Art before Housework

 “Housework is work directly opposed to the possibility of human-actualization”…Ann Oakley

Last week at basketball practice, during the last five minutes of a scrimmage game, Casey landed on his coach’s foot and sprained his ankle.  Watching the whole thing happen, I could feel his pain as he limped around the court trying to shake it off but there was just no shaking it.  His ankle swelled up to the size of a baseball.  I took him to urgent care that night.  After three hours and a few X-Rays, the doctor said it’s a bad sprain.  “Keep it wrapped, iced and elevated.  And, stay off of it for two weeks,” he added.

Two weeks!!??  Casey’s friend said “Lucky!”  And Casey thought, “Well, it’s a good excuse to just hang around.”  But, I had a very different opinion.

Don’t get me wrong, I felt bad for Casey.  He just started a club basketball team and he had a big “Mother Function” gig coming up.  Poor guy sprained his kick drum foot.  No, I had a different opinion because I had already been struggling with feeling like my kid’s slave since summer began; now I have to be Casey’s nurse maid.

Casey rock'n out in our garage with sprained ankle at the Mother Function and Bunny House Party this Saturday!

Typically, I don’t mind taking care of my family.  Driving Casey to band practice, taking Maggie to poetry or making them chicken noodle soup when they are sick is part of being a mother and I love being a mom.  When they are working hard, doing well in school and following their passions, I am more than happy to help out.   But, when I ask them to clean the kitty litter or take out the trash while they are playing video games in the middle of summer, and I get answers like “in a second” or ”I will in a minute,” well that’s another story.  And to add insult to injury, when a second becomes an hour, an hour becomes an afternoon, an afternoon an entire week, then I get angry.

So, why would the universe kick me when I was already down?  Why would Casey get injured now?  Well, I have learned that’s simply the way things work.  I have also learned that it is not always a bad thing.  There is a lesson in every kick.

What lesson have I found in Casey’s sprained ankle you ask?  Patience for one.  I know this too shall pass.  Second, I need to lower my expectations a bit.  Trying to keep a house clean with all three kids home during summer vacation is futile.  But, I was really hoping to find a more profound lesson in all of this, which I finally did.

I got into a discussion about this the other day with my girlfriend.  She said that no other culture in the world does as much for our children as we do for ours.  So, I started researching it.  She was right. It’s true, especially with today’s helicopter generation.  Some believe this causes entitlement and laziness amongst our kids today.  There is probably some truth to this too.  But, even though I do a lot for my kids, they are not lazy.  It may “seem” like it at times, but when they are truly interested in something they go full throttle.  The “seems like lazy” times are usually when I am interrupting them and asking them to do something no one wants to do, not even me, like cleaning the kitty litter.  That’s when I get the “in a sec.”   Do I really think they are going to grow up to become do-nothing, lazy ass video gaming bums still living in my house at age 30 because they won’t clean the kitty litter?  Yes, sometimes I do, but then I am reminded of my own teenage days.

You should have seen my dorm room when I was in college. There was green stuff growing in beer bottles, a ten speed parked in the center of the room and my bed was hiding somewhere under all my dirty clothes (and I had the upper bunk).  I was also a world class procrastinator.  I skipped classes and put off papers until the night before.  My younger years were not much better.  My sweet hard working mother would clean and fold my laundry and leave the clean stack on the steps for me to take to my room and put away.  I have to humbly admit, for the sake of getting my point across, that stack of clean clothes would sit there for days. I would even walk by it, over and over again, on my way up to my room, on my way down from my room, without ever picking it up.  And, when I needed something from the stack, for example, a pair of panties after getting out of the shower, I would sneak down the steps dripping wet in my towel, grab a pair of panties from the folded pile, leave the rest behind, and go back upstairs to get dressed.   My mom would beg, plead and cry, “Please take your clothes to your room!”  And, I would respond, “In a sec.”  I’m so sorry mom.  And my point, I did not become a lazy do nothing bum.  No way.  Not even close.  And, neither will my kids.  Especially with a role model like me.

But am I really being a good role model?

I ask this because I know the true reason why I feel like a slave.

I feel like a slave because I am a slave, but not to my kids.  No, I am a slave to myself.  I am a slave to my should’s and ought to’s.  I am a slave to a story that has been told to me over and over throughout my life, weaved like weeds through the fragile tendrils of my spirit.   And, I am using this story to keep me from doing my real work.  It’s an excuse, a cover, blaming something else for my shortfalls.  In other words, it is a subconscious reason to not finish my book.  Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes in Women who Run with the Wolves, “I’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write…and you know it’s a funny thing about house cleaning…it never comes to an end.  Perfect way to stop a woman.”

