Tonight I was cleaning up the kitchen after dinner and my son was leaning on the counter talking to me. He asked me why I didn’t just let it go until tomorrow, he could see that I was “beat.” I thought about it for a moment, then I explained.
When I was growing up, from about the age of 8 (those are my earliest memories of doing household chores), my mother had a rule that all responsibilities, whether they be household chores, homework, or whatever was expected of you, had to be completed before any leisure activity.
After school, homework came first. If there were chores to be done, they had to be completed before the television could be turned on, before going outside to play, before listening to music. As I got older, and my parents divorced, the expectations changed a bit. I was to come home from school, start homework, make sure my sister started hers, complete whatever chores were to be done and start dinner. I was expected to have dinner going onto the table when my mother got home from work. After dinner, my sister and I were to take turns washing dishes. Only after dishes and homework were done were we allowed to go outside to ride our bicycles, talk on the phone, see friends, etc.
On weekends, I was to mow the yard (including my grandmother’s and her neighbor’s), all the floors were to be mopped, litter box changed and all laundry done. The laundry had to be hung outside if the weather was clear, my mother made sure of this by taking the ‘pig tail’ (power cord) off the back of the dryer and taking it to work with her.
Again, only after everything was done was I allowed to see friends, go for a walk or bike ride, talk on the phone, play my guitar, listen to music or watch television.
For eleven years of my young life, this was routine. I can only remember deviating from this pattern once or twice and the punishment was ‘memorable’, not something I wanted to experience often. A slight infraction of the rules might result in the loss of phone privileges for a week, or not being able to leave the yard or see a friend until ‘further notice.’
I had never really thought about how this ‘conditioning’ affected me until I began reading the self-help books I blogged about previously. It’s not something I think about with any regularity and I’m really not particularly conscious of it, until I’m put in a position like tonight, when I had to consider why I couldn’t just let things go until tomorrow.
I used to think it was a good habit to have developed, being efficient and getting things done before engaging in pleasurable activities, after all my mother had always reasoned, “You don’t want something hanging over your head the whole time you’re trying to enjoy yourself, do you?” Made sense…
Tonight, it felt like self-abuse. I have had significant pain today, I’d just sat outside in the backyard with “Kodi” for about an hour and come inside to face the mess in the kitchen my husband left after offering to cook. I really wanted to read or watch a movie, as my body is aching and swollen, but I didn’t want to think about getting up in the morning and facing that mess after it had set all night.
He’d burnt one of my new pans. The entire inside bottom of the pan was a thick black cake of burnt food. I don’t know about anyone else, or if anyone has ever considered this or not, but it’s terribly difficult to wash dishes from a wheelchair when the sink and counter aren’t designed to accommodate you. Putting downward pressure on the pot to scrub doesn’t work nearly as well as it does when you’re standing at the sink, as your center of gravity is lower.
I scrubbed that pan in the hottest water I could tolerate on my skin for about 20 min. I’ve been having problems with my left shoulder, now my right arm is a ‘limp noodle.’ When I was finished scrubbing, my hand was shaking and I had trouble holding the scrubbing pad in my hand.
There are so many times when I wish I could ‘shut off’ the conditioning of the past, but I realize it has become so engrained that it’s like second nature. It’s like a part of my brain was ‘branded.’
I think, if I didn’t have the chronic pain, disease and disabilities, it would probably be considered a good work ethic, but dealing with all this other stuff, it’s a kind of torture.
Now, I know, some will say, “It’s up to you to just decide not to let it affect you, just let things go, make a choice. You don’t have to let it control you.” and that may well be true, but I’ve also learned another lesson throughout my life and that is, if I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. So while I might take a ‘break’ from responsibility, when I do go back to it, things are often much worse and have accumulated to a level that feels insurmountable, especially when I’m not feeling physically well to begin with.
So, it becomes a matter of lessor of two evils, push myself and do things in such a way that keeps my work load manageable or put things off to ‘take a breath’, so to speak, and face even more to be done after.
Doesn’t seem like much of a choice, really….