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About that Laundry

I wake up angry. I look over at the pile of unfolded laundry and look away. The next thing to come into my line of sight—dust bunnies, but less cute and much bigger, much older. Dust dinosaurs. My partner had promised to deal with them, but they’re still here, threatening to catch me and drag me under the bed with them.

In the kitchen there’s mess everywhere. Whose night was it for dishes? Why is the dishwasher not emptied? Where did all these empties sitting next to the sink come from? Garbage, green bin need to be emptied—not my job. The kids clear a path when I’m coming, knowing glances flash at each other, they think I don't see. Mom’s in a mood—do what she says and look out.

Everyone finally leaves and I put the kettle on. I’m sorry now, but there’s nobody left to hear an apology. It’s so quiet except for the roar inside my head.

My friend and teacher David said it so well. His words from Sunday’s philosophy class run through my mind. Emptiness and karma—two poles that together make the tent stand. Laundry is just laundry. Dust, just dust, Dishes, dishes—even unwashed dishes. The anger, the blame, the shame that follows, all come from inside me. I’m frustrated with myself—that assignment not finished, I wanted to practice early this morning but didn’t get up in time, things that should have been done ages ago but have been avoided. Don’t the kids need dentist appointments? I’ll make those tomorrow. ​

If only I could get everything done, I’d be a better person. And that’s the goal—perfection. Or is it? The Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön comes to mind, as she so often does. In her book The Wisdom of No Escape she says that we need to show loving-kindness, maitri, towards ourselves. Accepting ourselves is the point of our practice. “We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to change ourselves.…The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are.”

Right now, I’m angry. That’s who I am in this moment, right now, as I storm around the kitchen tripping over the dogs, and the—who left the chair in the middle of the room? Why did my partner not clean up like he said he would, I had wondered upon waking this morning. Hmmm. Maybe it’s something more like, why don’t I do what I say I will? That’s more difficult to say to myself, but it rings with truth—uncomfortable truth. ​

I feel the anger of the morning melt as I sip my hot tea. I follow the breath, the energy flowing up and down Shushumna, that central channel along the spine where energy flows. Time to practice. I begin to move my body, bringing my attention to the breath, to the present moment, moving through a familiar sequence. After a short while the mind wanders, as it does, and the movie of the morning begins playing through my mind—I’m watching myself from outside of myself, wincing. Instead of feeling frustration and anger, I choose to show myself compassion and loving-kindness. It’s liking wrapping big arms around myself. I know that I haven’t fixed everything. I know that I still do need to make apologies to my family (and that when I do they will graciously accept them, because they are wonderful people). I know that I still have a list of things to get done. I will not achieve perfection—it’s not attainable—and fixing others’ mistakes will not cover up my own failings. I will remember, again, that what I’m seeing in others is a reflection of what I’m seeing in myself. And, perhaps, the first step in getting on with today will be to go upstairs and fold some laundry, which I would do if there were time. I’ll do it tomorrow, along with making those dentist appointments.

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