Friday, May 16, 2008

This post was rushed

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.


Carrie said...

I'm in the same boat. I HATE clutter, yet I find that I have a ton of it! I'm prepping to homeschool this fall, so my goal over the summer is to pare down the clutter so that our home routine is manageable. Right now all I do is pick up, pick up, pick up, and move stuff, like you said, from one horizontal surface to another. I need to get a couple of little organizational odds and ends, but really I just need to get RID of stuff. Also, I don't know if you've done FlyLady, but she refers to "chores" as "home blessings," and that's a huge help to me mentally. :-) Looking forward to looking up that book you mentioned!

patrice said...

Ideally, I would love to have one of everything, rather than so many that I can't organize what I have. The problem just multiplies with every kid (and husband) in the house. I think your mindfulness with each action, not just trying to do the "important" things, is a great idea - it all really is important since your mental health is being affected by the clutter you are having to move around. Here's to simplification, clarification, and mindful attention to all activities, including the fiber ones!
Good luck :)

JoHanna said...

Sue Bender's book is wonderful. And I could totally relate to your post. I find myself doing nothing sometimes because I think that I will feel guilty if I do one thing and not the other, so nothing gets done. How sick is THAT?

Anonymous said...

Simply...thank you!

Anonymous said...

You might like a book called "Shelter for the Spirit" by Victoria Moran. It's about creating a haven in your home. Not by having the perfect house, but by appreciating what you have, mess and all. I re-read it about once a year just to get back in the right frame of mind when my house and belongings start to get on my nerves.

tina said...

Interesting thoughts.
I was reminded of this
when I read todays post.
I considered both, as well as the five years that have passed between now & then....

peace & clutter

Kris said...

We're also on the same sinking boat. Last night it took me a half hour to wade through just the kitchen table. I do make a habit of sorting mail as I get it. Hubby usually brings it in,but I take care of it (it's better this way). But what I really need to do is strong-arm the boy into picking up his own mess. He can do it under duress, but I am lazy about creating the duress...

Anonymous said...

I think you've hit the nail on the head. I, too, am a "rusher". Yet somehow I find that on the days I don't rush, but instead just move calmly from one task to the next, much more is accomplished. I'd be lying if I said those days weren't few and far between! I have also learned that I'm much calmer when everything has a place and (at least most of the time) stays in it. Good luck to all of us on slowing down and living, rather than rushing.

Anonymous said...

I went through this too, until I discovered the phrase (and idea behind it) of "living with intention." Don't even remember where I heard/read it. The idea is to immerse yourself in whatever it is you're doing, be really conscious of it and concentrate on doing it well.

Living with intention is reinforced by my daily T'ai Chi Chih practice, which involves focusing on the forms and visualizations and not permitting the mind to wander. As my teacher says, "Never do T'ai Chi carelessly."

I expand that to "Never do anything carelessly." Of course, I don't concentrate all the time; I wish I did! But I find that when I do live and act with intention, I am much happier and life goes on more smoothly.

Jeanne said...

Well said.

To add to the discussion, I've realized that one way of expressing gratefulness for all my abundant blessings is by being a good steward of them--showing appreciation by caring for them.

Thus, I find it appalling when I look around at the chaotic mess that desperately needs to be sorted and stored/donated/tossed because it is a constant reminder that I am so NOT being a good steward.

Off to live in the "now" of making a dent in that...

Alison said...

Your post was so in sync with my thoughts today I felt I needed to let you know. The difficult part is allowing this new thinking to become the new routine in our lives. In September of last year my sister's husband became a quadriplegic after a bad mountain bike accident up in Downeyville,CA. Watching him struggle these past several months with the frustration of having to wait for others to help him achieve even the most basic of task has been a life changing lesson for my family. We have begun to slow down and try to live for today. Most days we fall short of this goal falling back into our old behavior but each morning brings with it the chance to begin again. Some days I get it right. Thinking about you and your family and wishing you success!

Kaviare said...

Last time I moved, I ditched a LOT of stuff. Stuff that I had dragged from house to house to house for years. And you know what? It felt good. REALLY good.

T read a lot of stuff at the time about the 'cost' of having that stuff around. The mental, emotional cost. Sounds ridiculous and new-agey, I know. but you wouldn't believe how free and light I felt! I now make a conscious effort not to collect more stuff that I don't either need or love. Sometimes it's hard.

At least I live by myself, so that's a bit easier. There's not other people's junk, other people's chores. I have a couple of favourite podcasts that are designated dishes podcasts - my least favourite chore.

Every Satruday, I put on more podcasts or music, and I spend the morning slowly cleaning, tidying, and setting in order. When I can't do this, like this weekend, I get really cranky. Nothing is where it should be, everything is wrong, I feel jangled and edgy and I can't enjoy just BEING in my house.

You think that maintaining that would be hard. But, once you ge tit set up, it's not too bad, really. You do it without thinking. Along with all your other 'important' things.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love that book. Now I am going to read it again.

Anonymous said...

It takes most of us quite a while to get to this point, and then quite a while longer to figure out what to do about it.

I don't have an answer, wish I did, but periodically I hire a cleaning team to come in and do the dusting and vacuuming (the REAL dusting and vacuuming, moving the furniture, heck, vacuuming the furniture). Then I can get into the sorting, sifting and throwing away, the kinds of projects that no one but me CAN do. It isn't the perfect answer, or the final answer, but it does allow me the time and the peace to enjoy making my house look and work the way I want it to. I know I used to enjoy homemaking and I want to get back to that.


Rena said...

We are definitaly related! Didn't I just send you an email recently about needing to go to graduate school full time so I can get done FASTER, although I would lose any semblance of sanity I pretend to have? How about I go part time and actually enjoy my classes while still having the time to smell my clean laundry? Why are we set on "frantic?"

Anonymous said...

Have you checked out Their (free) program of tackling the house in baby steps has helped me ALOT with just this sort of issue, esp. the "perceptions" and overload. NAYY