“What? I have been loading the washer every single day! What are you talking about?”
My husband raised an eyebrow and said, ‘I meant the clean-clothes hamper. None of those have been folded and put away for a while now. You’ve let THAT laundry pile up.’
Chucking a cushion at his head did nothing more than strain my weak shoulder, so I sighed loudly and dragged myself to the room where that mountainous hamper sat. I could have sworn I heard a snigger from the clothes, but I put that down to my overactive imagination.
Don’t get me wrong. I actually like to fold clothes, put them away, re-arrange the shelves every month just for kicks and also hum a tune while doing all of the above. But, there are some days (or weeks) when you just can’t find it within you to do the mundane.
This was one such week. You see, a couple of days earlier, I had received a call. A single phone call. It was to inform me that a very dear friend of mine had died. In one of the worst ways possible. She had been crossing the street and an out-of-control truck had careened into her, killing her on the spot. That day, I hung up the phone and was unsure how to react to the news. So, I didn’t. I put on a smile and went out for dinner instead. Does that sound heartless? It probably was. But, the shock was too much for me to digest. In my heart, I figured that if I shut it out of my conscious being, the pain would dissipate slowly.
To be fair, it almost did. Until that morning with the clothes hamper. Cross-legged I sat on the bed and pulled out a tee-shirt. With loving care, I laid it out on the bed, lifted one sleeve, folded it backwards, did the same with the other sleeve, patted the back of the tee down in an ironing motion and lifted the bottom of it to align with the neckline. With quiet pride, I saw the tee-shirt sitting there, folded and ready to be put in its place, inside the wardrobe. Soon, the folded clothes were piling up next to me, in a neat stack.
As I pulled out the tenth item of clothing to be folded, something snapped within me. Before I knew it, huge tear drops found their way down my cheeks. Out of the blue, I was crying: For the loss of a wonderful human being, for the utter waste of a life, for the unfair and ridiculous way that she had been taken from our lives. Without holding back, I let loose the flood within and at the end of a good fifteen minutes, felt like a load had been raised from my aching heart.
That entire process of folding the tee-shirt or creasing a towel- a simple, routine, almost pedestrian task- had let me feel the emotion that I had been suppressing.
That’s when realisation struck me. If it weren’t for that mundane task of folding some clothes, my mind would have resolutely made every attempt to shut out any form of acceptance. If I hadn’t sat down to confront that looming pile, I would have probably not faced another looming emotion- grief.
As parents, we need to let go of those constant expectations that we face- not from others, but from ourselves. We also should let our kids know that boring tasks and regular deeds have a far better emotional quotient than short-term satisfaction. We must tell them that it is okay to cry and let the grief spill over, because it keeps us in touch with our raw selves.
So, it’s okay to neglect those chores every once in a while. It’s fine to find time to do other things because we can fall back on the laundry pile to get us through a difficult period.
Some days, we just need to let that laundry pile up.