Saturday, November 3, 2012

What the Laundry Taught Me

I remember one morning when I was about four or five sitting at the breakfast table on a bright Colorado day with the sun shining through the small window above the kitchen sink. I had a bowl of Lucky Charms that had gotten to be rather unbearable with the last wheat pieces slogging along in the gross, clumpy milk. I hear my aunt say, "You need to eat more than the marshmallows!"

Obviously I was because you can't reach the remaining wheat pieces without eating the first ones first. I think my aunt even praised my sister as an example; she was one who could save the marshmallows for last. Just like she could save the bubblegum pieces out of her bubblegum ice cream. (Save it for a day when they got thrown away! I scoff, twenty-five years later.)

I took this moment to heart. "Don't eat the best things first" came to mean "Don't let there be best things." Conventionally good, nice, or pretty things became objects of scorn yet secret desire.

My politics are larger than materiality, yet material concerns are part of my politics. This is similar to how I feel about my hair; I generally feel better after a haircut, yet it bothers me that I am faced with hair decisions every so often.

I used to take a load of laundry out of the dryer and fold whatever I grabbed first--ignoring my burning desire to fold thin, long-sleeved shirts first or dig through and grab all the underwear instead of the socks. This has been my system for years--the years that I haven't just kept piles of clean clothes in the dryer or in laundry baskets--and I have replaced it by a system of preferences.

Last week I took laundry and folded all the like things first and then moved on to the next set of like things. This got the laundry done a lot faster, and I was happier. I marveled at the way choosing things actually made things easier.

Choosing things! This is what I have always done, but has always been difficult for me. I am trying to practice Martha Beck's advice--move to what you like and move away from what you don't. I am trying this in a conscious way, especially since this place in my life is relatively calm and drama-free. I am seeing how when I act on my preferences, I feel better about myself. I feel powerful, and this is something that I think helps to ward off my anxiety and depression. And as no small bonus, there's some happiness in it!


beamish said...

Oh man, paragraph three! I really relate to this internalized squashing of individual preferences. It's so hard to let go of.

Courtney said...

You're right--it is hard to let go of. I wonder why we think it's safer to erase ourselves?! I don't know about you, but for me it's probably related to a sense of wanting to be liked by everyone. Or wanting to avoid conflict at all costs.