Why ply?


Recently when my sister was visiting us, she commented about the flimsiness of our toilet paper. I don’t remember her exact words, but I’m thinking there was some reference to Soviet-era Russia. Apparently our daughters have been feeling the same way, but never said anything to me until I passed on my sister’s remark to them. So, basically, our house stocks low-quality toilet paper. Why didn’t I know this was a problem? Why was I never taught about toilet paper by my own mother (sorry, Mom, but I’m pretty sure Dad never bought tp for our house.)? I watched television… I know about squeezing the Charmin. It just never occurred to me that my kids would grow up with toilet paper envy.

The truth is, we have OLD pipes. And back when the kids were little and I was home with them, I recall more than a couple of run-ins with our upstairs toilet that just barely escaped becoming major plumbing disasters. Daughter No. 1 coming downstairs where I was busy with Daughter No. 2 and saying, “Mommy the toilet isn’t flushing. It’s just filling up.” And then blithely off to something else. Honestly, what if she hadn’t noticed? Or hadn’t told me? I’m downstairs with baby and not thinking about what’s going on upstairs. Would I have known the toilet bowl was overflowing, that water was spilling out onto the bathroom floor, down the hallway, and soaking the entire upstairs before it started dripping from the ceiling? These scenarios are so accessible in my anxiety-plagued brain that I would do anything to avoid them. Like stocking up on low-grade, super-flushable, 3rd-world-style toilet paper.

Downstairs is a different story. When we moved in 20-odd years ago, the downstairs toilet was a reliable relic from the 40s that would flush a horse. It NEVER clogged. Now we’ve replaced it with one of those snappy lowflow models and, can I just say that these babies require a lot of, ahem, maintenance? LIke, we’ve gone through 2 toilet brushes in as many years? But the pipes are more ply-friendly. And so, yes, I have splurged on 2-ply, squishy-soft, loo paper that has cute little embossed patterns. And my kids are pissed that their bathroom doesn’t enjoy this amenity. But, I am here to say that 2-ply (or 3 or 4) is a total ripoff. We go through those fancy rolls at twice the rate of the low-rent version. I know, because I buy the t.p., and I’m keeping track of our supplies, and I shop for it, and there’s nothing I hate more than a big-item Target run. And on top of that, when you buy those super-packs of toilet paper they are really hard to bring into the house. They don’t fit into normal-sized bags, and the little sticky handles that Target gives you to carry them with? Useless. Useless. So I am acutely aware of how often I need to buy toilet paper and I would like to keep that particular chore to a minimum, and so I am here to say that I support every American’s right to whatever toilet paper they choose, but for my family, in my house, we don’t waste $$ on expensive, wasteful, cushy paper for our perfectly okay bottoms. If you don’t like it, go visit my sister.

It’s not perfect and it’s okay.

Things I know how to do: Set my intentions.
Things I can’t manage to do: Follow my intentions.
Except one, so far, which is to meditate every day. Putting aside the fact that the one thing I can manage to get myself to do is sitting and doing virtually nothing, I am pleased that I have developed a practice. And by developed I mean that if I don’t do it, I miss it. Actually crave it. Like, saying to myself, “I want to meditate right now but I don’t have time to.”

Here’s the thing. I DO have time. Meditation is really just an opportunity to shut down the spinning mind. There’s no proscribed amount of time to make that activity effective. It’s something you can do anywhere and any time. (PS, a gripe. All those mindfulness lifestyle photos you see in the media? The ones where a pretty lady is sitting in a black leotard and her eyes are closed and she’s doing that thumb-to-pointer finger thing with her hands? That’s bs. Don’t sit that way if you don’t want to. You can meditate by lying on the floor or waiting in line at the airport or stirring risotto. You’re not summoning Krishna. You don’t need to be on a meditation cushion. Or in a treehouse in Bali.) I meditate in the doctor’s office waiting for an appointment. In line at the car wash or the gas station. In the shower, on the toilet, at a movie before it starts. Basically, except for the shower, I meditate wherever/whenever I might otherwise be scanning Instagram or checking my email.

But hold up–don’t think I don’t look at my phone! I’m just saying that every day there are times when I could be looking at my phone and I don’t. I catch myself. I put the phone down. And there’s a shift in that moment. It can feel delicious, like when the pile driver that’s been going all day at the construction site near my house just        stops. It can feel like relief, like scratching an itch. It can feel nourishing, like water when you are thirsty.

These impromptu sessions are not the way to develop a practice. You need the discipline of a daily sit for that, along with some kickass dharma talks like the kind you’ll hear at Common Ground or that you can download from Audio Dharma.  But if you’re looking for some way to stop wasting time, to check in with yourself, or to just quiet the buzzing in your little brain, try this:

  1. Lower your eyes (don’t close them) and gaze out into the distance at nothing,
  2. Take a few deep breaths.
  3. Just think about those breaths. Don’t worry about what you’re thinking about. By concentrating on the breathing you will refocus your attention.
  4. If your mind wanders, gently coax it back to the breath. Don’t berate your mind for wandering–it’s what minds do. And don’t worry if you have to continually return your attention to the breath. The act of noticing that your mind is wandering is actually what it’s all about.

This little instruction is actually a pep talk for myself, because some days I can’t get it together enough to load the dishwasher or walk the dog or write a to-do list let alone cross stuff off of one. But every day I do accomplish a moment or two of meditation and that’s perfectly okay.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton