmond, and were lucky to live about 8 minutes away from one of my uncles and his wonderful family. My Aunt Mary, Uncle Martin and my 4 cousins were generous and consistently thoughtful of us, including us in family dinners, birthday parties, even Christmas morning pictures on their stairs.
Every time I would go to their home, I admired how tidy everything looked. The kitchen was warm and cozy...the family room was all picked up... there were no bills, papers, messes anywhere. It was perfect. One night I finally asked my aunt, "How do you keep everything so neat?" And she laughed and said "Oh Maria...thats what the laundry room is for. Have you looked in there?" I laughed and admittedly took a peak and did in fact confirm that there was quite a bit of stuff in there...outta sight, hidden behind the door.
Fifteen years later, this memory has stuck with me for three reasons. First, it was very sound and helpful advice that I definitely tried soon after. Gather up all your things, toss them in the other room, shut the door. Outta sight, outta mind. Voila. Clean house. Second, beyond the superficial housekeeping benefits, I appreciated even more that my aunt was honest about her mess. She had the same piles and clutter that I had...she just moved them out of sight when guests were arriving. She didn't pretend. She was real. She told me her mess was just behind the laundry room door.
The third reason I won't forget is that during that time of living in Richmond, I experienced the scariest, life-changing health scare of my life to that point. My challenges with Crohn's are well-documented elsewhere but one of the biggest learning lessons of my battles with this disease has been the discovery that "everyone has something." No matter what we look like, how old we are, how many times we go to the gym, how much money we have, how much school we have attended. We all have a battle, a challenge, a backstory, a "something." We all have stuff. It’s our stuff.
And most of us have our own internal "laundry room." The place we put our stuff, our stories, our secrets. A place where we tuck it all away. Some of us might feel comfortable opening that door to others; some of us keep it closed from public eye.
I share this today because that laundry room conversation taught me that we cannot judge others by the way they look or appear. And we cannot judge ourselves against how others look or appear. Everyone has something. Until my aunt told me that she sticks all her piles into the laundry room, I compared myself to her every time I sat in the kitchen. “Why can’t I seem to get organized?” “Why does my life look like such a mess?” Fifteen years ago there was no social media but I liken this situation to how we can flip through pictures on facebook, instagram, snapchat and think “Why don’t I look like that?” “He sure does have his act together.” “Oh gosh..another perfect family picture.” “Wow her house is always neat.”
I ran into someone a few weeks ago and after exchanging pleasantries she said, “Gosh you are really doing well. I love all your pictures and posts. Looks like you’ve really got it all figure out.” I burst out laughing. I don’t think I or anyone will ever have it all figured out. We can present an image, a persona, a snapshot in time but that in no way defines or represents the whole picture. And that’s okay. It’s our choice what clutter and messes we share and don’t share. BUT....we gotta remember the laundry room lesson when we start the judging and making comparisons. It does us little good to compare how we feel, look, act based on our perception of someone else’s image. That perfect person you see? She has a laundry room. That rich celebrity? He has a laundry room. That perfect house. There’s a laundry room in there.
The laundry room lesson is one of understanding, honesty and compassion. Understand that we are all working on something. Life is messy. We clean up as best we can and sometimes we do a great job and other times not so much. When possible, be honest with ourselves and others...even if it’s just one or two trusted friends. My aunt had no idea how grateful I was for her honesty that day long ago but clearly it made an impact. Have compassion for ourselves and others. I often think of that phrase “everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. be kind. always.” Before we judge others, remember that we all have challenges. Before we compare ourselves to others, remember we all have a laundry room.
For those of you who made it this far in my blog post, thank you. This was a long one. I wrote this as a reminder to all of us that we are each working on something. Do your best to let go of judgement and comparisons..of yourself and others. You are each YOU and that is fabulous.
Finally....thank you to my aunt Mary for teaching me about the laundry room. xoxo I have shared this story and metaphor with several yoga classes and students over the years and I wanted you to finally know. :-)
Welcome and thank you for visiting this site. I'm happy and grateful to have a place where I can write about fitness and wellness. In addition to blogging about exercise and sharing workouts, I also use this space to tell 200-word stories about the inspiring and amazing people I encounter in this career. I look forward to sharing as many of these journeys as possible, and would love to hear from you if you would like me to tell your story. You can contact me anytime. Thank you so much for your interest and your effort. Think fit...be fit...stay fit! You are stronger than you think. #STYT