“It is hard to get comfortable people to do anything when it might cost them their comfort.” – Tamora Pierce, Trickster’s Queen
This quote has been running through my mind a lot lately. Okay, it’s been running through my mind intermittently ever since I read Trickster’s Queen in 2012, but lately I’ve been pondering more and more how it applies to me. I’m not planning to overthrow the government and put a thirteen-year-old on the throne, after all. So why has it stuck with me so clearly?
Perhaps it’s because I’ve been questioning my own comfort, and the necessity of it, quite frequently over the past few weeks. I’ve come to the conclusion that comfort, in and of itself, is not bad. It can be pretty dang good, actually – who doesn’t love curling up after a long day, or a hard ride, and letting yourself relax at last?
It’s holding yourself back for the sake of comfort that can become problematic. Before long, you aren’t just comfortable; you’re complacent. Why push yourself harder on your run? Why speak up and ask for more stimulating tasks at work? Why travel somewhere new when it’s so easy, so comfortable, to go back to the same beach you’ve walked a thousand times? Of course, if there is a reason to stay where you are, then make note of it and move on.
I keep wondering, though, how often I’ve stopped myself short of asking that crucial question – why? – and how often I’ve traded in opportunity for familiarity. Comfort should be a refuge, not a cage.
So have the presence of mind to appreciate comfort for what it is – and the courage to leave it behind when something else is more important.
I’ve been getting frustrated with chores lately. Not “I’d rather read a book than straighten up the kitchen” – my inner thoughts have sounded more like “if I have to touch another piece of laundry or dirty dish in the next year I am going to SCREAM.”
There’s no reason for me to be so upset. Nothing has changed. We’ve had a long-time policy of doing small batches of dishes after each meal so they don’t pile up, and (after growing up without one, this still doesn’t come naturally to me) I’ve gotten much better about utilizing the dishwasher. Laundry has always been “my” chore, but since the hubby no longer works on Saturday mornings, he now helps me put the clothes away.
Apparently, none of that matters. I’ve still just been pissed.
Then I found an old notebook while going through my desk at work. Even with the majority of my personal and work life digitized, I’m still a sucker for notebooks. There’s something so inviting about them, so promising. They make me feel grand, like each page is my ticket to the perfect life, and all I have to do is pick up my pen. So with nothing better to do on my lunch break, I wrote “Spend more time living and less time existing” at the top of a page and started jotting down ideas.
The first few were obvious – we’d discussed getting a maid to come in once a month after we move to our new house, and I’ve been toying with the idea of services like PrimePantry for a while. Sure, they were all valid ideas, but none of them would change the problems that were bothering me. And then, about four lines in, it hit me. I’m not sure where the phase came from – some old Pinterest post? a joke I heard in college? my frustrated brain throwing out a solution when I actually did something other than complain? – but it popped into my head all at once.
Buy more underwear, do less laundry.
I paused. Ran the thought through my mind again. Flipped it over and examined all sides for any evidence of tampering or sorcery or other things that you consider when something is maybe just a little too good to be true. Nothing.
Buy more underwear, do less laundry.
So I wrote it down – the pen didn’t break, the notebook didn’t catch fire – took a picture, and sent it to my husband. He responded immediately: “OMG yes. And more dress shirts?”
Fair enough. I’d been meaning to get him more shirts ever since he started his new job this fall, now was as good a time as any. Feeling thoroughly out of my funk now, I ran through all the specific reasons laundry has been driving me crazy. Thanks to our record-breaking lows of the past month, I’ve been wearing my thickest sweaters on repeat, all of which require air-drying at the very least. Same with our wool socks. Unless I hire a weekly maid/housekeeper (not happening any time in the near future) or figure out a laundry service (now I have to talk to someone to get my laundry done? and deal with their schedule?), laundry will never be done for good. But I can get rid of the parts that annoy me the most.
That was when part two of my epiphany hit. Growing up, laundry was a long task. We air-dried everything on clothes lines strung up along the porch of our detached garage, so the process included hauling the loads up and down the path, wiping off the clothes lines, shifting the clothes pins so you didn’t end up with creases in your favorite shirt, and keeping an eye out for rain – and we did this every Saturday.
I’d already done away with most of the process, thanks to the in-unit washer and dryer in our apartment. Why not change the rest? Just because my parents wash their clothes weekly doesn’t mean it’s a requirement for me. Duh, honey.
