Folding laundry: The key to unlocking emotions

Folding laundry: The key to unlocking emotions

My maid quit six weeks ago. She’d been with me for nearly four years and was one of the kindest and strongest women I’ve had the pleasure to know. But, her health had always been on the weak side and it finally was something she couldn’t ignore. Doctors have advised her to refrain from doing any more housework.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I welcomed the new maid who landed up one morning in January to take the old one’s place. The new lady is quiet, goes about her tasks dutifully but did seem a bit alarmed at the idea of doing laundry. Not wishing to lose good hired help, it fell to my lot to go back to doing laundry, a task my other maid had been doing for all this time.




At first, I resented the fact that I was losing a good chunk of time doing laundry when I could be so much more productive with other things. Slowly, though, I began to embrace it the way I used to, before I had handed the reins of this job over to another person.

This week alone, I’ve found it very helpful with two things: Dealing with being part of the sandwich generation and coming to terms with who I am as a person/writer/blogger.

It’s a known fact that as parents, we’re supposed to be the strong ones, for our kids’ sake. After a while, it’s almost as if we’re responding on auto-pilot when they need a hug or a kiss to make things better for them, because we’ve grown into that role of the caregiver who knows what to say or do. What happens, though, when a parent exhibits frailty?

My mom, one of the strongest people I know, emotionally and otherwise, called me yesterday and from the sound of her voice, I knew she was choking back tears. The ‘maternal’ instinct woke up inside me and I asked what was wrong. Turns out she had a terrible toothache and the pain was more than she could bear. The painkillers weren’t helping either. It was all I could do to not grab my keys and start the 30 km drive over to her place, but she’d anticipated that and assured me that she’d be fine.

I just wanted to hear your voice, she sniffed. My mom. 

Wait a minute. I’m supposed to say that! Not her! Yet, here I was, a woman 20 years younger donning the role of caretaker. After the first instinct of worry dissipated, I soothed her, told her to try and lie down, maybe apply some clove oil if she had any and call/message me again if the pain didn’t die down. 

After this, I pulled out the stack of clean laundry and proceeded to fold each piece of clothing. As I did, my mind calmed down from the fluttering state it had inhabited and infused me with a deeper understanding of an important truth.

The more relationships change, the more they stay the same.
 
It appeared quite clear that as a member of the sandwich generation, I’m going to be taking care of two sets of needs at all times: my child’s and my parents’. Practising mindfulness, even with the simply mundane tasks of folding laundry can help me stay centred about what I am capable of doing.
 
Additionally, as I put away the last neatly creased shirt into the wardrobe, an important thought struck me. This is me: the calm, relaxed me; the one who gets pleasure by simply putting away clean clothes. I don’t need much to make myself happy.
 
 I’m happy doing what I do- be it blog or write or work at my job or giggle with my daughter or listen to my favourite songs on the radio or share that with friends and family or even cook a really bad gravy dish which needs extra salt (most of the time). 
 
And that’s perfectly fine. 
 
I may never live up to the ideal of  the ideal blogger or the perfect mom who ensures that her child only has healthy, organic food in her snack box, but I am happy. I may be the tardiest when it comes to replying to messages on Whatsapp and I may not agree with every single thing that I read online. 
 
But, I am happy. In this moment, in this incredibly mindful moment, I am happy.
 
Sometimes, it takes the simple act of folding laundry to unlock the emotions inside.
 


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38 thoughts on “Folding laundry: The key to unlocking emotions

  1. 😉 Now you know why I love housework! Instant gratification, keeps you sane and centered and ready to pour love over the folks who seek you out. Hugs! Stay blessed, Shailaja!

  2. It's amazing, isn't it? How sometimes the most mundane of chores helps us be in the zone, so to speak. I usually have such moment when doing the laundry too. Though folding clothes isn't really on my priority list, I get the gist 🙂
    Stay happy, Shailaja. Always.

  3. I know what you mean, Vidya. Love is so beautiful when shared and when it comes from the depth of our being- unfettered and free. Sanity is necessary in the world today and I hope I am always grateful for that. Always.

  4. Thank you, Sid 🙂 Yes, I have been reading more and more on the subject of happiness and mindfulness and although none of it is very new to me as such, it is a pleasure to savour the moments as we grow older- even the mundane ones.

  5. I know what you mean, Sibi! I find that some of my best ideas- for writing or anything else- comes from a space of quiet contemplation. So it's certainly the fount of creativity. And the routine moments do so much for us! Thank you so much for stopping by. I really appreciate it.

  6. Come on. I know it feels that way because of no maid at all right now but it will happen 😉 Also, the Happiness Project is helping me terrifically! I can't thank you enough for pointing me in its direction.

  7. I think these mundane tasks help us in staying control, so what it is just laundry or washing dishes! I read articles o why it is important for all women to be working and achieving best career woman awards, thus securing happiness and showing children how to be. But your post Shailaja, so simple and yet powerful. If we can teach our kids to find happiness and clear mind by doing an everyday, mundane task like laundry, then no doubt, they have got the best resource at hand. This moment, this post made me happy. And I owe it to you, Shailaja. 🙂

  8. I'll begin by saying that I hate housework, specially laundry or anything to do with clothes (other than wearing them of course!). I find it mindless and mundane and unending. Your post made me think though – maybe if I become mindful about the tasks, I would't dislike them so much and maybe even feel happy doing them. Maybe. But I'll take forever being as zen about them as you are.

