Spaciousness Within the Mundane

I hate doing laundry.  I realize this is somewhat ridiculous. It would be one thing if this chore was an all day affair that involved boiling a huge vat of water over a fire, scrubbing clothes on a metal washboard with hard soap, and hanging the clothes on a line to dry. But in our modern world of convenience, washing  and drying clothes in a machine is one of the more low impact chores.

And yet…I resent having to lug the clothes downstairs to my building’s lobby. I always marvel at how much longer it takes to sort the light and dark into their respective drums than I think it will. I am irritated by having to stop whatever I’ve started after half an hour to sort the wet clothes into those which will air dry and those that will be transferred to the drying machine. I loathe the clutter created by the drying rack in my living room. And then, before I know it, the timer sings its little reminder that it’s time to collect the remaining clothes from the dryer and fold them.

This morning, as I grudgingly hauled the laundry basket downstairs, I found myself getting utterly consumed by such disproportionate feelings of annoyance that they startled me. In that moment I knew that I should be laughing at myself, at the exaggerated grief that had emerged seemingly from nowhere…but I was already hooked. As I went through all the little motions, the starts and stops of completing my task, I watched my mind indulge in petty imaginings of injustice and hardship–if only everyone else in the building didn’t hog the machines during the afternoons and evenings so that early morning (my favorite time of the day) was the only reliable time to do it; if only my partner didn’t have so many dress shirts that couldn’t be dried, I wouldn’t be spending so much time hanging up wet clothes; if only the washing/drying cycles were at longer intervals so I could have some little pockets of peace within the chore…

Then, as I did my morning sitting, I watched these petty thoughts flare up and dissolve into feelings of anger, which I watched morph into a disappointed sadness of sorts. Interestingly, when taken out of the context of judging as good or bad (justified or unjustified), I experienced both a welling up of compassion for myself and a gentle understanding of what a misguided and confused set of ideas had taken hold: of course most people don’t want to get up early on a Sunday to do their laundry–they work hard all week, just like me, and would rather be sleeping or enjoying their mornings; so what if I spend a few extra minutes sorting out my partner’s clothes–it’s actually my pleasure to let him sleep while I do this tiny service that doesn’t even begin to repay all he does for me without a second thought; and sure, it would be nice if I could dictate the exact timings of any given chore such that it is exactly to my liking–but let’s be honest, having affordable, reliable access to a washer and dryer is already pretty damn convenient in the scheme of things.

Breathing in and breathing out, labeling thoughts as thoughts, letting myself feel the feelings without judgment…the hard, solid sensation of dissatisfaction lifted. And as usually happens at such moments, I thought to myself, how much easier this feels–I shouldn’t get caught up in such a narrow view. But then, as is happening with a bit more frequency these days, I smiled and conceded that I probably would get hooked again, perhaps in only a few minutes’ time, in fact. But if I do, when I do, there’s some peace in the sense that I can treat it just like any other experience in this life,  can let it be simply be what it is.

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