I have decided that 2017 will be the year I stop doing housework.
I’m done with it. Doing housework sits tyrannically over my schedule demanding attention. Nonstop attention. It was bad enough when I was working. If you are gone from your home for 10 hours a day, five days a week, you know that housework will factor in to how you organize your week nights and weekends. But at the same time part of your brain will put on the brakes and say, “Whoa!” when it gets too demanding. You have a limited amount of free time in your life and you know that you won’t stay sane long if you let housework dominate your time at home.
But I found something curious happened when I retired. Even though I consciously tried to attain balance in my life, I felt that housework was always waiting for me at the start of every week, or sometimes every day. It was a demanding monster breathing down my neck. Always present, seldom satisfied. I have tried any number of strategies, even as recently as this morning, when full of New Year optimism I started jotting notes projects I want to work on in January, I felt housework hovering over my shoulder, like an ethereal character out of Ghost Busters about spew a green mucous of tasks all over my shiny new 2017 calendar. I knew right then it was time to give housework the boot. Not through means of an exorcism, but with my weapon of choice, vocabulary.
You see the words we use to express ourselves play a powerful role in how we think about ourselves and our lives. We attach certain emotions and baggage to words. Certain words dredge up guilt and anxiety other words relax or excite us with anticipation. We all know how certain words can shape how we feel, think, and respond throughout our day.
Now I am not simply replacing one offensive term (housework) with a euphenism, That wouldn’t accomplish anything. I am in truth, deleting housework from my life through a combination approach. First I will no longer plan on doing housework. There are only two people in my home and we are basically pretty neat by nature, we keep up with most messes at the time they occur. Other tasks, the kind that need to be done routinely, we will do as we see that they need doing. So yes, there will still be days when I may jot on my list for the day, ‘clean bathroom’ but it will not be something that slavishly feel compelled to do on a 7 day schedule. If I get in a rhythm of taking care of it on Friday afternoon, fine. If it goes 2 weeks and we aren’t bothered by it, that’s ok too. Sure there will be days when we are expecting company. Here I am going for the euphemism, switching my language from ‘housework’ to ‘preparation.’ But that’s fine because it puts the focus on anticipating entertaining and the fun involved and not another chunk of my week being eaten up by the “housework” monster. This maybe isn’t a problem for other people, but I will be glad to look at my calendar and not see ‘housework’ ever mentioned in 2017. I’ll keep you posted. Care to join me? Just say ‘no’ to housework… but go ahead and tidy up or prep for company as you see fit. Just don’t stress about it, life is short.
So I’m going to pretend for a minute. I’m going to pretend that my writing life is not stuck in its own personal version of Ground Hog Day where I’m locked in an eternal loop of being at “Square 1” with my writing, followed by making some attempt to work at it then, either due to busyness or lack of commitment, falling off the grid. Repeat. Rather than accepting that this is true let’s assume it isn’t. There might be another way to approach this sense dejå vu.
The crux of the problem may be that I claim failure. First I view these chunks of time when I leave my writing alone as quitting, which isn’t necessarily the case. Each pause in my writing is unique. Life circumstances and assorted tasks put obstacles in my path and create a pause in my writing. As a result I feel like a failure as a writer– a quitter, even if I didn’t intentionally quit.
One of the most annoying consequences of these pauses is the awkwardness of returning to writing. Now in reality I pretty much never stop journaling. Yet, for whatever cock-eyed reason, it doesn’t qualify in my mind as writing. Maybe because my journaling is short on direction and form or because it reads too much like stream of conscious ramblings (even more so than what’s in my blog) I don’t feel like it counts as writing. At this point I begin to see my writing identity in past tense, “I used to write.” Eventually when I attempt to re-engage I hit a wall. When I hit this wall I feel like I always do when I resume writing after a break: scared and empty. I know I want to write but I don’t have the faintest clue what. I sigh, “I’m back at Square 1.” That dreaded Square 1; no inspiration, no projects or recent drafts, nada. It’s like looking into a bottomless empty well. Why lower the bucket when you can’t see any water?
But I’m forgetting something. I’m forgetting that even when I am writing regularly I often gaze down at a seemingly empty well. Most writers do. It’s normal. The only difference is that if you have been away from writing for a while you may have forgotten just what normal feels like. You forget the role of discipline, better known as the ‘just show up’ rule. Putting that rule into action, no matter how stiff and belabored the first drafts I crank out are, will put me back on track. No, it isn’t Ground Hog’s Day, it is just a day. Just another day in a writer’s journey. Writing may be a profession, vocation, hobby, or craft, by turn or all at once. Regardless what you call it, it is always a journey. What keeps it from becoming Ground Hog’s Day is simply this: each sentence I write adds more distance to my writing journey. It carries me further on my way. As the pen or computer keys spill forth with thoughts and ideas the writing grows. It helps me to realize that there is no such thing a personal Ground Hog’s Day for writers. It helps me to know that even if I have had a long pause in my writing life and I lack inspiration or vision for going forward, it’s much like any other path. I just need to put one foot in front of the other and continue on the journey. I just need to show up. I just need to write.