Lazy Sunday reflections on having it all

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Lazy Sunday morning.

My two littlest are playing an elaborate imaginary game together. (During yesterday’s game we overheard CJ saying, in a very harrassed-sounding tone: “I have to do the laundry and make the supper and clean the house and I just can’t do it all by myself! You are going to have to help!” “Is he being the mother?” I wondered, but we couldn’t tell, and didn’t want to disturb the game to ask.)

My bigger daughter has given up trying to join in on the game and is practicing the piano instead.

The eldest kid is at his second swimming birthday party of the weekend.

And Kevin is at a soccer game. I’ve got one tonight too. We admitted to each other that we didn’t really feel like playing. I said, “I just don’t want to get injured,” and he laughed, because that was exactly what he’d been thinking. Honestly, after every game I limp home with some injury or another, which heals itself in time for the next game; so does he. I’m pretty sure this a factor of age. AppleApple pooh-poohed my complaints of injury, and said it was just to be expected — something always hurts after a soccer game! But, then, she’s 9, and heals quickly. I’m a good deal older, and appear not to have the same bounce-back abilities.

This was a lazy week, exercise-wise, in part due to a soccer injury. I did something to my hamstring, and couldn’t lift my leg for two days. Awkward for stairs, unhelpful for long distance training. Skipped my Monday morning swim in part because of the injury, but also because I had a deadline and I was worried about being too tired (I’m quite sure I could not exercise as voraciously were I working full-time; positive, in fact). Skipped my Tuesday evening run due to injury, plus insane heat. Ran Wednesday morning as usual, felt twitchy for first kilometre, then fine. Dragged self to spin/kettlebell class, but barely, Thursday morning. Skipped Thursday evening run due to thunder storm. Skipped getting up early on Friday due to meeting friend for breakfast. Finally, yesterday, forced self out for a long run after spending the day cleaning house.

And here is what I can report. I didn’t really feel like a) cleaning the house or b) going for a long run, but I sure felt a hell of a lot better after accomplishing b) than a).

I spent six hours cleaning the house. I do not exaggerate. It was filthy, disorganized, and disastrous. At the end of those six hours, I felt discouraged, grumpy, and accusatory. Cleaning is so pointless. Within minutes of it being scrubbed, someone walked on my kitchen floor! Can you imagine! With feet that had ever so recently been outside! And with predictable results! Also, every cleaned thing had the effect of showing up every thing that still needed cleaning and therefore looked infinitely dirtier as a result of being in proximity to the cleaned thing.

So I went for a run. I made it 15km. It wasn’t easy; in fact, it was a lot harder than the cleaning had been, in many ways. It took at least as much mental fortitude to continue. I wasn’t sure I could keep up the pace I was demanding of myself. But at the end, after I’d finished what I’d set out to accomplish, by golly didn’t I feel amazing. Elated. Content. Cheerily conversational.

Which is why our house is likely to be, for the most part, not that clean. And why I am likely to be, injuries notwithstanding, reasonably fit.

Whenever I get around to cleaning, I think about my Grandma King, whom my mother remembers rising at 5am in order to scrub her kitchen floor (she also worked a full-time job and looked after five children.) Different times, I guess. When a woman was judged on the cleanliness of her kitchen floor. But we’re still judged, aren’t we? Or maybe it’s that we judge ourselves, and harshly, comparing ourselves to models of perfection, to super-women, and inevitably falling short, as Anne-Marie Slaughter points out in her excellent and nerve-striking article in The Atlantic.

I heard myself on the radio yesterday, briefly, talking about The Juliet Stories. I called AppleApple down to listen (she was the only one nearby). I was mashing garlic to make a ranch dressing and listening to myself talk on the radio. The voice on the radio didn’t sound a thing like the voice in my head; in fact, the radio voice sounded much calmer, approachable, resonant, friendly. “Did that really sound like me?” I asked AppleApple afterwards, who looked perplexed. “Of course,” she said. Here’s the thing: I liked the sounds of that woman on the radio. But she didn’t remind me of myself, except only fractionally. Myself was the woman mashing garlic, wearing running gear, feeling irritable, noticing the dirty windows, trying to work up the gumption to get out for a run.

