When I moved into my new place almost a year ago, my kids were excited about a lot of things: the second floor, the swing set in the backyard, the number of dogs in the neighborhood, the kids next door and the fact that there was an ice cream shop and multiple playgrounds within walking distance. But there was one thing that they were absolutely thrilled by and fascinated with…the laundry chute.
And for good reason, despite being a fire hazard, the laundry chute is quite an amazing mechanism. No unsightly hampers or laundry baskets. You just open that tiny door, happily toss the clothes in and watch them disappear into the abyss. Down go the grimy little clothes only to reappear days later clean and folded neatly in the dresser drawers. Magic!
Only it’s not magic. It’s mom. Each weekend I religiously attack the giant pile of potty-training and playground clothes in the basement. Dutifully sorting, washing, drying, folding and putting away each item.
Except for when I don’t. When a weekend gets too busy or I am out of town. When the clothes are left there to grow, multiply, explode. We all know what happens when the laundry doesn’t get done; shit hits the fan. It starts slowly and subtly, your kids are wearing mismatched socks and you’ve resorted to using beach towels after showers. Then things get a little worse, toddler bellies are hanging out, hands are hidden by too-long sleeves and you don’t even have your favorite sweatpants to find much-needed comfort. Everything may seem normal to the untrained eye, the house looks tidy, but in the basement there is a living, breathing monster pile of dirty clothes. You avoid the basement at all costs and dread the behemoth task, because you know well and good how much time and effort it will take to tame that beast.
The laundry chute and that monster in the basement remind me very much of this feeling I get. That one that follows you. The one that starts in the pit of your stomach and then starts creeping up your chest. Filling it slowly and subtly, weighing you down one piece of dirty laundry at a time. The one that attaches itself to you and forces you to carry it around for weeks.
It starts by saying yes. Saying yes to everything and everyone. And saying no to help. Taking it all on. Taking it all in. One thing at a time. No big deal. You got this. You can handle this. Until you can’t.
You have a busy weekend and you fall behind. You lose track of how you are able to keep things in motion, to keep all of the balls in the air. You forget that you need time for YOU. Or you realize it, but you push it down, put it off. You convince yourself that it’s normal to forget to eat real meals and that your ten-minute commute to work is a significant amount of “me” time. You close the door to the basement and keep the upstairs tidy and pretend like everything is ok. Until it’s not.
You fall. You crumble. You curl up in a ball and cry and shake until your body goes limp and your throat becomes raw. You release the weight from your chest and eventually find freedom again. A clean slate.
You remind yourself of the importance of doing laundry weekly. Of not losing sight of the seemingly mundane tasks that keep the wheels from falling off. Of tackling one thing at a time. And maybe most importantly, that you are strong enough to tackle any sort of monster that comes at you.