Take laundry, for example.   Why would I choose to do laundry over writing?  Besides the fact that we need clean clothes, laundry is something the kids can do.  But, instead of teaching a man to fish, I simply do it myself.  Why?  It’s easy.  It’s easier than teaching them and it is much easier than writing.  Separate the colors from the whites, add a cup of detergent, set the water temperature and press the “Start” button.  Viola, 45 minutes later, clean clothes!  It is simple and straightforward.  It does not take a lot of thought and you know the outcome.  This is pretty much true of most housework wouldn’t you say?  But when something is more complicated, has many steps, takes more thought and you have no idea how it’s all going to turn out, well that’s a completely different story.

Writing is not easy.  It takes me hours, sometimes days to write just one blog.  There are a lot of steps involved.  First, one needs to be inspired and you never know where you will find inspiration.  Second, it takes concentration, a lot of concentration.  Not easy in a world full of distractions.  Then there is planning, organization, and implementation.  And, once implemented, it is important to keep your momentum, sustain its life and finish what you have started.  Estes says, “Women who have lost one or more of these (steps) report that they “can’t think” of anything new, useful or empathic for themselves.  They are easily “distracted” by love affairs, too much work, too much play, by tiredness, or by fear of failure.”

We all have that fear of failure, whether you admit it to yourself or not.  Am I wasting my time?  Do people really want to hear what I have to say?  Are my ideas important, worthwhile, helpful?  Can I actually write?  When this Nervous Nellie creeps into our head, we pollute our creative spirit and turn to distractions.

We all have a creative spirit, a force that makes us feel alive.  Whether it is writing a poem, singing a song, closing a deal, running five miles, planting a garden, solving a case, building a future, mending a dress, painting a house, or raising a child, we are all part of the creative life. Estes says, “A woman’s creative ability is her most valuable asset, for its gives outwardly and feeds her inwardly at every level:  psychic, spiritual, mental, emotive and economic.”  I feel it.  I feel this creative spirit in the many things that I do like singing, hiking, homeschooling and writing.  But when this creative energy becomes dim and it is no longer lighting my way, I get stuck in the ordinary, the mundane.  I become overly complacent, stick to the familiar and lose my sense of adventure.  Laundry takes the place of writing, shopping takes the place of running, Facebook takes the place of reading, eating takes the place of…I’m sure you get my drift.

Me, not cleaning, with my girls at Still Water!

So when our creativity becomes polluted, it is time to clear the waters and weed our gardens.  Casey’s sprained ankle gave me just the motivation I needed to do this.  I told my kids, starting today, finishing my book is priority.  You are going to have to step up to the plate.  Do your own dishes.  Clean the kitty litter.  Feed the Koi.  And, pick up after yourselves.  I know the house is going to get messy.  Frozen Trader Joes burritos may become your food staple and your white T-shirts may take on a pink hue but Art before Housework dammit!

They are 100% behind me.

So all you women (and men) out there, take a stand with me and unite?  Come together creative spirits everywhere and join the cause!  Ditch the toilet brushes and vacuums! Throw away those mops and feather dusters?  Instead, pick up your pen, guitar, paint brush, running shoes, clippers, pliers, and glue guns.  Get writing.  Start singing.  Color those blank canvases.  Read a book.  Head for the hiking trails.  Join a museum.  And, remodel that kitchen you have been waiting for your husband to do all these years.  And, when you meet a woman, with glue gun in hand, tousled hair, stained clothes and a wild look in her eyes, do not judge.  She is a part of the movement.  She is the light.  She is writing a new story for the next generation.   She is creating!  She is free!



3 Responses to “Art before Housework”

  1. Jan Livingston Says:

    Hi Deanne

    Great blog! I love reading them. You write so well and the words flow so seamlessly. Glad to know I’m not alone in this cycle. Sorry we missed your party, from the Facebook photos and posts it looked so fun. It won’t be long before school starts…enjoy your summer.

  2. Clare Says:

    Thank you
    Thank you
    Thank you
    I have been mulling just these thoughts, though far less cogently, at just this time. I faced weeks of centering my life on Isabelle as she faced her surgery and recovery in a hotel and I allocated the time to getting buried in my book and projects for the book. What I hadn’t factored in was the fact that I would be up at night and spending the day helping her shower, dress, and change for each activity, as certain clothes are too uncomfortable to wear for any longer than the prescribed 25 minute walks she has to take twice a day. I still have to go to the boat and take laundry to the laundromat, get meals up to Bella in the hotel and go shopping and to appointments. The book is obviously not happening.
    I am so glad you are focusing on your book. It will be a unique voice and an enormous gift to the women and families facing the same experiences.
    Brilliant post
    beautifully expressed
    perfect decision

  3. Deanne Says:

    No, you are not alone Jan. No one is ever alone.

    And, Clare, wow, you and Isabelle have been through the wringer. Please give Isabelle lots of hugs from me and one or two for yourself as well. Clare, you are an incredible writer and you have so much to share. Your book will happen, just for some reason the universe has other plans for you at the moment. I so want to see you before heading off to NH.

    Thank you both for your inspiring words. It is people like you that keep me writing and not giving into Negative Nellie or laundry.


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