My toothbrush made me cry last week.
I was getting ready for another busy day, had gotten up early to check some to-do items off the list, was looking at a full day of virtual and in-person work, trying to ignore the growing pile of clean laundry on the couch (hey, at least it was clean!), and mentally reviewing the growing list of tasks that needed to be accomplished in order to get myself and everyone else out the door. I grabbed my toothbrush and noticed that the head needed to be replaced. My medium-strength bristles were barely functional, that helpful little blue coloring denoting when it needs to be replaced was practically invisible, and even the battery was dying. I stood there staring at it, and my eyes started to fill with tears.
Yes, I’m a life coach. Yes, I run my own successful business. Yes, I manage thousands of tasks for my household, my family, my friends, my daughter’s classroom, and my clients. And yes, my damn toothbrush was making me cry.
I don’t have some existential relationship with my toothbrush, although that feeling in the morning when you finally have clean teeth- ooh! Chef’s kiss, am I right? It was more like it was that one last thing that pushed me over the edge. I’d been building and building and building and adding and adding and adding but not refueling. There was no pause where I released anything or built my energy back up. So when that bedraggled little toothbrush caught my attention, it became too much.
Years ago, I ended up in the chiropractor’s office because I threw my back out bending over to tie my shoe. I was horrified. At the time I was training for a half marathon, working out regularly, and I didn’t have quite the “cold brew with cream” habit I do now. When I went in to see the doctor, she explained that it wasn’t so much the sole act of tying my shoe that was the problem. It was all the mini – and many – ways everything before that had built up, all the little twinges and tweaks I had dismissed, the sore muscles, tight hips and achy pelvis I had ignored, and that weird crick in my neck that had become more of a regularity than a rarity. I’d discounted and brushed past these warnings, some of which had been getting progressively worse over a series of months. All of which, as the good doctor explained, created the condition for me to throw out my back tying my own dang shoe.
So, it wasn’t the toothbrush itself that was making me cry, it was all of the things I’d bypassed up until that point. Fortunately for me, it wasn’t my first rodeo, and I recognized it wasn’t the toothbrush that was the problem. (Although, seriously, it was way past time to replace that brush head.) I did experience a flash of frustration that I was here AGAIN, but more importantly, I was able to switch over to self-compassion and lovingly inquire:
- What am I feeling?
- How can I feel more stable and grounded?
- What do I need at this very moment?
- What would feel good to me right now?
- How can I refuel my energy levels?
Those simple questions are go-to’s when I pass my emotional tipping point. Sometimes it’s hard to sit myself down and answer them, but I always feel better when I do. And while these experiences are still frustrating for me and annoying when they crop up, the more I cultivate awareness of what precipitates them, the more I am able to stave them off. It’s been a hot minute since something like my scruffy ol’ toothbrush tipped me over, and it was also a good reminder to go easy on myself.
Oh yeah, and it’s time to go to the store for a replacement, too.