If you ever want to hear an interesting conversation, you should ask people on Facebook about laundry.
Here’s how it happened: my girlfriend and I were talking about kids and pajamas. She was horrified to learn that I think PJs need only be washed once a week. And I was appalled that she wants to wash each pair after every single wear. What a filthy disgusting choice! she [almost certainly] thought. What a waste of time and energy! I thought. It was all in good fun, but we were truly convinced that we were each right and, moreover, that most people in the world would agree with us.
So we put it to Facebook on a lazy Saturday morning, and HOLY MOLY it was awesome.
Boy oh boy did people have opinions. Naturally Nik and I both claim that we totally won the argument, but the truth is way more interesting.
People shared WHY they do what they do. I absolutely loved the little glimpse into people’s lives because I am insatiably curious about people’s intimate thoughts and feelings. (Don’t judge; it’s what makes me a great life coach.)
- One woman LOVES laundry. It’s soothing and satisfying and seeing neat stacks of clean clothes gives her a calm sense of peace.
- Another one HATES it. She finds it an almost offense waste of her time, a necessary evil that should be minimized.
- Some people have super tidy kids who bathe every single night without fail.
- Others have kids who delight in flinging life (and breakfast) all over creation.
- Some people wear PJs for just a few prone hours each night.
- Others spend most of the day dancing, rioting, and finger painting in them.
- Some people have washers and dryers on the second floor, right next to their bedrooms.
- Some live in countries where clothes dryers are an unheard of luxury, and every item has to be clipped to dry out in the cold.
So a fascinating world revealed itself. It turned out that “How often do you wash PJs?” was the wrong question. It was trying to understand an elephant by studying its tail.
The real question, the one that people answered unwittingly, was “What makes your most intimate parts of life feel safe and warm and clean and delightful?”
And of course, there IS no right answer.
There is only what makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
And it will be different for every single human.
This got me thinking about the holidays, because–well–they’re all around. There is probably glitter in my underwear.
It’s easy to see what people DO– the outermost expression of twinkle lights, cookies, visits, candles, prayers, songs, and rituals. Less visible, but of vital importance, is WHY they do those things– and even more importantly, what those things mean to them.
I told a friend that growing up we used the same Advent calendars year after year. They were the thin paper kind, where you folded back the cardboard flap and inside it had a little picture. Year after year we’d push the cardboard doors carefully flat so that we could open them again the next year, day after day, as we moved through December. My friend was horrified. “That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard!” she exclaimed. “You didn’t even have the kind with chocolate?” But to me, the old beloved calendars were the very heart of Christmas. They might have been shabby and well-loved, but that was exactly what made them so comforting and sentimental. Every year their familiar images helped me trace the thread of who I was and who my family was. There is a warm mist of nostalgia rising in my eyes just thinking about them. I might cry UNhappy tears, though, if someone made me use a Santa Claus chocolate calendar. (A Vosges one, now that’s a different story.)
Declare Dominion over your holidays, loves. And, yes, over your laundry too.
Maybe your neighbor makes those cookies every year because– wait for it– she actually enjoys it. I understand that this is a very strange and unfathomable concept, but I have it on good authority that it’s sometimes true. Maybe you prefer to throw big Christmakah bashes at the local sports bar. Maybe your favorite blogger likes to make whimsical art installations all over her house and take beautiful portraits of them. Maybe your sister loves to lead all the kids in a giant game of hide-and-seek followed by a rousing round of tackle football. Maybe you’d rather go on a solitary and silent retreat. Maybe you want to do the twinkliest, most over-the-top, Brambly-Hedge-meets-Martha-Stewart shindig and draw it out with traditions and rituals. Maybe you just want to go somewhere tropical and read a book in the sunshine.
None of those yearnings is right or wrong. Taken together, they make up a gorgeous quilt with all kinds of fantastic colors in it.
So don’t contort your insides to match other peoples’ outsides, okay? Start with your own insides. Truly, it’s the most loving thing you can do for the people around you. (Don’t believe me? Picture me trying to make Christmas pies because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Picture the raging hallucinatory despairing venomous harpy that I would become. No pies for you, not from me. You’re welcome.)
Last week we talked about making it feel as good on the inside as it looks on the outside. If you’re having trouble making that happen, there’s a good chance you’re tackling the wrong thing in the first place.
If you can’t approach the task with some sense of presence that approaches joy or delight or at least a kind of wry kind appreciation, ditch it.
If you absolutely can’t ditch it because LAWS, or it’s essential to the joy of someone you adore, find a way to delegate it out. There are a lot of people who would be happy to earn some extra money this time of year, and you’d be amazed at the things people actually enjoying doing.
Like laundering PJs. (Maybe I can convince her that we should watch Die Hard while we do the folding.)
and merry everything,