Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cultural Conditioning, Dust Bunnies, and Poems

Yesterday, I was walking through my house, and I noticed some dust. I am not a yesteryear woman. I ignored that dust, sure that there's plenty more dust where that dust patch came from. I dust, the house makes more. And I'm a woman who works outside the home (this week, long, long hours outside the home).

I can't have everything, and one of the first things I gave up was the idea of a perfectly clean house. You can't eat off of my kitchen floors--we have plates.

Then I thought about how my approach to housework has helped me to decide what is important. I only have so much time in my day, my week, my life--what do I want to accomplish? A dust-free house is not as important as a poem that delights me. If the floors need attention, I'll do a quick sweeping. I'm not a scrub-the-floors kind of gal. I know some women who scrub the floors with a toothbrush to get into the corners. Nope, that's not me. If I don't inspect the floors too closely, they don't disgust me. And as long as I scrub up whatever spill might happen, when it happens, the floors don't really need that much scrubbing. I don't have kids or dogs or other creatures (well, except for my spouse) who track dirt through the house.

So, I started thinking: where does this kind of thinking fall apart? And I thought of how much time I've spent obsessing over my weight. Why can't I take a similar approach to my weight as I do to housework? Why can't I shrug over a few extra pounds and say, "Doesn't matter. I had a great dinner out, fabulous wine, and besides--I wrote 3 poems with potential this week!"

Is it cultural conditioning? But if it is, how did I escape the cultural conditioning about housework and not about obsessive weight watching?

I have no answers, but I do have a conviction that it's important to ask these questions. What do I really want to accomplish with my life? If I knew I would die soon, what would I focus upon? What brings me joy? What activities have important implications for my long-term health and happiness?

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