  9. I do not what the 'ideal of the ideal blogger' is, perhaps writing a million troika of broken sentences which they would rather call Hi, coo! (or is that haiku?) and getting a zillion thumbs up day after day? Looking back to my unmarried days when I would cook quick travesties of meals, or iron out a pair of trouser or so, I can relate to the feeling. My mother who is a loner now that her partner smiles serenely from a wall, keeps calling me about a wide range of maladies that haunt her, from a toothache to a palpitating heart. Somehow you reminded me of all that. Mercifully, you have also spared me the line about Tata Zica car which I've been classically conditioned to look for at the end of the posts packed like sardines in Indivine.

  10. Housework does not work for me. For some reason never liked it. Cleaning, dusting, laundry all of them I detest. God bless the washing machine. I do fold the clothes. Have always done so. I guess it is my workout, my cooking, reading, writing that give me an instant perk up. And yes, chatting with Coco and hugging him. He is the guy who gives you undivided attention. It is always the smallest things that give the biggest joys.

  11. Honestly I used to detest house work and would do it for the sake of it (no option in this side of the planet) But upon entering midlife I enjoy it since its the time I give attention to my thoughts along with the chores. Amazing when the body is doing a repetitive work how we can focus upon thy mind!

    Hope your mom is doing better!

  12. Ooohhh, I do miss household help from my time in India…. Here in Europe we have to manage on our own:-( Oh well…. And that ideal .- whatever it si ideal mum, ideal blogger, whatever – ditch her … YOU are good enough.Always have been. Always will be.Hugs, dear Shailaja:-) Stay blessed sweetie:-)

  13. I am so sorry to hear about your mom. Loss is very hard and I cannot imagine the loneliness she must be experiencing 🙁 I think the beauty of blogging is the way it brings diverse people on to the same page.

    As for the Tata Zica car, I really have not followed the thread on that topic 😉

    Thank you so much for reading and your valuable comments, Umashankar. Much appreciated.

  14. Actually I think I developed a fondness for housework watching my dad. He took great pride in putting things way, cleaning and folding laundry. He can fold sheets, towels, sarees and pretty much anything like a pro. I am a lot like him- organised, quiet and speak only when I have something to share. So I suppose this works for me. The smallest things and how much they give us. I absolutely adore that.

  15. If there is one thing I love about housework is putting things back in its proper place. It is so mundane that you can actually calm and focus your mind. I cherish the 10/15 min that I get between my husband leaving for work and my kid getting up for school, the time when everything is quiet and me going about picking things off the floor, putting the pens back in the holder etc etc. I have been part of that “sandwich generation” for over 10 years and those 10-15 uninterrupted minutes each day are very important for a calmer me so i can mother a 70 yr old and a 9 yr old.

  16. Oh I can so completely relate to that feeling of quiet when I get to clean up and put things away. You've said it so well! I love mundane tasks for this reason.It's also why I am a bit of a homebody and don't really cherish late nights out or partying much. Never could make myself love those things. Guess that's just me 🙂 9 year old here too so I know what you mean 🙂

  17. Yes, doing housework mindfully or for that matter anything mindfully relaxing us in a lot of ways. I recently read this book called 'Mindfullness in Plain English' by Bhante Gunaratna. I can confidently say that it's a great book which helped me change in positive ways. As far as parents being strong, actually I think a little different. I decided to show my grief to my son when my dad died. I thought this would be a good way for him to embrace that we parents, are human and not super-human and it's okay to be not so strong all the time.

  18. You know Shailaja, this reminds of my granny, who lived on her own well past 80. Her life was a time table. Clockwork. Getting up at 5.. Making her bed, having her coffee, washing her own clothes, and all the other household chores. Life went on so peacefully and she never really complained… She even had a particular time to watch TV. What may seem mundane was her way of living her remaining days of her life..

  19. I totally agree here Shailaja. I slowly gave up my daily chores like the one you mentioned on the repeated insists of my family to lessen my burden. Eventually I found myself unable to handle the simplest of chores in the maid's absence. At tines when she took a two day break….clothes would pile up like a mountain. That's when I decided to chuck help for little chores and start doing 'em myself. It is an infinitely calming activity….one that I couple with calls to my mum….I hardly realize when the work gets done. A lovely read!

  20. Hi Shailaja, The question that got my immediate attention is where you stated: What happens, though, when a parent exhibits frailty?”

    Where you said, “Wait a minute. I'm supposed to say that! Not her! Yet, here I was, a woman 20 years younger donning the role of caretaker.”

    I can so connect to that….something deep within crumbles within you the first time it happens and then you find that there is a strength within you to take charge of the situation. It's just that we didn't realize it before, till life triggers a situation that leads us towards it.

  21. Those lil' things!! Surprisingly I went through the same set of emotions today. My parents hasn't called up till now to wish me (It's my b'day according to the star). They have forgotten for the first time and I was pretty sad. I was folding a pile of clean clothes which was lying in one corner since two days and began contemplating. It's okay, right? It would have just slipped from their mind. 🙂

  22. Folding laundry has its own rewards.Mainly,a calm mind which thinks about nothing else but the laundry in front of you.Now I think about the countless times I have folded laundry! I am really a Buddha when it comes to laundry folding and mental peace.
    Subha Rajagopal recently posted Blogging ComraderieMy Profile

  23. Folding laundry is the task I do first thing in the morning on the terrace with no one else in sight. My me time. It does help in making us calm and listen to our inner-most thoughts and feelings. My house help is unwell and has been on leave for nearly three days now which has given me lots of household tasks to complete and lots of time to talk to myself. I hope your Mom is better now and that her pain is gone.
    Rekha recently posted “I Hate You, Mamma!”My Profile

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