I have either just had an epiphany, or an aneurism.
And by “just had”, I of course mean that after weeks and weeks of feeling vaguely (or extremely) perturbed by something I just couldn’t put my finger on…I think I just planted my thumb right on the old button.
I recently read Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish by Sue Bender. She describes the way the Amish women moved through the days, going unhurriedly from task to task.
She writes: The women moved through the day unhurried. There was no rushing to finish so they could get on to the “important things.” For them, it was all important.
I kept returning to that.
Because me, I rush.
I rush a lot.
I rush through the dishes so I can get on with something else. I fly through cleaning the bathroom in an attempt to get back to my knitting.
Frankly, I even rush through some of the time with my children – read the story faster, brush their hair perfunctorily, throw warmed-over meals at them. To get on with something “more important”, something more pressing, something that is absolutely without a doubt urgent.
Moreover, if I am not rushing, if I am not overwhelmed…I will immediately take on more, until I am once again rushing and overwhelmed and gasping for breath.
Now. Let’s talk for a second about my dirty laundry.
I keep a mostly (or at least somewhat) tidy house…on the surface. However, the motto, “If it don’t show, don’t bother” is plainly evident if you delve, even a little. Things are scattered and disorganized. Drawers and cupboards are bulging with things we never use, while the things we use daily end up shuttled from one horizontal surface to the next.
Nothing has an actual place, ergo, nothing ever seem to be in it’s place.
My house may look reasonably clean, but underneath that well-dusted surface lies a shocking amount of clutter and object-noise.
I might spend half an hour searching for my checkbook, or lose a permission slip beneath a stack of magazines. I can’t find the yarn I’m looking for, and there are DPNs scattered all over my desk. Assorted sizes, no less.
When I can’t find what I’m looking for, I get mad. Really, really mad. Then I get anxious. Then I get sulky. I’ll spend an entire day tearing apart the house looking for my glasses, and then retire to my room to brood and ask, Why do I even bother?!
As I’ve been feeling all stirred up lately, my house has frankly been falling ever further down the rabbit hole. Drawers are so full I can’t close them. My desk looks as though an office supply truck crashed on it. Papers, paint brushes, play money, coupons, sticky notes and random bits of plastic. All of it needs to be dealt with, all of it is important.
But I’m too busy rushing around to deal with it. So I end up just kind of shoving it from one end to another, putting it off for a day when I’m less busy.
This morning I stood with my coffee and regarded my front room. I was piqued. The place looked like a bomb went off in there. Bits of laundry on the dining room table, cushions off the sofa, toys everywhere, music books spilling out onto the floor. The desk was completely swathed in paperwork. A pencil was on the floor.
I went back into the kitchen and looked at my counters. They are swamped with homeless dishes and vagrant appliances. So many things are plugged into the wall by the toaster oven that I’m surprised the outlet doesn’t explode.
I felt that familiar despair. For crap’s sake, I feel as though I spend the whole day cleaning. Even though I don’t, actually – I spent most of the day dealing with paperwork and putzing around looking for things.
“I don’t have time for this,” I groused to myself. “I’ve got all kind of crap I’ve got to do today.”
And all day today, I’ve been rushing. Rushing to do this, rushing to do that. Gotta get this over here, put this piece over there, hit this button, pull this rope.
This afternoon, I regarded my house like the condemned eye the gallows. Bloody. Hell.
Astonishingly, none of the mess had vanished in the meantime. I needed a pen, and there were none in the pen holder in the kitchen. None on the husband’s desk. None the desk drawers. Sigh.
I began digging around for the pen, hurrying because…well. I have Things to Do.
And suddenly…I was struck by how stupid I was actually being.
Life is happening right now. The important stuff? Is right here, right now.
Washing the dishes is an important act. (Stay with me, here.) So is putting away the laundry, or taming the clutter in the junk drawer.
The only difference is in our perceptions.
We perceive household chores to be dull and lifeless, so that’s what they are. We think of them as being a waste of time that might have been better spent elsewhere.
What if we tried to stop that?
What if I stopped trying to decide what is ‘more important’, and instead focused on ‘what needs doing’?
And made it sacred, because it is a part of my life?
What if, rather than resenting and rushing through those things, I slowed down and lived them? What if I took time to appreciate the colors of my clean clothing, or the smooth whiteness of my dishes? What if I didn’t worry about “what’s next”, but focused on “what’s now”?
What if I moved mindfully through my day, being grateful for what is, right now. What if I didn’t hurriedly shove things from one side to another because I have more important stuff to be doing!, but rather actually dealt with each thing.
I’m willing to bet I’d fill up a lot of donation bins and trash bags with all the things we’re holding onto for no damned reason other than sheer ‘too busy / more important things / call back later’ nonsense.
And moreover, the next time I’m looking for a pen?
It’ll likely be right where it belongs, instead of being under the sofa, where it was apparently kicked after it fell, unnoticed and lost in the bustle, to the floor.
My favourite toy
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