Yesterday was rainy, gray, cloudy, and just generally yucky. Wait, so is today. We keep getting news of "near 90's" weather later this week, but I'm not holding my breath!
So, after a morning appointment, and with Hayley staying home sick with a cold, I returned home to do the mundane tasks of housekeeping. Sometimes it's hard to get motivated to do anything on such a day, so at one point, I even tried to take a nap (no luck!). But I did manage to shave a slice off the laundry mountain, and in doing so, I realized that there was a sort of sweet satisfaction in just folding towels. Somehow, laundry just does that for me - even though I'm faced with an enormous task every day, the satisfaction of washing, drying and folding a load is a nice little accomplishment in an otherwise harried (or unproductive) day. So, I was thinking, is that so wrong? We grow up with these huge expectations of being "successful" but what does that mean, really? Am I successful because I'm spending the lion's share of my time raising four children to be "productive" members of society? And what is productive anyway? The bar has certainly been raised in recent years. Women my age are expected to maintain showroom homes, have exciting and fulfilling careers, raise children with impeccable manners and amazing intelligence, and maybe even take care of an ailing parent. How is anyone supposed to do all of that? I just don't believe you can do it all and do it successfully. Something has to give along the way. So, we have great kids and messy homes. Or great careers and bratty children. Or we don't visit our ailing parents as much as we'd like. Whatever the situation, it's not perfect. Because life is messy and decidedly "not perfect".
As I was folding those towels, I happened to look up on the wall where I have a small calendar pinned. The date was May 2007. One year ago! How is it possible that I have not changed that calendar in a whole year in a room where I spend a good part of every day? What else have I missed in a year that was right in front of my nose? Days meld into weeks which morph into months and before you know it, you have a calendar in your home that hasn't been changed in a year.
So, I was thinking about everything we do in a year. And how high the expectations are, especially where we live. Kids are overscheduled and frazzled. Homework runs up to three hours a night. And on top of that, kids are expected to maintain a schedule of lessons, ranging from music to sports that would make anyone's head spin! In the long run, is it really going to matter if my child played select soccer? Will that make them any more interesting around the dinner table when they're 27, enjoying a glass of wine and good conversation with friends?
I often think about this as I angle a way to "fit in" to these expectations and "norms". Am I crazy that folding a load of freshly laundered towels teeming with the scent of Tide and bleach, gives me a strange satisfaction and feeling of productiveness? Have I become a "productive" member of society, with my part-time job, my four kids, my huge mortgage and the requisite family dog? (Ok, three dogs. Overachiever!) What if what I'm doing IS enough? What if this is my contribution to society? Four kids who stay out of jail, go to college, have decent jobs and get their own huge mortgage someday? And maybe in my "empty nest" years I get a nice little job, or volunteer passion and spend the rest of my days traveling, working and kissing my grandkids? Doesn't sound too bad to me.
In the meantime, I'm going to throw away that calendar on the wall that's a year old. The year is past, and it's not coming back anyway. Nothing to do but forge forward and face another rainy day, and the hope for a sunshine reward at the end of the week!