Tag Archives: chores

Unexpected catharsis

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I woke up this morning with one goal in my mind: clear off and put away the items on the love seat and two small chairs in my bedroom that have been serving as “hot spots” for the last several months! It is now 12:45, I haven’t even gotten to the first item on the love seat because my morning has been filled with other more urgent matters that were not on my agenda.

First, I needed to reply to a couple of important messages. Then my husband asked if I would call the glasses place to see if his new eyewear was in (it wasn’t). We have had some guests for the last couple of weeks so I gathered and took the linens to the laundry room to get rid of that item quickly. In the meantime, I noticed that my kitchen counter was looking rather shabby so I stopped and began to clear the counter of all the dust and debris collecting there despite the fact that I have a once-a-week cleaning person. She never cleans the counter and I never have time to do it properly. I didn’t have time to do it properly today either but I just couldn’t stand to look at the dust anymore. I expected to be done in 5 minutes, it took 35 minutes because it is a very large counter with much clutter…I understand why she doesn’t do it, although truth be told, I was very resentful today that we pay her…

As I was going on about my household business today, cleaning, wiping down, discarding the odds and ends that have no rhyme or reason to end up on the kitchen counter, I thought about my childhood. I am currently reading J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. I am not sure how I happened upon it but reading it has allowed me a glimpse into a world that I have seen portrayed in movies or sitcoms but have never really experienced to that personal a degree. My mother was not a good housekeeper. She made no apologies for that. My parents moved to “America” in 1963 with four kids and a brother in tow in order for us to have a “better life”. I was only 8, I never really knew at that point that my life was anything but idyllic. Moving to the States was a shock that I don’t think I have ever recovered from.

Although we were not dirt poor, my parents did have to resort to boarding people, working extra hours and using their credit cards creatively in order to attain a middle class existence. We did not have a maid; we did have chores that were expected to be done in exchange for an allowance. I don’t think I appreciated that at the time, it just suddenly dawned on me this morning that my mother’s expectation that household chores would be done was not unrealistic. I remember always doing my chores and having to often do my sister’s chores to avoid the screaming and fighting that would ensue and make me feel so anxious. I remember my mother’s words (“What do I have here? Four mortgages?”) when referring to us after she found that we had not done what was expected. I hated that feeling of being a burden, she made no effort to hide it. But what I realized today is that she was not wrong in her expectations, I have been wrong in my interpretation. I have been so wrapped up in being resentful that I did not give sufficient credit to her for being willing to pay for the chores to be done. She was not exploiting us, she was simply exchanging money for work, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

My husband and I are retired now. Well, he is semi-retired but his work does not take him from home, he can do it from the comfort of our beautiful estate. He has always worked with his mind, physical labor has never been his thing. I do not fault him for that, he is generous and has never balked at paying for household or gardening help. He would rather pay for anything than have to do it himself. I knew this when I married him, I worked with him, I was familiar with the fact that here was a guy who could literally do nothing all day long but read and watch television. He is a very educated and intelligent person, he just doesn’t have ambitions or hobbies that venture into the realm of building furniture for example or learning to fix simple electrical or plumbing issues.

As I was gathering the clothes for the laundry and wiping down counters, I could see him in bed reading. I could feel myself getting annoyed because I felt oppressed while he is wonderfully relaxed. Then I dug deep into the real reasons for my resentment and can honestly say that my feelings have zero to do with him and 100 percent to do with me. I too could lie down and read my books, it is my choice not to do so.  In fact, aren’t I this minute spending time writing? Tomorrow is the cleaning lady’s day. She is not great at her job but she needs the money and frankly, does a better job than I do on the floors. I could speak to her about the counters and debris but I prefer to keep the status quo.

A lot of things are going on with me right now, I think it is best to accept that I have had a tremendous catharsis today regarding my mother and that is a really good thing. I am going now to clear off at least the love seat!

 

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This is my ranting blog!

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…and because it is, you can stop now if you just don’t feel like you
want to hear it!

