On dishes, curiosity and the stories we tell ourselves


We had a discussion.

Okay, a disagreement.

Okay, an argument.

It was over how to stack the dishwasher.

And I am seething, and hurt. And he is stewing and hurt. And I don’t even know what triggered it.

So I am breathing deep breaths, and feeling the pain in the pit of my stomach. And I know we need to resolve it.  I know we need to apologise and make peace.

But right now, I’m not even sure where this pain came from. It is roiling inside and making me sick.

So I do the counter-intuitive thing. I ask myself, the question. The one he would ask, if he dared, ‘what was that all about?’

Because it wasn’t about the dishes, really.

It wasn’t about the words spoken or the topic at hand. It was about something deeper. Something un-named.

Brené Brown in her book Rising Strong talks about getting curious about emotions. She talks about how I need to reflect on the story I am telling myself.

So I follow that strand and see where it takes me.

It starts with getting inquisitive about how I am feeling. This involves naming my emotions: ‘I am hurt, I am overwhelmed, I am tired, I am hungry’.

It involves letting the emotion flow over me. When I would rather brush it off. Or even hide it, under a little more chocolate or another glass of wine.

Then I need to get curious about why I am feeling that way:

Why am I feeling overwhelmed? What is objectively on my plate at the moment? What can I let slide because, in fact, it’s not that important? What needs to stay and be managed better? What do I need to ask for help with? What can I say no too?

Then I get honest with the story I have been telling myself:

‘I have been feeling overwhelmed because I want to be in control of everything. But I can’t control everything. I need to back off and allow some things to just happen.’

‘Instead I am trying to control how he does the dishes. And I am hearing him say, ‘you are not able to handle a simple thing like stacking the dishwasher’. But none of it is the truth.’

‘The truth is there is too much on my plate and I need to give myself grace and space. What’s more we are actually a team, and the poor guy is just trying to stack the dishwasher!’

I need to get curious about my feelings, about the story, I am telling myself and then get honest about what is really going on. With this information I can go back to him, apologise, talk about what the real cause of the argument was, and work on a strategy that helps me feel less overwhelmed.

‘We can’t chart a brave new course until we recognise exactly where we are, get curious about how we got there, and decide where we want to go’.

Brené Brown

Join me for the journey,



About Jodie McCarthy

Jodie is a writer, speaker, poet and mother. An unashamed words girl who writes to process the myriad of experiences of life. In her writing and on her blog she investigates the journey of life: the beautiful; the painful; the everyday; and the mundane. She has a heart for encouraging women on their life journey, particularly when that journey traverses the harder places of grief and pain. On the days when she is not writing you will find her in her kitchen, usually licking the beaters from a chocolate cake. You can find her books and follow her journey at jodiemccarthy.com