[The following should be read in noir style. For funsies.]
I couldn’t find it.
I had searched everywhere on that bathroom counter. On my side of the sink. On her side of the sink. I had searched through the medicine cabinet.
My aftershave lotion was nowhere to be seen.
I needed my aftershave. I had just finished shaving and my sensitive skin would burn all day if I didn’t put on that sweet elixir of relief.
It should be easy to find. It was a beautiful morning, sunlight streaming through the windows. The aftershave looked nothing like anything else on our bathroom counter. It was about three inches tall, white, and looked like a McDonald’s french fry container that somebody sealed off, put a squeeze tube opening on the bottom, and filled with lotion. Smooth, soothing lotion.
I was in a hurry, too. Of course. I had an appointment I needed to get to and the aftershave was the only thing stopping me from completing my getting ready routine and heading out the door.
It was probably the kids. Those darn kids always touching my stuff. Especially the youngest. Thinking she ruled the roost and could mess with anything she wanted to because she was an 11 on the cute scale.
But she couldn’t reach the counter. So that means it was someone else. Only one other person in the house had access to the counter and motive.
She always moves my stuff around. Since the day we got married. Gone were the days of being able to leave something somewhere and having it stay exactly where I left it until I decided it should move.
She always had other plans.
“You shouldn’t leave your stuff out on the counter,” she would say.
Why not? It’s my stuff. It’s my side of the counter. This is America. The Founding Fathers fought for this very thing. Life, liberty, and the ability to leave hygiene products wherever I wanted.
My wife was probably a communist.
I turned to head out the door. I breathed in a deep breath, filling my lungs up for a shout through the house. “Honey, where did you put my aftershave!” I would yell confidently. Authoritatively. Demanding respect and the sweet relief of razor burn.
But I didn’t. I stopped myself mid-breath. Something my wife had recently said came into my mind.
“You are the worst at looking for things.”
It was true. Over the past year or two there had been several instances of me returning from a manhunt–for a shoe, the keys, sunscreen, pacifier, some McGuffin we desperately needed–to declare the item lost to the annals of time. Unfindable. No longer in the same realm of existence as the rest of us.
Then my wife would take four seconds to look through the room I just scoured and would emerge triumphant with the sacred relic in her hands.
“It was right there on the floor! In PLAIN SIGHT!”
The first time I doubted. The second time I thought it was all a part of a grand plan she had to force me into early Alzheimer’s, take conservancy over me, and gain access to all the money that I didn’t have.
The eleventh time I knew I was the worst at looking for things.
If my wife came into this bathroom and found my aftershave in less time than it would take for me to apply it, I would have to sign over my decision making power right then and there.
But wait. I had recently developed a plan. A new strategy for moments such as these.
I turned back to the counter.
“Analyze every item,” I told myself.
Look at each item as if it could be the aftershave. I started on the left.
The charging station for my razor. Well, that’s obviously not my aftershave.
The coconut honey hand soap dispenser that was no longer filled with coconut honey hand soap. That’s not my aftershave either.
This is silly.
Your face is silly! Keep going.
The jar of Q-Tips.
The tissue box.
My red stick of Old Spice deodor––
Shyly poking out from behind my deodorant, like a child afraid to come out from behind the curtains after breaking grandma’s vase, was a three-inch-tall white, McDonald’s-fry-container-shaped bottle. My sweet elixir.
I realized two things right then and there.
First, I am absolutely the worst at looking for things.
Second, I realized the reason why I am the worst.
I am the worst at looking for things because I am only looking for the solution as I think it should be found. Either obvious–in the open, arms out, waiting for me with sparklers attached–or where it’s been before–on the counter, in front of my toothbrush.
I am so focused on what I think the solution should be that I completely miss what the solution might be.
And while I’m missing the actual solution, I’m getting frustrated and focusing the blame on other people. “The only reason why this hasn’t been solved yet is because of them!” When in reality it’s because of me. Because I’m limiting my brain, not to what is possible, but to what I think the possibilities are.
In that moment of blaming others, we have the greatest potential to do the most damage in our relationships.
It’s especially damaging when they know the solution exists, but you won’t see it.
“Looking in the bedroom for his shoe is pointless. Our four-year-old just needs to be more responsible!”
“Talking to her about her choices is pointless. Our fifteen-year-old just needs to be more respectful!”
You hold your ground. Dig in. Set up camp in the Anti-Solution Campground. Because you “know better.” You have evidence from your own two eyes that you’re using as gospel, not realizing that your perspective may be limited, a partial account, lacking the fullness of reality.
The truth could be you’ve actually seen the solution, you just looked over it because it didn’t look like what you thought it would.
The shoe isn’t lost, it’s blending in with a pile of Duplos.
Your daughter isn’t a lost cause, she needs help with the anxiety that is taking over her mind.
You saw it, you just didn’t realize it was there.
It the same thing that stops us from seeing the answer to our prayers, sometimes. It’s not showing up in the way we asked for it, so it’s harder to see.
True growth, actual enlightenment, forward progress when you’re stuck in the same rut only happens when you are open to everything at your disposal as a possible solution.
That’s when you find what you’re looking for.
That’s when you are no longer hunting the answer, but discovering the solution.
I know what you’re thinking...
“He got all that from a bottle of aftershave?”