When I was around 14 or 15, my mother decided to go back to school
and get her Master’s degree in Social Work, Family Therapy. Good for
her, I thought. How wonderful that she has that much ambition. I was
only in the 10th grade probably but I already knew I didn’t even want
to go past high school education. Back then, it was quite possible to
get a good paying job with a high school diploma and I couldn’t wait
to begin my “real” life.

Well, my mother was working and going to school at night which meant
that household duties fell to us children. My older sister’s constant refrain
of “I didn’t ask to be born” which meant “so I don’t have to do anything”
also meant that most of the household stuff fell to me because I was a
pacifist and the noise from constant yelling between her and my mother
just didn’t suit my style. So plug away I did and most of the time, I was
okay with it because frankly, I like order and I like quiet.

When it came time for my mother to begin preparing her thesis, she relied
on me to read and record the passages of the books she was assigned so she
could listen to them while doing something else…very efficient. It never
occurred to me until recently that this was its own form of child abuse. After
all, I had to use my “free” time to do her work. One of the books she/we read
was by Virginia Satir, a pioneer in the field of NeuroLinguistic Programming.
I so enjoyed reading the book, not to mention what I learned psychologically
about words, their uses, their meanings, etc., that I forgot to be mad at Mom
for cutting into my time. As a birthday present to me for my 18th, my mother
bought me my own copy of the book which I noticed again today. The inscription
always makes me sad and a bit guilty because I was not living at home at the
time of my 18th birthday, having opted to skip the chaos and turmoil at home
and travel to places abroad. An emergency at home brought me back almost a
year later, and to be honest I don’t remember when my mother presented the
book to me finally but I have always loved it and read it often to understand me
and the rest of the world.

But I began this blog saying it was a rant and I’ve gotten off course. My rant is
simply that I still feel put upon. My family, which now includes my siblings, my
nieces and nephew and my own children, still put unreasonable emotional demands
on me at times that I am powerless to ignore…I love them all dearly but sometimes
I wish I could fugue…

Thanks for listening…

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Puzzling musings

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Whenever I have some “down” time I feel guilty, like I have to fill the minutes with
some important chore. Even as a child, I felt compelled to always be doing something
productive. I remember once (I was a pre-teen) my parents had a party and they had
about 40 guests. When the party was over, it was late. My mother took one look at
the kitchen, with its dozens of dirty plates and glasses, sighed and said she would
clean up in the morning. I don’t know if I imagined it or if it was true, but when the
morning arrived, Mom was pretty upset by being confronted by the mess! We did
not have a dishwasher yet and although she never said it, I suppose part of the reason
she was cranky was that she might have been suffering from a hangover!

My parents enjoyed entertaining so that parties and social gatherings at our house
were common. Mom’s reaction after guests left was always the same: she would take
care of the mess in the morning. I don’t remember when I actually began to clean up
the kitchen so that when she woke up the next morning, all was in order. I do remember,
however, that my life was always that much more pleasant as I didn’t have to deal with
her “whine” which was worse than any yelling she did. I’m not sure where my Dad was
in all this, though I do recall that before the parties, he would be the one vacuuming the
rugs!

In those early teenage years, I established a personal habit that requires my kitchen
sink to be clear of dishes and the kitchen itself to be clean. Since my parents both worked
outside the home, we had our “chores” to make sure the home was functional. I don’t know
when it became my self-appointed responsibility but as long as I lived at home, no one had
to deal with dirty dishes or greasy counters or tables full of crumbs. I remember my older
sister referring to me as “Cinderella” more than once in her inimitable sarcastic manner.
My parents purchased our first dishwasher during the days that I found myself recovering
in the hospital after an operation. I have never believed in coincidences!

As I write these musings down, I am filled with frustration and confusion. When and why
did I decide to take over management of the house? Was the fact that I was such an affable
take-charge individual the reason for my elder sibling’s jealousy? I learned early on that my
sister was not on my side, so I did everything I could to keep her from physically harming
me. I would do my chores and hers. I would give up my “leisure” time in order to get her
out of the many scrapes she got into. I would save my allowance to have it taken away from
me by her because she spent hers quickly. I would not refuse my mother’s requests that my
older sister go with me places because my mom convinced me that I was the lucky one who
made friends easily and had to be the “good” sister. It took getting to age 60 before I accepted
that my sister and I have no real bond. It was a sad realization, one that I still have trouble
coming to terms with, after all, aren’t sisters supposed to be friends and have each other’s
best interest at heart?

