Yes, you read that right.
Laundry is saving my life right now.
I know. I can't believe it either. I promise this isn't written just for click bait.
Here is my truth.
Since at least May, so for about 3 months, I have been living in varied states of unsettled nomadic life. The precarious nature of stacked boxes. The welcoming yet unfamiliar homes of family and friends. Then again the stacked boxes.
Every one will tell you this unsettled life is expected when you move. You make the lists and you power through. You remind yourself to be grateful and that it won't last forever. You simplify your physical objects as well as your expectations in order to maintain a state of survival.
My children missed their favorite toys that were stashed away in stored boxes. Their dad missed his family while temporarily separated across state lines. We all missed our dog lovingly cared for by the grand-dog-parents until we are more settled.
And what did I miss? Well, laundry apparently.
Actually, hanging the laundry out to dry, to be more specific.
I didn't notice it right away. I still did laundry in those three months. Obviously clothes still got dirty. It wasn't until just this week when I caught myself smiling at an unexpected time that I realized just how much I missed the mundane routines of my day.
It was a cool morning and the sun was creeping its way across our back yard. The kids were running exploring all the new hiding spots for a game of hide and seek. They were in that pleasant space of the beginning of the day when they still enjoyed each other's company so voices were light and playful. In front of me I had a freshly laundered basket of tiny clothes and diapers. My kids closet is way happier than mine. While my laundry mostly consists of black t-shirts and sweat stained running clothes, theirs is full of rainbows and puppy dogs, literally. Even the diapers are adorable.
The practice of hanging laundry is methodical and mundane. Grab item from basket and shake out wrinkles. Pick up two clothespins and pin each corner. Repeat. Grouping items by category is not a necessary step but does feel so satisfying. On and on I went down the line. The smell of the clothes, the colors weaving down the line, the warmth of the sun, the sound of giggles. I was working on autopilot, until I stopped for a second and noticed I was smiling.
I was happy. And I was doing laundry.
This wasn't the first time I smiled at laundry.
I was about 5 weeks into new motherhood. There was a tiny new person relaxing with a full tummy on the floor next to me. I was sorting through all the tiny socks and soft onesies and spit up stained cloths and colorful diapers. Each item went into its own neat pile. Then the diapers were stuffed with inserts and folded in such a way. I would fit them each into their little bin in the same rainbow order each and every time. It was a process. It was a routine. It was something I could do.
It was nothing like the feeling of helplessness and anxiety and uncertainty that followed many of the new mothering thoughts I was having in those new weeks as a parent of a newborn. Nursing was tricky, sleeping habits were scary, and knowing how I felt about this new job was really really confusing.
But laundry I could do.
Once a former laundry hater, buyer of multiple pairs of underwear so as to prolong the task as many weeks as possible, I now found myself smiling at the simple comforts of the routine before me.
Laundry saved my life then.
And it is saving me now.
Here I was in the middle of a new kind of life change, my creature comforts scattered amongst boxes, my familiar spaces out of the picture, my friends that I could have before so easily bumped into suddenly miles away. I was in a very natural and expected, considering the circumstances, state of anxious distress.
Yet hanging the laundry up on the line, feeling the fresh air, hearing my children's voices happy and alive, looking around and realizing this yard and this clothes line and this little house is all mine, suddenly I felt ok.
No, more than ok, I felt happy.
Obviously the "laundry saving my life" is hyperbole. There is so much more that is helping pull myself out of the funk of a move into a more stable feeling of home. These are thoughts reserved for another day.
But I felt it was so important to realize how necessary routine tasks are to feeling alive. Cooking a meal, washing the dishes, going for a run, texting with a friend, snuggling in bed, drinking a glass of wine together. These are simple daily tasks that can be taken for granted. But they are the very thing that ground us again.
Hanging the laundry out on the clothesline is not the answer to saving your life. It may be, and if you are intrigued, I say give it a try. The sensory experience was so rewarding. But it is also something that felt personal to me, something I had always looked forward to doing when I had a backyard of my own.
Maybe your thing is chopping onions and tomatoes and making spaghetti sauce. Maybe its alphabetizing your spice drawer. Maybe its waking up early and going for a run. Maybe its reading a book in the evening instead of watching the latest reality show. Maybe its watching the latest reality and drinking a glass of wine.
It's not the task that matters. I think the important thing is finding that one small task that is simple and routine but forces you for only a moment to feel grateful.
When you find you are doing that one simple task and you catch yourself smiling, that is your thing. That is what is saving your life. Do that. More often. Or at the very least, appreciate it when you are.
And just for fun, let's look at this precious picture of a tinier little boy with those sweet baby rolls and finger grabbing feet and innocent grins amongst a field of laundry and cry a few tears that the years go by much too quickly, shall we?
Also, tell me, please, what is saving you right now? I know we could all use inspiration to save ourselves every now and again.