I moved the paper towels on our counter. My kids have been making smoothies and it became tedious to continuously take the blender out and put it back into the cabinet. So, I made a place for it on the counter, but that meant I had to move the paper towels to a different place.
Such a small change and yet it threw all of us off.
When our hands are wet, we turn to the old place to wipe them. When we need a paper towel, our body almost automatically leans toward the place where the towels used to be. The body remembers.
In frustration one of my daughters said, “Oh my God, I physically cannot get used to where the paper towels are now.”
Of course, this is totally ridiculous, and we will all adapt to the paper towels’ new residing place.
This made me think again of what I know to be so incredibly true. Part of the difficulty of change is that your brain, your body, not to mention your soul, are trained to do one thing. Doing something else is hard.
I watch my family struggle with this silly paper towels change of place and I think of a conversation that happened in my class.
Every week I repeat ad-nauseum that if you carry a gun, a knife, a weapon, there is a good chance you will use it. Although it might sound crazy and maybe impossible, not carrying those things should be a way of life. Of course, I always, always get so much push back on that one.
On this particular day, thank God, I had an ally, an amazing man who had been coming to my class for a few months.
He said; “Be the man that doesn’t carry the gun and get to know him. You will be surprised; it’s a different feeling in your head and in your body. Not carrying a gun, or a knife or a weapon will change you in ways you cannot imagine.”
It became very silent in the class.
It’s one thing for me to say that stuff, but for one of them to be on my side, to say, that they should do something, gives it more gravitas. All attention was on my student.
“When I was locked up, I was the tough guy. I was the king. I always carried a knife.”
I’m thinking how did he have a knife in jail?
Then again, I have learned so much about what really happens in jail that nothing really surprises me anymore.
“But I wasn’t really tough. I used that knife like my crown. You know, the knife made me tough.
I am real now. I am me and I don’t use things to make me who I am. I know who I am.”
I am beaming.
Nothing gets by those students of mine and I am totally called out.
“Look at her,” one says.
“You’re so funny, Ms. You get excited from the stupidest shit.”
And my knife-less man says,
“This isn’t stupid shit. This is big. Not having a strap (That’s what they call a gun.),” he says, “was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It was hard not just mentally, but hard to my body. My hand still goes to check if I got a gun, but today I am happy I don’t got it no more. In the beginning, I used to panic. Now, I’m just proud.”
Someone shared that she used to keep her cigarette box tucked in the front of her pants and for months after she stopped smoking, she would reach down to straighten the box that wasn’t there.
“That’s okay, Mijha,” he tells her.
“The body reminds us of who we used to be, and our spirit shows us who we have become.”
I am absolutely floored. This man is a poet.
If I would have said that, it would have sounded so incredibly pretentious, and probably even silly. I clap. We all clap, and we all clap for a long time.
At the end of class, the cigarette woman comes to me.
“Ms.,” she says. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to not smoking.”
I tell her about the paper towels in my house and how it is throwing everyone off. But in a few months, I tell her, THAT will be the paper towels’ place, and we might forget that they used to be somewhere else on the counter.
“I don’t know if you will forget about smoking,” I say.
“But you will get used to NOT smoking and that will be your new normal.”
“My new normal,” she says. “is a pain in my ass.”
“I know,” I say, “but it’s worth it. You are making space for new things to happen.”
“Ha, ha, Ms. Just like you’re making more space on the counter by moving those paper towels.”
“Yup,” I say, “except that you are making room in your life and in your heart. And, you are taking care of your health. That is huge.”
She leans in and gives me a hug.
On my drive home I think of the paper towels of my life and where I need to move them so that things will be better and or easier for me.
I don’t have all the answers, but I know that thinking about them is the first step. What are your paper towels, and where do they need to go? Are they taking up valuable space?
Think about it, and then do something.