About Me

My photo
...over-educated and under-experienced, or so they say...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ignoring The Toilet

A good friend of mine loves to call me Her Royal Highness because of the disdain I hold for dishes and laundry and such. He says it, of course, poking fun at me because these are tasks we all must do and my griping about them conveys, to him, a sense that I am above it all. Being someone who regularly does such chores without a second thought, I think I may very well be his first experience with a human who would prefer to leave the dishes in the sink for a night or two because I obey the call of my imagination before obeying the call of "duty."

This is not a rant against him, by any means. The man has come to my home on more than one occasion to eat a dinner I made for him (cooking is an art, by the way) only to willingly and ever so naturally stand up to wash the dishes with a beautiful smile saying, "Do what you need to do. This is a job for peasants, not for women like you." So no, this is not a rant against his playful statements.

I think of this now because, less than an hour ago, I sat down to write only to hear an ominous glub glub glub , followed by the sound of my daughter saying, "Oh no! Oh No!" and the bathroom door slamming shut behind her. As I went down the hall, I found her standing with her eyes wide open, hand still on the door knob, saying, "You don't want to go in there, Mom." I opened the door to find water spilling over the toilet, flooding the bathroom floor, and all I could do was stand there and stare at it thinking, "If there was ever a time I felt like a peasant, it would be now."

And, so, here is the part where all anal retentive cleaners of the house cringe as I tell you I simply shut the door, looked at my girl and said, "Use my bathroom to get ready for bed. I have writing to do. I'll get to this craziness later."

For the record, then, it isn't because I am above it all, nor is it because of laziness or lack of care. I put these things to the side for one reason only -- to live.

Anyone who reads my blog regularly should be familiar with my rants about the mundane as it actively opposes my need to be free and creative. And, in fact, somewhere in here is a post about Obsessive Lackadaisical Disorder where I mock myself for not taking the mundane duties of existence seriously. But the truth is, anyone who taps into their imagination now and again knows that when it calls to you it must be followed, lest it disappear and leave you with nothing but frustration and a sense of heartbroken sorrow like a lover that left you wanting.

There are things in life that can't be avoided. I can't avoid my job because it pays the bills, puts a roof over our head and food on the table. I can't avoid raising my daughter and doing my best to help her grow into a fruitful contribution to society. I can't avoid the obligations to friends and family that need me. But I can avoid the dishes for a while, I can avoid laundry as long as I have something to wear tomorrow, and I most certainly can avoid the stupid overflowing bathroom long enough to get my thoughts onto the page before time to sleep. Why can I do this? Because, if I don't, I am convinced death will soon follow -- maybe not a physical death, but most definitely a spiritual death of sorts.

Writing feeds my soul. The times that I neglect it are some of the darkest and most depressing times of my life. It makes me feel whole. It gives me a sense of purpose outside of merely existing. And the chores of life, though necessary, in my already busy schedule, threaten to consume every opportunity to create something outside of myself.

One of the strongest memories I have of myself is looking through a day planner when my marriage was falling apart and finding this:
Monday: go to the gym, clean the bathrooms and kitchen, wash the whites, iron, cook dinner.
Tuesday: go to the gym, vacuum the floors, dust the living room and bedrooms, wash the colors, iron, cook dinner.
Wednesday: go to the gym, clean the bathrooms and kitchen, wash the linens, iron, pay the bills, cook dinner.
Thursday: go to the gym, vacuum the floors, dust the living room and bedrooms, do the grocery shopping, cook dinner.
Friday: go to the gym, clean the bathrooms and kitchen, wash the uniforms, iron, cook dinner.

I remember calling my mother and sobbing because I had completely lost sight of who I was. I never wrote, I never read, I did nothing but keep the mundane tasks of life under control and I never felt more empty than I did at that moment. I had become what Brenda Ueland described:

Like many of the most talented and funniest people, ...too nice and unconceited to work from mere ambition, or the far-away hope of making money, and had not become convinced that there are other reasons for working, that a person like herself who cannot write a sentence that is not delightful and a circus, should give some time to it instead of always doily-carrying, recipe-experimenting, child-admonishing, husband-ministering, to the complete neglect of her Imagination and creative power.

In fact that is why the lives of most women are so vaguely unsatisfactory. They are always doing secondary and menial things (that do not require all their gifts and ability) for others and never anything for themselves. Society and husbands praise them for it (when they get too miserable or have nervous breakdowns), though always a little perplexedly and halfheartedly and just to be consoling. The poor wives are reminded that that is just why women are so splendid -- because they are so unselfish and self-sacrificing and that is the wonderful thing about them!

But inwardly women know that something is wrong. They sense that if you are always doing something for others, like a servant or a nurse, and never anything for yourself, you cannot do others any good. You make them physically more comfortable, but you cannot affect them spiritually in any way at all. For to teach, encourage, cheer up, console, amuse, stimulate, or advise a husband or children or friends, you have to be something yourself. And how to be something yourself? Only by working hard and with gumption at something you love and care for and think is important.
(_If You Want To Write_, Pg. 89-90)

So, in my well earned freedom, I have never forgotten that image of myself. I keep good house, I keep things afloat, and when people come to visit I do my best to present the best of myself and my home. But in my everyday existence, I have learned to shove that shit to the side so I can light a candle or two, I can burn some incense if I feel like it, I can turn on some inspiring music and shut out the world and write (even if all I come up with is a post to my blog). Why? Because it is the one thing that makes me feel alive. And I am convinced, if you were to talk with the people whose lives I have touched, this is the same reason why it would be said I am strong, confident, and actively help others get through some of the more difficult times of their lives -- because I work with gumption at something I love and care for and think is important, and it isn't the stupid dishes, or the laundry, or even the damn toilet.

The idea of royalty is always nice, but... let's be realistic. I'm a single mother living in a hovel with Windmill Dick below me. Last week I fixed my backed-up sink with a wire hanger, the week before that I fixed my backed-up shower drain with Liquid Plumber, and tonight, after I finish here, I will be mopping backed-up toilet mess and feel less than beautiful as I grab the plunger and give the toilet a run for its money. I am, as my colleagues at the mortgage company said, down here in the mud with everyone else, but the only reason most of you can't see what I'm looking at is probably because I'm one of the few that actually take the time to give my chores the bird and actually "look."

No comments:

Post a Comment