Priorities are something we have to work at; you can’t just assume you have them in place. But often we ignore priorities as if the word itself is somehow dirty. I was brought up short this last week by an incident that reminded me of this reality.
My husband decided that he wanted to buy me a combination air fryer/countertop oven/convection oven for my birthday. He specifically wanted the one he’d seen advertised on Facebook and TV. A friend had gotten one for his wife, and she loved it.
I wasn’t sold on the idea. I have a perfectly good full-size oven with a convection option that I’ve never used. Plus it was one more thing to find countertop space for. But this is what he wanted to give me. So I got online and ordered one through Amazon. That’s right, he doesn’t do the online thing – that’s my job (even if it’s for my own birthday present).
The first hitch was discovering that it wouldn’t ship until after my birthday. He grumbled but was adamant. “I can’t think of anything else to get you.”
The second hitch was when we got notification on the day that it was supposed to arrive that, not only hadn’t it shipped, there was no indication of when it might happen. Now he was ticked, and I was getting frustrated. So we cancelled the order, and I was tasked with finding it – or something like it – locally. This is not how I had planned to spend my Monday!
I did some internet searching first. Walmart and Target were supposed to have some in stock, but quantities were low. Off I went, grumbling and whining internally,
Apparently, everyone else had the same idea. In preparation for the Super Bowl weekend, the air fryers and combinations were on sale and flying off the shelves. But there were some left. They just didn’t meet his expectations. How many heating elements did it have? How big was the fan? Can you cook more than one thing at a time? How many pans came with it? (Those commercials had him brainwashed!) It didn’t help that the information I needed wasn’t on the boxes or on the stores’ websites.
Four hours and two stores later, I had a meltdown.
“What you want doesn’t exist!” He was particularly stuck on the whole two-things-at-once concept.
“Well, don’t have a meltdown in the middle of the store!”
“I’m tired and frustrated,” I replied. I wanted to say that I didn’t want to be spending my time and money on something I didn’t really want in the first place. But I held my tongue.
“Maybe you should go back to the first store and get that one we talked about.”
“Ain’t gonna happen!” I replied.
“Well OK, whatever you want to do is fine with me.”
A few deep breaths later, I took stock again. There was one left that could do everything he wanted, and had the room to do two things at once. It was $50 more than I wanted to spend, and taller than most, but I thought it would work. We could try it, anyway.
With some frozen French fries and chicken nuggets for the experiment, I got the oven and went home.
He was eager and all ready to set it up on the stove to try it. “It has to pre-heat? That sure takes a long time.” And on, and on.
Still doing a slow burn, I’m trying to read the manual, and I discover a major problem. The oven requires 5” inches space on all sides due to heat output. We don’t have any counter space that fits the bill. The counters are deep enough, but the upper cabinets hang too low, leaving only 1/2 inch of space.
The food is finally done, and we eat. He’s happy with the fries. The nuggets are fine, but they splattered enough grease that it would be hard to clean the oven enough to return it. Plus, it was confirmed — that thing gets HOT!
“What do you think we should do?” I ask.
“Whatever you want, babe.” That is his mantra and he’s sticking to it.
Another mini meltdown on my part. What I wanted was to wring his neck. “I guess we can put it on the cart where the microwave is, but we’d have to put that over there and find a place for that stuff…let’s just sleep on it.” I was still out of sorts and felt like the whole world had come crashing down.
Tuesday was spent reorganizing the whole kitchen. My husband had some shelves in his shop that got a new coat of paint and were repurposed for the laundry supplies that had to make room for the microwave. (Yes, my laundry is in the kitchen. It’s an old house.) Stuff that had sat on the microwave now needed new homes thanks to those low cabinets.
The cleaning and reorganization gave me time to think, not only about the whole situation, but about my response to it. A meltdown over a countertop oven was really over the top, even for me. I realized it was merely the focus for several other anxieties I was fighting without acknowledging them. And because I had let those anxieties get me into an emotional turmoil, I had missed something very important.
My husband had tried to do something special for me. He’d tried to get me something for my birthday that he thought was special and that he knew I wouldn’t get for myself. I not only dismissed his gesture but made it into something it wasn’t. $150-$200 isn’t going to make that big of a difference at this point with the real issues we face regarding jobs, insurance, and money. Yet, I let myself get all bent out of shape about it. I missed enjoying his giving spirit as well as the gift itself.
I apologized last night, and in true Hubby fashion he shrugged it off. But I wonder how much I really hurt him by having my priorities messed up. Because he — and our relationship — is a higher priority than money, or our budget, or how the kitchen is arranged. I let things get out of order with my anxieties and narrow focus, instead of giving him the pleasure of gifting to someone he loves.
Living in grace isn’t just about how I can do things for others. It’s also about receiving what others want to give me. Whether it’s a birthday present from my husband, time talking with a friend, or God’s forgiveness and grace, I need to be able to prioritize important things like relationships over other things. I need to be open to receive as well as give, especially when it isn’t a “gift” I would have picked out. In other words, it isn’t all about me.
How about you? Are you acting upon the priorities you say are important, or is there a different set calling the shots when it comes to reality? This kind of dissonance is common. But it doesn’t have to be. It does take awareness of your emotions, learning why you react that way, and choosing to change those reaction habits. Like many — if not most – things, this isn’t a one and done event.
Choosing our priorities, and choosing to follow them, is a lifelong endeavor. Circumstances change, we change. But unlike a lot of things in life, this is something that we can have control of. We can choose what’s important. We can let our emotions and old thought habits have the control, or we can choose to take that control back.
Take some time to think about what is important to you. What are you blindly reacting to instead of choosing your reactions? Where have you let things get a little upside down in your own life? Let’s become proactive here.
Priorities. It doesn’t have to be a dirty word.
Grace, Peace and Hugs to you!