Monday, August 22, 2011

Tending as Constitutional

Take care! People say it all the time. I like the idea of taking care, tending, being mindful, attentive. I believe taking care is a species-wide constitutional, in the same league with eating well, getting good sleep, being physically and mentally active.

I'm not talking about tackling heroic projects, like fixing the plumbing in the bathroom, not that there's anything wrong with being heroic. What I'm referring to is daily upkeep, sorting and straightening.

Weed the garden, make a peach pie, feed the dog, cat or bird, sweep the sidewalk, clean out a closet, set the table for dinner. These are small tasks that are only annoying if rushed through, but strangely, gently satisfying anytime we take care. That involves taking our time and paying attention. Just as important is remembering to experience satisfaction and pleasure from the fruits of our tending: a clean table, an empty sink, the garden lush, weeded, well watered, all the laundry clean and folded neatly. I feel calmer just thinking about it.

It's no surprise that the heroines of all fairytales spend a lot of time cleaning the ashes from fireplaces, cooking, spinning, sewing and scrubbing the floors, while the loser step-sisters sit around all day being lazy, greedy and helpless. The heroine may not totally love housekeeping, but she never complains about it, she just does it. In so doing she becomes proficient in many ways. She becomes strong, capable and even more beautiful. At the end of every fairytale she lives happily ever after. The same can not be said of the stepsisters.

Like a good night's sleep or a nice walk, tending to little tasks is a part of what makes us mindful, caring individuals. Those who allow others to take care of business for them, or always ignore the dishes while they pile ever higher in the sink, are never as happy, coherent or proficient as those who clean up after themselves. They aren't as nice, either. I think tending helps us cultivate compassion.

Taking care of the little things externally is a reminder to take care of the little things internally. If you're thirsty, drink some water! Breathe, stretch, laugh. There really is no downside to tending the world directly around you, also your inner world. It is fundamentally, constitutionally, healing.

Happy Monday to all. Take care!


jeanette from everton terrace said...

As always, wonderful advice. I find when I remind myself to be where I am, I get more pleasure in the task. It does feel good to take care of things. I do forget to take care of myself. I will sit here, not far from my kitchen and be very thirsty for hours. Silly.

ellen abbott said...

you are so right, being mindful and taking your time. I must admit that I do let the dishes pile up sometimes but it usually because I am focused on some other activity.

Reya Mellicker said...

It's a different kind of imbalance to try to keep EVERYTHING clean ALL the time. That turns into a control issue and isn't healing for anyone.

No one can keep up with everything, but a good humored, relaxed effort will yield pretty good results, even if everything doesn't get done.

Ellen in the midst of a project, the chateau becomes utter chaos. It's part of being creative. Afterwards I clean up. Ahhhhh.