I was experiencing myself as a projection. And in a sense, that’s what this blog is too. A projection. Incomplete. The person I show myself to be rather than the messy much more complex and in all likelihood somewhat disappointingly contradictory person that I really am. I think we women like to compare ourselves to projections. It’s one of the reasons women always want to know, “How do you do it?” We’re imagining that it can be done. We’re looking for the secret formula. We’d apply it, if only it existed. I’m certain it’s not only women who do this, but maybe men do it differently. Maybe men don’t admit as readily to being imperfect or wrong; or maybe they don’t care; maybe they’re better at managing guilt.

These are horrible generalizations. Please, disagree. Tell me what you think.

My lazy Sunday children have now moved into my office; therefore, it’s time for me to move out. It’s lunchtime.

Notes from a scattered mind
The week in suppers: what's easiest?

8 Comments

  1. loved this piece, carrie. i read that article in the atlantic and i thought, ‘hallelujah, finally someone is talking about this.’ your bit about the proximity to the cleaned things is the best.

    Reply
  2. Yes, hallelujah, indeed! I really appreciated how she took on those myths we’ve become comfortable with, or accepting of, even though they really don’t explain the gaps between where we’d imagined we’d be, as feminists, at this point in history, and where we actually are. That we must have married the wrong person, or that we don’t have the same drive to succeed that men do, or we can have it all just not all at once … on and on, myths that make it seem like it’s our fault, if only we could just line up our ducks in the right order, or arrange our lives better, then it would make sense. It was such a detailed and thorough discussion, so in-depth. I must read it again.

    Reply
  3. When I was a child in the early 1960s, I remember two things about women and housework which struck me then as strange — and which (stranger still) I think about every time I do these particular chores. Highest praise of a woman in our neighbourhood: “You could eat off her floors.” And on Monday mornings, women would comment on who got the laundry out on the line first. I remember hearing my mum in our basement, labouring away at the wringer washer — she didn’t get an automatic one until 1965 — and how later her (our) laundry would be hung outside in such tidy arrangements: tea-towels together, pillow cases all together, my father’s boxer shorts (a week’s worth) hanging side by side. I do hang our laundry out but take each item from the basket as it comes — pillow case followed by t-shirt…And every time I do this, I think how my mother would click her tongue in disapproval.
    Thanks for such a thoughtful post…

    Reply
  4. Thank you for sharing your reminiscences, Theresa. Isn’t it fascinating that we’re both reminded of particular stories from our past when we’re doing repetitive chores? I wonder whether others do the same thing.

    I hunt around my laundry basket in order to hang socks together, and tea towels, and napkins; don’t know why. But I guess your mother would approve!

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  5. It gives me great satisfaction to hang like things together on the line. But my kitchen floor? Filthy.

    Must read the Atlantic article.

    Reply
  6. Carrie, you’ve read my mind once again. I’ve being spending time and talking out how I want the summer to go. While the idea of splitting up days between ‘time with mommy’ and ‘time for mommy’s work’ seems great, I’m left worrying how guilty I’ll feel when I hear moans of ‘I’m bored’ and then frustrated that things, chores, writing aren’t being done. Looking for a secret formula indeed!

    And the story about the laundry made me laugh because as I was just getting going this Saturday morning,I cringed and felt guilty again when I heard my neighbour already pulling in her line! We really need to give ourselves a break sometimes.

    Thanks for good thoughts Carrie and tomorrow I’ll spend time reading that article in the Atlantic.

    Reply
  7. Read it, and then tell me what you think, Heidi!

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  8. Fascinating. I don’t have any deep thoughts to contribute – I will read the article then too – but I wanted to say that I rarely hang like things together on the line and I like cleaning. It’s concrete and I don’t mind the cyclical part. I do my little rut-routine every week and then sometimes I look up and notice how dirty everything else is and then yes, I get good and furious.

    I think yes, women do compare themselves to projections. It’s one of my hesitations about blogging because I don’t want to perpetuate the myths. You put it so well.

    Reply

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