Going off into these stream of consciousness reveries have become very cathartic. I feel I
can only heal by writing and more importantly by writing publicly. My sister and I have been
estranged on and off several times over the years. The estrangements have always been a
source of great peace and tranquility for me and have lasted as long as she has had no need of
something only I can provide. I feel in my heart that there won’t be a next time, that she can
now enlist the help of one of our two younger siblings and I don’t know why I didn’t think of
that years ago. It feels good to get it out and down on paper…and out into the ether to see
where it lands. I am sure I am not the only one in the universe who has a less-than-stellar
relationship with an older sister, but I can bet it didn’t take others as long as it did me to
finally give up and move on!

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Happy Noise Pollution!

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My husband is away this week so I’ve been taking care of the many things he
is usually in charge of. That includes getting up around 5:30 a.m. to make the
coffee and let our dog out for a run and then feeding her. This morning, I am
keenly aware of the many birds we have on our property that are usually gone
by the time I make my appearance a couple of hours later.

I am amazed by how many different songs there are and just how loud they can
be. Their joy is immense and I suppose all the reforestation we have done over
the years has made our grounds a safe haven for all of them. It is incredible to
observe them flying joyfully from tree branch to tree branch, partaking and
sharing in Nature’s Bounty without ever getting into each other’s way. I feel so
grateful for this Tropical Paradise that never lets me down. I breathe in the
goodness that permits me to forget the chaos of the world as I welcome the
strong sensations of peace deep in my soul.

This week has been an unexpected opportunity to connect with the very fibers
of my being, to delve deep within myself in silence and calm to discern and try
to prioritize the things in  my life that bring me contentment and strength. I
bless everyone and everything in this moment as I begin the daily routine that
I have come to appreciate.

Have a good day.

 

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A hurried childhood

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I had a friend visit me on Saturday afternoon. We enjoyed coffee and pastries
and talked about our respective childhoods. I am not sure why we ventured on
this particular topic but after our visit was over, I noticed that I was feeling a bit
guilty about some of the things I shared. In retrospect, however, it has become
apparent that there are things about my childhood that I hold on to and that are
actually therapeutic to get out of me into the open.

One of my observations to myself this morning is that I really was robbed of my
childhood. At a time when I should have been bored by the long summer days of
gazing into the atmosphere with nothing to do like my classmates, I was instead
doing errands or chores because there was no one at home to take care of those
things, both parents working, older sibling out having fun, younger siblings needing
supervision and snacks. I was too busy to resent it, really, though it did take a toll
on me and my idea of what childhood should be. As a consequence, I grew up to be
a very responsible and serious woman, although I do know how to enjoy myself also.

I am one of those people who can be counted on. I know this is a blessing to many
but it is often a burden to me. Right now, my husband is traveling. Due to that, all
the responsibility for managing our complex household and pet falls on me. I don’t mind
it; it actually makes me very organized because I want to do all the “extra” duties I have
and still have time left over to indulge in the things I want to do like writing my blogs.

Because I grew up mostly without television, I didn’t know who Mister Rogers was
until after I saw the parody Eddie Murphy did on SNL. I suppose I looked him (Fred)
up or was somehow exposed to him by some young mother colleague of mine. I became
an instant fan of Fred Rogers and I credit him with my penchant for having a proper
house wardrobe that I will only change into when I am ready to relax. I actually dress
to shoes every single day even if there is nothing on my agenda but doing laundry. Hey,
you never know when someone is going to come to the door and ask you to go somewhere
exciting but it has to be quickly. I love the transition magic that Fred Rogers employed
when he changed to sneakers and donned his cardigan. When my children were young,
they began to understand and know by what I was wearing (a caftan or duster) whether
I was really home and relaxing. Although my style of housedress has changed over the
years, the comfort they take when they see me via skype or facetime wearing home
clothes is palpable. Who knew Eddie Murphy would have this kind of influence in my
life!