Monday, November 17, 2014

Perspective and Folding Laundry

I have just put my guys to bed and here I am, not quite comfortable with the black in the window in front of me, the abyss. We've talked about the abyss, haven't we? I've told you that my abyss isn't me looking down into a deep crevasse from above. It's being at the bottom, pressed by tons of dirt and rock with no hope of being able to turn over, let alone leave.

Things with my family are good. I remind myself that they really are. We're all relatively healthy. We don't have to worry too much about money or retirement or school. Oh, Nick has some drama, either friends he can't see because they're grounded too long or something with a teacher assigning too much homework. Yet, I have more trouble on these days when I have stayed home and cleaned up a bit instead of taking Teddy for a walk in the open air, instead of going for my daily constitutional. Even a half hour outside revives me as nothing else does. Somehow I convinced myself, while searching for my favorite pair of socks in the rubble we call clean laundry, that I needed to fold clothes until I was done folding. I did need to fold clothes. Nothing screams of tedium like folding clothes. Nothing dulls my brain as easily.

Unfortunately, my shoulder still complains when I fold clothes and I needed to sit down and ice it for a while after I was done. Oh, I figure I'm doing decent things for myself, trying to get my shoulder working instead of babying it. My physical therapist said not to baby it. That includes folding clothes. I would guess it includes vacuuming too. Well, no one else is vacuuming. That's the real reason I need to, because no one else is doing it.

One of Nick's friends came over for the afternoon last Saturday. It was a nice afternoon. They played video games, shot up our pumpkins with Nick's bow and arrows, and played with Teddy in the yard. This boy was supposed to go out to dinner for his aunt's birthday afterward.

And he was covered in dog hair. It was embarrassing.

That's the problem at my house. When I vacuum, it looks like I threw a whole cat into the garbage after I'm done. Teddy is furry. And he lets go of his fur easily.

It wasn't his mom who was looking at all that fur on this boy's clothing as they were leaving. It was the boy himself.

That's what was so embarrassing.

Note to self: when a thirteen year old boy thinks your floor is dirty, it's past time to vacuum, pain or no pain. Actually, I should have had Nick vacuum. It should have been a condition of his being allowed to have his friend over.


This is what happens when I don't take a walk, when I don't get any fresh air, when my brain hasn't engaged properly. I bore you! I bore myself!

Isn't there anything more interesting to tell you? This is my life, or part of it. It's boring. It's difficult to train a teenaged boy to help out when he just wants a break after a week of school. Our lives, some days, seem like a string of mundane chores from which we can't escape. For me, it's laundry again. Dishes again. Dinner again. Thousands of minute complaints that, by themselves, don't add up to anything much, but together leaves a soul in the bottom of a cavern under tons of rubble with no way to get out. 

Until I look for the joy, find the beauty, until I stand on my back deck with warm water in a bowl to melt the ice out of the birdbath. The chickadees had followed me to my car on my way to drive Nick to school in the morning. They had asked so sweetly for a drink. I had almost forgotten about the chickadees. And really, with a different attitude, I can see beauty in doing those dishes, the glow of a gleaming kitchen. I find satisfaction in finding the match for that last sock. As Nick was putting away his clothes, I remembered how, when we were shopping for new clothes for school, Nick mentioned how I can hold up a shirt and flick it into a neatly folded pile. Yes, I can do that. It's like making a pretzel, a miracle until you know the trick of the flick. And there is the warmth of giving a healthy meal to a growing teenaged boy and hearing him grunt with pleasure as he chews.

There was a place that Mike and I used to love to visit years ago, The Honey Bear Bakery. It was near Green Lake in Seattle and sometimes Mike would send me there so I could bring the best for him to share at a meeting for work. Sometimes I'd buy a dozen pumpkin muffins. The cashiers always seemed surprised, as though most people should only order a muffin and some coffee then sit to read the newspaper for an hour.

Remember reading the newspaper?

But even landmarks go away and I was sad to find, one day, that The Honey Bear Bakery with it's waving wooden bear at the entrance, was no more. It was closed, condemned, gone.

One of the things I remember seeing at The Honey Bear Bakery, as I read a piece from the newspaper or scribbled in my notebook, was a plaque on the wall near the basin for dirty dishes. It said, "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."

That is it, isn't it?

Doing dishes, folding laundry, cooking meals. I'll have to do it anyway. And when I do it well, see my life the way I know I can, I see it as a way to make something clean, accessible, beautiful, even if I know I'll have to wash and fold and cook all over again tomorrow.

It is so hard to stay enlightened, isn't it?

Thank you for listening, jb

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