I looked up the brand and type of my sole tumble-dry-low sweater and bought it in three more colors. (Bonus: it’s sale season for sweaters!) The hubby picked out some button downs that aren’t blue. He got more underwear. I ordered another bra. I even found some machine-dry camisoles, although I haven’t convinced myself it’s worth the price yet. Pulling out the drying rack isn’t that bad, after all – as long as I don’t have to find room for half my wardrobe on it.
We’ll see how much the changes help. For now, I’m feeling a lot more optimistic.
Do you have any “more living, less chores” tips? What has made the biggest difference for you?
So I managed to hurt my back. Not doing anything cool. Not even doing anything. No, I hurt my back with a combination of a spare room bed, an old work chair, and lying on the couch with bad posture for too long. Reading. Not biking or running or skiing or climbing – I hurt my back reading. I’m somewhere between disgusted and unimpressed. The hubby is 100% unimpressed, and having a great time giving me crap about it.
It’s been 5 days and the good news is I’m almost back in commission, paying more attention to my posture, and have an exercise ball for my office “chair.” The bad news? We had to cancel our weekend ski trip to Afton Alps and I’m not taking any chances biking outside, given there’s a non-zero chance I’ll hit a patch of ice and end up hurting myself even worse. So my handlebar mitts have been discarded in the corner for the moment and the hubby went off to ski on his own this weekend. Luckily we got a new bike trainer recently (Kickr Snap, more on that later), meaning I haven’t been totally regulated to the couch.
Since the trainer is in front of the TV, I’ve discovered that watching animals attempt to eat/avoid being eaten makes biking for 30 minutes feel easy-peasy by comparison. Plus, the cat is even more interested in BBC Earth than I am. He might even be disappointed next week when I head back outside.
If you haven’t noticed (and I’m sure all none of you have), I’ve been MIA for a month and a half or so. Part of this is because my alter ego writes novels and I was wrapping up one of those for publication. But partly, I’ve been considering something that I’ve wondered about off and on for years: is it better to pull back and reflect, to document and share and preserve? Or is life – and the type of experiences I write about here – better experienced all in?
In short, do I want to spend time blogging when I could be on the bike trainer or getting gear ready to go skiing or spending a bit of time snuggling with the cat on the couch? Do I want to step back and look at my life through a literary lens (or a camera lens, as the situation was when I first considered the question) when I could push farther into actually creating new experiences and stories to tell…. someday.
And oh yeah, we’re skiing now.
After about a week of thought, I realized that all of my posts here have a nice moral and I felt like they had to do so, or else why would I write them? Well, perhaps because that isn’t always fun, and it isn’t an accurate representation of my life. Perhaps I can capture the stories while on the go – and if they aren’t beautifully crafted, deep, 700 word essays, at least I can write them on my phone while sitting my a campfire or taking a break someone out in the woods/mountains/back country/middle of REI where I spend way too much money and time. Or, if nothing else, I can write something in fifteen minutes on the couch while still petting the very-cute-but-very-demanding cat.
Anyhow, that’s the idea, and I’m going to see if it works better than the previous model I was using. And to bring this up to speed since I wrote last, here’s a few of the bigger things that happened this fall:
I got LASIK! This has been a dream of mine ever since I read Halfway to the Sky (not sponsored, just a great book even if it is for 9-12 year olds). It’s about a girl who runs away to hike the Appalachian Trail, which I immediately wanted to do. I’d just gotten contacts, though, and was struggling to put them in when standing in a well-lit, perfectly clean bathroom. The idea of spending 6 months on the AT with contacts? Impossible! I suppose this means I need to start planning a backpacking trip.
The hubby completed a 150 mile gravel ultra (his first – read his guest post here). It screwed his knee up pretty badly, so between that and my instructions to keep all dust out of my newly 20/20 eyes, we cut back on the biking quite a bit.
I ran two 5k’s and had fun even though I didn’t exactly train.
We started biking again, slowly. Turns out that ski helmets are pretty awesome for biking in the cold!
We started skiing (or rather, I skied and hubby snowboarded). Then the hubby hurt himself on 2/2 snowboarding trips (collarbone and ribs, luckily nothing broken! We’re pretty sure the ribs were only bruised, not cracked…) Thanks to another lovely REI garage sale, hubby picked up a pair of ski boots at a great price, we found him some skis online, and he’s made it down the black run at the closest ski hill already. *For those of you who ski in Iowa, a black run here is about the equivalent of a steep green run on an actual mountain. Maybe a blue.
I think we may have corrupted hubby’s little brother and his girlfriend. We have skiing buddies now!
That’s all for now, folks. Hopefully I’ll have more to share soon!