What our consumption of toilet paper can teach us about our values

My writing brain has been dormant for a while, but the extra solo time, compounded with the current state of pandemic, has gotten the thinking gears going again. I realize that in my last post, I promised a blog-series about my confessions as a people-pleaser. Not to worry – that’s still in the works. But I just felt like there were more pressing stories in my head right now – the stories of toilet paper.

Yes, I am blogging about toilet paper. Stay with me though, and you will see how TP has both a literal and metaphorical significance in our lives right now.

A few weeks ago, when the gravity of the pandemic started making itself felt in North America, a bunch of idiots started panic buying – and, out of all the things they could possibly decide was the most essential to their survival during this looming pandemic, they raided all the stores of toilet paper. TOILET PAPER. People bought toilet paper as if we were about to get hit by a gastroenteritis pandemic. As if having clean asses was, clearly, a priority during these unprecedented times.

However, I am not here to write about how absolutely unfounded this TP obsession is. I am here to write about what this TP obsession represents, and why it’s important to look passed the initial ridiculousness of this ordeal, so we can learn about ourselves and hopefully grow from it.

As scary as this pandemic can be, especially being in the healthcare field, I’m almost more scared to admit that I’ve also had a lot of feelings of relief and peace. It sounds crazy, I know. But I can’t help but feel like this pandemic really is a blessing in disguise. I think we, as humanity, have gotten so lost on our way, that we need something so disastrous and life-altering to force us to look in the mirror and re-examine the way we have been living.

I realize my views probably won’t be popular with a lot of people. And I also recognize my privilege in all of this – and see how it may be very easy to think all of this from my vantage point. However, if these ideas are upsetting to you, I think it is especially important for you to keep reading, and to at least consider, this alternative way to look at this pandemic.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve become acutely aware of the amount of TP I use when wiping myself. I’ve caught myself wrapping lengths of TP around my hand to simply wipe a few drops of urine after I void. It’s been surprising, to develop this awareness of how I’ve been mindlessly consuming excessive amounts of TP. Have I always done this? Am I so privileged, so rich and so self-centered that I have gone my whole life, over-consuming TP, without an ounce of concern for how my actions may be impacting my environment?

You may think this is a far stretch. But I don’t think so.

Why does it take a world-wide pandemic, hundreds of countries in lock-down and the worst economical fallout of our modern times, for me to become aware of my ignorant and selfish consumption of TP?

I think it’s because we have gotten lost on our way, folks. We have been so focused on success, productivity, status, economical gains and general consumerism, that we have lost sight of what really matters: not wasting TP.

I kid.

Well I don’t. I mean yes, not wasting TP is important. But I think it is a very superficial representation of what we have prioritized in our lives. I think it represents how obsessed we are with ourselves, and the things we have come to value in life.

I had a session with my therapist last week, and we talked about anxiety during this pandemic. We talked about how everyone is feeling stressed and overwhelmed. In an exercise to keep me grounded over the next few months, she asked me to picture myself at the end of this pandemic. She asked, when this is all over, and you look back at your life during the pandemic, what do you want that to look like? How do you want to have spent your time – not necessarily in what you will have accomplished, but the energy and intentions you will have fostered.

Being faced with the possibility of losing it all, or even the possibility of death, I think is the greatest way to really identify what matters in our lives.

So after some thought, here are the things that really matter to me right now:

  • Caring for myself, being gentle and compassionate with myself
  • Being of help to others
  • Connecting with loved ones and communicating my feelings – the good and the bad
  • Being a part of a community
  • Connecting with and caring for mother earth
  • Not over-consuming TP Not taking things for granted and enjoying all the little things in life

So, the next time you go to wipe your ass, stop and think about the amount of TP you are using. And from there, maybe start to examine the rest of your automatic behaviors and thoughts. Ask yourself what really matters to you? What is it that you really value? And are you honoring that, in the way you live?

And if not, maybe let this be a time to start to move towards a more wholehearted way of living.

For, like TP, we never know when all those things we take for granted in life – a meal shared among friends and family, a walk in the park, a hug from a loved one – will be gone forever.

2 thoughts on “What our consumption of toilet paper can teach us about our values

  1. Good post, Michele!
    I imagine aliens looking down on earth and wondering why so many people have suddenly filled their garages and cupboards with packets of rolled paper. 🙃
    (What I’ve seen people buy would last me 10 years, LOL!)


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