It’s our second summer of camping in the woods of Massachusetts with pared down amenities. Rather than moaning about how much I miss fast and reliable wi-fi, the dishwasher, cable TV and most of all, my own washer and dryer, I think I could choose to think about all of these non-existent Mother’s Helpers a bit differently. I could just think about my technology challenged summer as being one more whopping personal growth experience that life seems to enjoy placing square in the middle of the Barb Turnpike of Life. There’s been more than a few.
I can manage the absence of wi-fi because the Uxbridge Public LIbrary is such a friendly and welcoming place. Zach, the librarian sees me coming and turns the AC down and the fan off so that I will be comfortable. He offers a bottle of water if I am working there for a few hours. I love this spot and really appreciate spending time there using their wi-fi. The dishwasher really isn’t much of an issue with just the two of us and cable TV is hardly missed at all. We get some local air TV channels and our wonderful neighbor, Phil, loaded a stick drive for us with movies before we left. So in the few hours that we actually have to sit down and vegetate, in front of a TV, we are adequately entertained. But then there is the laundry.
Camping by its very nature generates laundry. Jeans that are covered with Deepwoods OFF bug spray, damp towels and summer sneaker socks are all tossed in the laundry basket to breed into a witches brew that demands a weekly trip into town to the laundromat. Loading up sheets, blankets and baskets into the truck and then huffing them into the busy laundromat is not my idea of fun. It is a constant timeline of Tide, Snuggle and quarters to feed the machines. And the funny thing about laundry is that no matter how often you do, it, it’s never done. There is no end and apparently no beginning to the process of laundering clothes. Laundry is a constant mundane flow.
It is helpful to me to keep in mind that the majority of the circumstances and events in our lives are just that: a constant and mundane flow. Our lives too are a process of sorting tasks and events into manageable loads. This white sock goes here and that navy towel goes there. The small decisions made while processing laundry are not much different that the large decisions that impact our lives in greater ways. How will we take the soiled aspects of our lives, sort them out and clean things up so that we have a new and fresh opportunity to express the highest version of who we are or are evolving to be.
I try also to remember that there is a Zen aspect to the performance of every simple repetitive task like laundry. I sweep out the change house here at the Park each morning. It is probably the same grains of sand brought in on the feet of different swimmers that I move from the inside to the outside, day after day. But I love the sound of the old straw broom. I love that this is a tool of such elegant simplicity. I love making that floor all clean and shining and ready for the bare feet of dozens of children donning their bathing suits to go for a swim in the river. Elevating a seemingly pointless task to the level of something Zen, reintroduces purpose into the whole process. Sweeping the floor is something calming and meditative when you take the time to imagine the recipients of your efforts. Thinking of sweeping with that broom as a kindness that you do in preparation for a small child’s play or a compassionate act that enables an elderly person to sit and enjoy nature in a clean place transforms a mundane task into a purposeful act.
When the repetitiveness of life seems pointless or like the never ending pile of laundry waiting to be done, there is a way to re-frame how we are feeling and move forward. We can use our imagination and creativity to rewrite the script for our current circumstances. It’s our own story and if we chose to make a movie out of it, we get to write and film it as we want to live it. We get to write the ending and the events leading up to that ending.
While not everything is within our control, we can practice conscious recognition of what works for us and what doesn’t. By recognizing what works for us we gather information and then create new insights that assist us composing our story lines. By doing this you can experience a new perspective on an old situation by imaginatively connecting the new characters and plot lines. When we write our own stories, we then get to choose if and when we want to move forward or make changes. Perhaps, most importantly, we get the gift of as many rewrites as we need to get it right.
Einstein said “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” I try to use my imagination to envision a different way to think about those areas of life that I find mundane or even troubling. Some of the insights gained by using this technique allow me to think about life in a different and more positive light.
Clean underwear and fresh towels straight from this week’s laundry doesn’t seem like a bad place to start!