My dearest slightly curious reader,
I know you may find the title of this blog post highly unlikely and perhaps a cheap attempt at grabbing your attention, were only that were true. You may even scoff at the notion of an inherent danger to washing ones floor or dishes. It is but a cautionary tale for us all blindly going at our “women’s work” when in fact it could slowly be killing you. A girlfriend of mine only narrowly escaped the same grim fate.
My girlfriend and I are lifelong mates bonded together by our middle-child traits and love of things pink, hot boys, Kylie Minogue, Transvision Vamp and for a brief time there, Rat Cat (go Google them – meeeooow) – we were tragic romantics. We went to church together, wore shoulder pads together, danced nights away to Madonna and were bridesmaids at our first weddings. Our first born children were married off to one another even before they were destined to draw their first breath.
As with most lifelong friendships it is safe to say we have been through the mill together. By the time we both reached our mid to late thirties we were both on our second marriages with 5 kids each in a blended family situation. Like I said we were both tragic romantics and hadn’t given up on love.
For all our similarities there were also differences too of course. My girlfriend always dreamed of becoming a mother whereas I only became a mother after a dream. Where I’d be taking completely crap out of focus shots of my babies she’d be entering hers into baby competitions and winning. Where she was P&C President for years on end I’d struggle to make canteen duty. I’d buy a Cheesecake shop birthday cake she’d be able to concoct an erupting volcanic lava cake with nothing more than icing sugar, a packet of biscuits and a can of lemonade. But that’s OK, this whole motherhood gig it’s not a competition, right????
The tyranny of distance, motherhood, work and life in general dictated we saw each other rarely but we’d stay in touch via Facebook and catch up on all the gossip during my lunch breaks at work and she was at home with the kids.
I found nothing particularly unusual about this except every time she “had to go now” it was to go wash her floors. I was impressed with her devotion to clean floors but could never understand why she would wash them so often and why she would go wash them in favour of chatting to me?
Anyway I never said anything to her but eventually grew tired of getting blown off for a date with a mop so I left her to it and stopped contacting her during my lunch breaks even if I saw she was online thus ceasing all contact between us for quite some time. By the time I made contact with her again it was to my utmost dismay that I discovered she was recovering from a near nervous breakdown, suffering severe depression and anxiety attacks and was on medication. My heart broke for her and I regretted not keeping in contact. She commented to me “I just don’t understand how this could have happened Fiona?” to which I replied thinking of the amount of time in her life she spent wasted washing her damn floors “perhaps you simply washed yourself away”.
I’m pretty sure she had no idea what I was talking about, she was the epitome of domesticity and mothering goodness which is all very well and good but I could still remember the beating heart of the vibrant, colourful, creative and talented teenage girl underneath the fondant icing exterior she presented to the world. I for one was not all that surprised that my dear old friend had come undone.
There has to be an undoing for things to be re-done.
My friend had a lucky escape from the banality of domestic servitude unlike the tragic heroine referred to in the title of this blog. In her book, Women Who Run With Wolves, Dr Clarissa Pinkola-Estes tells of a woman who lived in America’s Mid-West. This woman’s ideal day would be to board the train to Chicago, wearing a big hat, adorned in her finery cutting an elegant swathe down Michigan Avenue looking in all the shop windows. As fate would have it, she married a farmer. She moved out into the Wheatbelt and began to rot away in her elegant little farmhouse that was just the right size, with just the right amount of kids and the right husband to go with it. There was no more time for train trips and idle window shopping of days gone by. Her days were now reduced to “kids” and “women’s work”.
Then one day many years later, after she had washed both the kitchen and living room floors by hand, she slipped into her elegant finery, buttoned up her fine silk blouse, smoothed down her long best skirt and pinned up her now greying hair under best big hat. Then she pressed her husbands’ shotgun to the roof of her mouth and pulled the trigger.
Dr Pinkola Estes next sentence in the story leaves me completely flummoxed.
“Every woman alive knows why she washed her floors first.”
Oh that I did, good Dr, but the logic simply escapes me.
Do you, my dear reader, have any idea why she would wash her floor first if she knew what she was about to do? I would be truly fascinated to hear your thoughts.
The good news is that my girlfriend has recovered her life, rediscovered herself after being buried underneath layers of conditioning, false expectations and pre-programming. I can see and hear her slowly coming back to life. I am also pleased to report she has stepped away from the mop! When I quizzed her with the rather macabre proposition of whether or not she would wash her floors before she shot herself in the head, she too couldn’t think for the life of her why anyone would do that. Her reply was this, and I quote verbatim “The monotonous cycle of cleaning would probably be one of the reasons for pushing me to the edge of existence!!! So it would almost be an act of protest to blow my brains out!”
Maybe therein lies the answer, the mystery of the poor farmers wife, maybe washing the floors before killing herself was an act of silent protest. Maybe she got up one morning and said to herself if I have to wash one more rotten floor I’m going to kill myself. So she did. Such a waste.
So it does beg the question how did the farmers’ wife see her life when she was cutting a fine young elegant figure through the streets of Chicago? What were her dreams? The visions for her future? Did she want to travel? Did she want to study art? Was she hoping to marry money and be kept in a steady supply of fetching big hats and elegant clothing? Did she want to catch the train to the end of the line and then catch it back again? Did she want to move to Chicago and lose herself in big city life?
Who knows? All we know is that somewhere in between train trips and picking up her husbands’ weapon her life had become as empty as her floor pail. She’d scrubbed away her dreams, her hopes and her desires. There was nothing left of her, or for her to hold onto.
She had fallen into the trap of believing that the hopes, wishes and desires of others were far more important than those that she had for herself. So put herself on the back burner until her light went out.
So today dear reader I implore you, to put away the mop, the vacuum, the Thermomix, the Windex, the dusting, the mundane, the innocuous daily distractions, your “women’s work” that stops you from keeping your light alive and go stoke your fire with the women’s work we were designed for.
Go read, dance, write, create, run, breath, see, photograph, bathe, laugh, sing, cuddle, hike, ride, connect, do whatever it takes keep your soul fires burning because the world needs your warmth and your families need you intact.
Share with us what gets your soul fire burning and what excuses do you use to put off until tomorrow what you really NEED to be doing for yourself today. Remember the wrong type of women’s work can be deadly, so listen to your soul, sister.
Seriously, your floors can wait.