The past two weeks, the toilet in our master bathroom has been running non-stop. We considered this a minor issue and got used to readjusting the flapper in the tank, turning on and off water, and making things work. Yesterday we decided it was time to replace a couple parts, so Ben ran to our local hardware store and purchased what we needed. He strategically found a time in our schedule where he could take off the tank, do a quick installation, and get things running again.
We promptly discovered that our toilet was not a standard size and our store did not carry our particular replacements. Ben and a friend had dismantled it and were not able to put it back together with the worn out pieces. We were going to need to do some research and find the replacement parts if we were doing this ourselves, which meant an evening without use of that bathroom.
A minor inconvenience for a household with more than one toilet.
Without a toilet on the main floor, I needed to use stairs to get to the restroom. Stairs are difficult for me to use even on my best health days so by my second bathroom visit I was winded. Ben helped me get back to My Spot on the Couch and I felt a wave of panic. My diuretic was doing its job and getting rid of excess water quickly–way to go, medication!–but that meant there was another trip in my future. My mind was racing: What happens the next time I need to pee? Can I make another flight of stairs? Do I need to find a bucket?!
One of the most challenging realizations I have had to accept in this season is that my inconveniences more quickly evolve into problems.
In other times of my life, when I was feeling and functioning better, I was quick to point out that mild annoyances were not worth my worry or emotional energy. I was taught “don’t sweat the small stuff” and liked to be self-sufficient. For much of my life, I had the time and ability to clean up and move on from issues of any size. And I encouraged others to do the same.
For many of our friends living with chronic illness, there are common issues that quickly escalate due to a person’s physical, mental, and emotional limitations. Not everyone has the dexterity to fix the broken thing, the mental capacity to think thru all the options, or the energy to do the research. Our culture can overlook and water down hard things, believing that “small stuff” is a one-size-fits-all description. But for some of the people we love, the caregivers and the care-receivers we are doing life with, there is NO small stuff. Every challenge is a difficult hurdle and will take a lot of effort.
I am lucky to have Ben. He sat with me and helped me calm down before we put together a plan. We ended up taking all my necessary stuff downstairs to sleep in the basement, close to a working toilet, and Ben called a plumber to come in the morning. (Thank you, Blue Dot Services!) Yes, we had to pay a literal price for a problem that most people could fix on their own, but we are learning how to accept help of all kinds. As of this afternoon, I am back on the couch and grateful for a new toilet tank with standard parts.
Friends, I apologize for any time I tried to minimize your hard things or looked past your problem. Your stuff is not small. Your challenges deserve to be recognized. May we all walk forward together with a little more grace for ourselves and each other–especially when it comes to toilets.