I woke at 5 am this morning to Peter’s pleas for milk and walked out all bleary eyed to trip over this in my hallway. 3 huge piles of unfolded laundry. They’ve been there for almost 3 whole days. And this isn’t because this week has been particularly busy. It seems like 80% of my life I’m stumbling through piles of clean laundry waiting to be put away.
There’s just something about the laundry. It’s always there. I’ve been obsessing lately about how nice it would be if my kids just didn’t have to wear any clothes ever. No clothes shopping, no clothes rotating and storing, no laundry.
As I nursed Peter and thought about my laundry problem this poem came into my mind. The line at the end: “always awakened to the laundry.” I’ve posted it before on the blog in connection with nursing. But today, rereading it, it has come alive in me in different ways.
Read it slowly and read it again. I think it’s worth it.
Blood and Milk
by Sharlee Mullins Glenn
I dreamed of Oxford . . .
(spires, a thousand spires, endless lectures, musty halls
a solitary self in a Bodleian expanse
A good life my dear Wormwood. An orderly life.)
then awakened to laundry
and things to be wiped
countertops, noses, bottoms)
How did this happen? And when, exactly?
Time flows, it flows, it flows
and there are choices to be made:
left or right?
paper or plastic?
blood or milk?
There's freedom in the bleeding;
bondage in the milk—do not be deceived.
Ah, but it's an empty freedom; a holy bondage,
A sweet and holy bondage.
Five times I chose the chains, those tender chains,
(though once will bind you just as well!)
and checked the crimson flow.
Suckled while dreaming of Trinity Term
but awakened, always awakened, to the laundry
and to that small and cherished captor at my breast.
Tell me it’s not just me. Do we all wake up one day to little ugly, difficult details of our lives and ask ourselves, “Is this really my life? This isn’t exactly what I had in mind.” Maybe we were dreaming of Oxford. Maybe we were just dreaming of something a little more extraordinary, a little less mundane, a little more adventurous, a little more glamorous or recognized. Maybe we were just dreaming of a different kind of motherhood: thoughtful, balanced, loving, patient, ordered, peaceful. Happy kids, a clean house, folded and put away laundry.
And then we wake up to reality. The grouchy (grouchy, grouchy) kids. Our tired (tired, tired) body. The , rubbed in spit up stains on the floor. The dried mac and cheese under the high chair. The never shrinking (no matter how hard you tackle it) to do list. The mounds of clean laundry. The squalid reality of a real life. Wait, a real life?
The life in my dreaming wasn’t fettered with all these nasty little details…..but it also wasn’t one bit real.
Over and over again in life there comes a point where we must banish our ideals and move on to what is real.
I really struggled when I was deciding if I should marry Jeff (I know, totally absurd, right?). He was amazing. I was in love. But there was a problem. He didn’t match the image of my perfect husband, the one I had carefully crafted in my head using all those lists written during Young Women’s lessons. Sure, he had loads of assets that I’d never thought to include in those lists…..attributes and qualities that would really complete me, but for some silly reason they didn’t seem to matter, he didn’t look the same as the Mr. Perfect I’d dreamt up. And then, one blessed day it hit me. Mr. Perfect wasn’t real. He was made up in my mind. He didn’t exist. I decided that I’d rather live my life with something real and solid and amazing than hold on to this imaginary perfection in my head.
Sometimes we have to take a few moments here and then to recognize those silly ideals in our heads, to kill them, to mourn their loss for a moment and then shake our heads to see how much more beautiful reality is. Reality can be much harder to live in, there are a lot of messy details, but it’s only there that we really are living.
The tricky thing is that the beauty of reality is in the fleeting present. The moments that get stamped out and trampled over by all the details and clutter and business in life. The ones that get buried in all those piles of laundry. My goal this summer is to clear out my life, all that clutter in my brain, widen my margins and grab onto reality. I want to “cherish” my little captors while they’re still interested in me.
And maybe figure out how to simplify my laundry routine (any suggestions?)