Dishes piled in the sink, laundry piled on the couch, stuff piled everywhere else.
I’d love to say it never happens. Oh, how I would. But, it does. Usually, in the last couple of weeks of a book, I get tunnel vision and everything kind of falls apart.
And that’s when it happens.
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I resort to an old game I began back when I just had a few children.
Generally, I’d consider mind games to be a negative thing but, I have one that I play with myself all the time. So, I’ll share a secret about me that I doubt even my husband knows. It’s not something I talk about–just something I do when I get overwhelmed with life around me and don’t want to ask for help with what I should have done all along. Again.
Yep, I do. What do I pretend? Well… I tell myself that I am a single mom. It’s weird, I know. Mind games are often weird, though, don’t you think?
So, I tell myself that if I don’t take full responsibility for everything that needs to be done and do it (or see that it gets done), it won’t be. And when you’re a single mom, you don’t have anyone to come along and do that for you, right? It’s all on you.
But I take it one step further, too.
I convince myself that I run a boarding house– a B&B. I have only one boarder, my husband. Like I said, it’s silly–just mind games, but it works for me. When I tell myself he’s a paying guest in this home, I expect nothing of him. After all, he pays for his keep, right?
If I actually did own a B&B, I wouldn’t expect my guests to make me dinner, do the dishes or laundry, or take my car in for servicing. If I was a single mom, I’d have to do it myself. And… and… I’d do everything I could to make his stay the BEST it could be.
I’d want him to stick around.
Do I do this because my husband is some kind of ogre? Is it because he lets me down daily? Excuse my uproarious laughter. Seriously, those who know my husband are laughing with me.
No, I do this only when I realize that I am being extra selfish and not serving my family.
I have a very loving, serving husband. I’ve said it a million times. I’m spoiled. Kevin gets up at four-thirty, leaves half an hour later, and isn’t home until five o’clock. And when I’ve been home all day ignoring the things that need to be done, what does he do? He comes in and does them–dishes, laundry, anything.
It disgusts me how unappreciative I am of him sometimes. You know, that whole spending all day working thing. That whole coming home and picking up my slack thing. And when I am not even attempting to juggle my balls, he tries to juggle them all. His mine, the kids. How he doesn’t burn out more often, I’ll never know. But guess who feels burned out most often?
Yeah. Me. Explain that one.
It’s why I sometimes play those mind games–put on that “masquerade” mask and pretend I’m a single mom–that this “B&B” is what keeps us going.
Because you see, that’s when I’m reminded to lean on the Lord alone for my help and my strength.
And when I do that, it helps me to remember not to leave my balls rolling around for my husband to keep in line as he juggles his too.
I don’t usually keep up my charade for days on end, but I did once. Often it’s a momentary thing–just a quick reminder that we’re supposed to be in this together.
But you see, sometimes I get this messed up idea. It’s not conscious or even deliberate, but my actions tell me it’s there. I get this idea that I have something better to do than the “something” I’ve neglected. So what do I do? I ask Kevin to do it. He almost always does, you know. And with a much better attitude than I’d have.
But it happens, you know. Once in a while. It’s rare, but it does. Sometimes, he says no.
If my head is in the right place at a time like that, something cool happens. I put on that hat. And once I do, everything changes–my heart, my attitude, my actions.
The mind games begin again. Instead of being frustrated that my husband can’t or won’t pick up my slack this time, I remind myself. I’m a single mom with a bed and breakfast. I can’t get frustrated about what my “husband” doesn’t do because I don’t have one. So, I can wallow in self-pity that I have to do it all myself, or I can be cheerful and thank the Lord for the privilege of serving my family and this man who lives with us–this man I want to keep wanting to live here.
But it’s not just dishes, laundry, and stuff.
Because, you know, it isn’t just that for the woman running a B&B or boarding house, either. If people want just someone to keep up with the housekeeping, they go to a hotel. They’re not looking for that home-like atmosphere, right?
Cheerfulness, kindness, thoughtfulness–those aren’t just words on a page. They’re not ideals. Words like cheerfulness are actions. Choosing to be thoughtful is an action. What would he want for dinner? How can I show the family how grateful I am for them? How can I make life in the Havig home reflect how grateful I am for every last one of them?
So, I smile more. I think of a special dessert. I disengage from my imaginary world.
Ironic, isn’t it? I use mind games–a sort of imaginary world in the real world–to disengage from the selfishness that I sometimes allow to creep in while creating other imaginary worlds.
It’s a flawed idea.
I won’t pretend it isn’t. Would it be better for me to just re-engage without the mind games? Probably. I won’t pretend otherwise. And even with all the pretense, I fail a lot. Still, it’s better than when I allow something important to go undone because I was too lazy or distracted to do my job.
But you know, all of this has an unexpected and wonderful side-effect.
I appreciate Kevin more than ever. I realize, once more, just how much he does to serve me–to show me how incredibly blessed I am.
And really, I shouldn’t need mind games to inspire me to do my job. But you know what? It’s my not-so-humble opinion that mind games are better than the alternative. Don’t you think?
Suddenly, I have a desire to put fresh flowers on the kitchen island, change the sheets on our bed, hang the laundry piled on the couch.
And maybe I’ll write a thank you note for that “boarder” of mine. After all, just because he has to stick around doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be nicer for all of us if I did everything I can to create a place he wants to.
Oh, and you know what else?
She inspires me, you know. Charity doesn’t need the income, and she certainly doesn’t need all the work associated with it–not at her age. But she serves because she loves. I could learn lessons from that.
But in another house about thirty miles away, another woman runs a bed and breakfast–The Innkeeper, I call her. She could learn some lessons from Charity. Indeed, if she doesn’t, she’ll lose more than the husband who never came home.
It may not be the best way to fix attitude problems, but it’s effective–for me anyway.
Note: this post is revised from one I posted on my old Paradoxology blog in 2005.