I have been musing recently on the meaning of domesticity, how we as humans live in houses with other people and attempt to manage the chaos that thus ensues. This is a much more romantic way of putting "How the heck did our tiny apartment get to be such a mess!?" Setting up a new home, with all the challenges that come with that, has reminded me more and more of the chaos.
I have always had a love/hate relationship with domestic chores. Part of me delights in doing physical things like baking english muffins from scratch, cooking with real vegetables, etc (shoutout to Katie and Cindy, I so use your posted recipes). Perhaps this is mostly because I love to eat and also because doing the dishes is Clint's job, so I can cook away without fear of the consequences. However, another part of me wishes I had a magic wand like Mrs. Weasley in the Harry Potter books to make the laundry do itself, the kitchen clean itself, the books find their way to their proper shelves and to track down the building vacuum which is always apparently lost. "Accio vacuum!" (or whatever that spell was).
Yesterday I was supposed to have a spiritual retreat, but I didn't know where to retreat to. I was also running out of clean clothes, and there was nothing peaceful about the messy state of our apartment. Two children's books were also making me feel guilty about my lack of industry in our home (Days with Frog and Toad, which begins with a cute story in which Toad doesn't want to get out of bed to do his chores, but feels so miserable about tomorrow when he leaves them until tomorrow that he does them today; and George MacDonald's The Lost Princess, in which a spoilt rotten little princess is abducted by a wise woman and left in a cottage with the sole responsibility of keeping it clean, which she finds the most apallingly impossible thing to do). I still think there is something about children's books that when properly executed cuts right through all our adult "we know how things really are" crap.
So I decided to make it a Benedictine-style spiritual retreat (as opposed to a-go-out-to-the-desert-to-get-away-from-it-all-style retreat), to purposefully worship where and how I live my daily life, but also to take time to reflect and journal and study the scriptures. In the end, I was amazed at how much less miserable all my chores were and how great it was to have a clean apartment again. Of course, there will be more dinner to cook and dishes to wash, and crumbs to sweep and so on tonight, but it always feels good to catch up.
I was reminded of another time I learned the same lesson. When I lived in Oxford, I lived in a house just north of city centre on Canterbury Road. I enjoyed living there, and have many good memories of sharing the house with some fun housemates. The one drawback was that no one ever washed the dishes in our shared kitchen, until we literally ran out of everything and in order to eat, you had to wash someone else's used plate. Not very appetizing. Plus, raised in a proper suburban household with a dishwasher, I hated washing dishes with a passion. A few times I washed all the dishes in the sink, because I knew that no one else would. But there was this nagging feeling of injustice about it: if I washed them once or twice out of frustration, then the others (and, of course in my mind, the males) would expect me to break down and wash the dishes again and it would become a vicious cycle until I finally got so mad that I stopped using that kitchen altogether. So, one week I prayed, "Lord, give me the grace to enjoy washing these dishes as a service for our house." It was the weirdest thing, He did! By the end of the semester, I forgot all about my anger and just washed the dishes, enoying the lovely view out the kitchen window right over the sink. It became a moment, for me to just do something physical in the cerebral Oxford environment and to let my brain relax.
I'm glad that God allows us all of our weaknesses, and that he gives us grace to live in spite of them.