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Jenn Hooten

Jenn Hooten

Delay wasn’t an option anymore. I had put it off long enough. Tonight was the night.

After tidying up the dinner dishes, I surprised my husband by asking if he’d be willing to continue talking in the most unusual of places — our bathroom. An endlessly curious and patient man, he obliged.

Upon arrival to the bathroom I announced, “Tonight is the night. I’m going to clean the cabinet under the bathroom sink.” He settled on the floor to keep me company. I opened the doors wide, took it all in and sighed.

Friends, this was not one of my prouder moments.

Bottles of travel-size shampoo, conditioner and mouthwash seemed to pour out from the depths. Sunscreen — spray and lotion, in case you’re curious — stood at the ready for the beach day I longed for but that hadn’t happened in months. Hair products used for a special occasion six months ago that didn’t make it into the daily routine were collecting dust. Half-full bottles of nail polish, a travel toiletries bag, extra shower caps and that new eye shadow I thought would be fun to try one day stared back at me. Medicine, bars of soap, and a lone toothbrush still in the package.

I felt a familiar cringe as I pulled the last few items out from the shadow of the drain pipe and wiped the shelf liner clean.

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I felt embarrassed as I handled each item and decided its fate. Do I really need this? If I don’t, why have I kept it?

As I surveyed the partially visible bathroom floor now covered by a mountain of stuff and a patient husband, it came to me. I had reasons for keeping every item in that cabinet, and they were good reasons, too. Yet, the actual stuff wasn’t the most pressing matter at hand today, having compassion for myself was.

If you’re like me, you’re juggling. To be the person, partner, parent and professional I long to be takes more time and energy than ever seems to be available. I rarely feel like I’m getting the balance right. So, things pile up. And too often, the kindness I extend to others in similar situations is nowhere to be found when I find myself in the same place.

Like boxless bandaids and tubes of chapstick under the bathroom sink, commitments pile up. Each seems small at first, not taking up enough space to warrant immediate attention. Over time, however, saying yes to the non-essentials limits bandwidth to act on what matters most.

You might not be storing up tubes of toothpaste or chapstick under your bathroom sink, but where might you be letting the non-essentials of life accumulate? When this happens, do you extend kindness to yourself or pile on the self-judgment? Self-judgment leaves us shut down and immobile. Extending kindness toward ourselves generates movement and brings us closer to the life we want.

Let’s make a different choice today and go easier on ourselves. Let’s clear space for what is essential, and support others around us in doing the same.

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Jenn Hooten is co-facilitator of the Katherine Harvey Fellows Program and part of the Touchstone team.

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