Meditations on a Heap
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 1, March-April 2002, p. 30
How many loads of clean laundry are piled there? I ask myself again. The answer, though silent, is “Oh, five or seven, maybe more.” We have recovered from a weekend of family stomach flu and now what awaits me is—the heap.
It grows. Load upon load accumulates in the corner of our bedroom. I fear entering the room. I dread searching for two matching socks, or even two of the same size. I hear the washer swishing and the dryer tumbling and know that soon, very soon, that heap will take over the house, unless measures are taken. Now is as good a time as any. Cedric sleeps in Daddy’s arms, Emma is in bed for the night, and Malcolm is in a playful mood. I sigh. I’d really rather nibble on chocolate and read a book or take a nap. But the heap beckons.
So Malcolm and I plop in front of the heap. I close my eyes and take a deep cleansing breath. I reach out, half expecting the heap to bite me, or at least spit at me. But no, it is just a t-shirt. I fold it and carefully place it in a pile. I continue.
Malcolm begins to divide the heap into two heaps, tossing clothes willy-nilly. My tidy little piles multiply. The floor is covered with laundry and chaos seems to be winning. Then aha! Two matching socks! My mood begins to lift. Malcolm giggles with glee as a dishtowel lands on his head. Peek-a-boo momentarily interrupts the job.
I resume. Shirts, diaper covers, washcloths, underwear, nursing pads, dresses, each has its own growing pile and order is manifested. I begin to hum and Malcolm joins in. The end is in sight. Another shirt, another bra, a final bib and then the job is done, with the inevitable lone sock, forever circling the universe of our house seeking its soul (sole?) mate. I toss it into the sock pile and the heap is conquered.
In ten minutes the heap has been transformed into a dozen neat piles. Will I have time to vacuum while the floor is clear? A fuss from Cedric in the other room says not. I take one last glance back at the heapless room, fusing it into my memory. The dryer buzzer goes off. I sigh and scoop up Cedric, knowing that this heap has been tamed; yet countless others wait for me.
We each have our own heaps. As mothers, we find there is always something for us to do next. One task, whether it is laundry, cooking dinner, or changing a diaper, always awaits us. It is easy to become discouraged and look upon our daily routines with weariness. When it seems as though we are repeating the same duties endlessly and often thanklessly, a moment of inspiration is needed. When they arrive unexpectedly, a call from an understanding friend, a hug from a child, or a kiss from my husband lifts my spirits. But sometimes these wonderful things do not arrive at the crucial moment.
What can we do to improve our moods and the situation? I believe that one solution is within ourselves. Take a deep breath and look upon the repetitious task instead as a ritual to be savored. Sound ridiculous? Perhaps, but try it! Sweeping the floor feels different when you become aware of the rhythm of your body. Close your eyes and feel each motion sweeping away your negative feelings. The same can be said of cleaning a toilet, washing the dishes, or even wiping a bottom. Think of all the women throughout time and around the world who have done these very same things. When your perception of an activity changes, so can your attitude about it.
We are the keepers of motherhood. We choose to be with our children because we love them and value them. We should value our routines and ourselves too. The heaps ebb and flow, so live in the moment of your activity, whatever it may be, and you may see it, and yourself, in a brighter light.