A few years ago, when I saw advertisements for toilet paper rolls that did not have cardboard tubes in the middle, I thought the next new wave of efficiency and waste reduction had truly arrived. Without the cardboard tubes, consumers would no longer have to figure out how to recycle them if they wanted to be environmentally friendly. Entire Pinterest boards dedicated to cardboard tube crafts would be rendered obsolete. When a roll was used up, only air would take up the space previously occupied by a cardboard roll.

It seemed to take a while for the tubeless rolls to make it to Tallahassee, but I was elated when I found them. No more tubes to keep up with! A win-win for the environment and one less thing to manage in our weekly trash process.

As it turns out, tubeless toilet paper rolls are a lot like our inner lives — we may think we are being more efficient by getting rid of something that appears to just be taking up room — but consistent, firm, centering structure serves more of a purpose than we realize.

The cardboard tube keeps the roll spinning smoothly. Without a core, the roll bumps and hesitates as its circles the spindle. Without a solid structure, everything slows down and gets confusing.

Silence distances us from keeping in touch with progress. At the risk of delving into everyone’s private constitutional habits here on the Weaving Influence blog, let’s put it this way: with a tube in place, you can hear that the tube is turning. It’s reassuring background audio that confirms the roll is spinning as planned.

The center can easily collapse. If you have ever grabbed a roll of toilet paper for whatever reason (any parent can tell you that it’s sometimes necessary to physically grab the roll to keep an over-enthusiastic toddler from using ten times the necessary amount of toilet paper), you know the tube stays rigid and helps you stabilize the roll-in-motion. Without the tube, you grab the roll and everything collapses. Starting over becomes more of an effort than it needs to be.

You don’t know when you’ve come to the end of the process. With toilet paper on a traditional roll, at the point where you reach the last square or two, you have to give a little tug to separate the last square from the roll because it is attached by a dab of glue. Not so with tubeless. You just find yourself, mid-constitutional, forlornly holding that last square, staring at the spindle, wondering why you are surprised that it is over.

It is trendy right now to talk about mindfulness and being “centered.” I would be a hypocrite to come to this space and try to tell you how to do either one of those things. Although I may be struggling to be any kind of role model or raise up my life as an example of centeredness, as a parent, professional, spouse, friend, and advocate, I know that it is all too easy to strip away what seems like an intrusive “extra piece” in order to try to refine and minimize, when in reality the best investment we can make is putting in place a mindset and choices that remind us what we stand for and how we got here.

One key tenet of mindfulness is learning to stay present amidst of a world throwing distractions at us at an ever-accelerating rate. Sarah Rudell Beach, creator of Left Brain Buddha, writes, “The essence of mindfulness is present-moment awareness.”

Deepak Chopra writes:

“. . . in reality, most people have spent a lifetime learning how to manage and organize their outer life, paying scant attention to what goes on inside. Yet what goes on inside precedes everything external, shapes it, and allows you to understand and respond. Until you develop skills in awareness, you haven’t fully embraced a conscious lifestyle.”

I see the cardboard tube, which I thought I would be so happy to be rid of, as a metaphor for the present-moment awareness we all so desperately need.

Without a firm central core, I’m left aimlessly grasping for air.