A Love Letter To Household Chores
My parents decided that we were too old for maids or household helpers in my late elementary days, so I grew up learning to iron the pleats of my school skirt early on. Back then, I thought of chores simply as additional work, as just another thing I'm supposed to tick off my to-do list.
But now that I'm older and supposedly wiser, I have incorporated deeper meanings into it, and have come to appreciate its presence in my life. Here I write about how these seemingly menial, routine tasks, in fact, benefit us in more ways than one.
ON THE LAUNDRY AND THE HOPEFUL, HOT SUMMER DAYS
In high school, I remember trying to figure out the inconsistent text messaging habits of a boy I thought I liked. It was summer and I had no school work to worry about. While waiting for his message, or his excuse I would pretend to not see through, I would read the daily comics, even my daily horoscope, to distract, educate, and entertain myself.
I would also do the laundry on autopilot. While I love water, I hate getting my feet wet when it's not supposed to get wet. I dislike having to squeeze out clothes because I thought it demanded too much energy from my arms. Spin-drying was another thing, as I had to carefully place each piece evenly on the machine to make sure it works.
Until I had to hang the clothes on the clothesline to dry, where I'd expose myself under the bright sun, and look up at the sky. I thought to myself that it was a good day, my clothes will dry and will smell of fresh laundry—a special kind of scent inimitable by perfumes, and with an effect that always makes me want to nap.
It was one of the early moments of my younger self loving the sun, and hot summer days. Doing the laundry in our old house's backyard was a good enough excuse to be out, breathe in the fresh air in the morning, get some sun, and forget about insignificant things like high school boys with no conviction.
ON WASHING THE DISHES AND THE FLOW OF YOUR OWN WELLSPRING OF THOUGHT
Among my siblings, I'm proud to say that I'm the best human dishwasher. Not only do I scrape off all the leftover from the plates to the point that my mother worries about damaging the ceramic, I also make babad the dinnerware long enough so that I do not need to use the abrasive side of the sponge to clean the delicate plates as much.
Then comes the mindless soaping and rinsing part, which are a joy (pun intended) to do. It is when I perform with such ease and elegance, that I can do even with my eyes closed. And this is when my own wellspring of thought begins to flow. Unconsciously, I am able to think of sentences already constructed and well-written, of concerns I would love to write about, of work-related email replies that sends my point across but phrased in respectful ways.
Today, I find many benefits in washing the dishes, beyond than the actual end product of shiny, clean, and ready-for-the-next-meal dinnerware. The flow of water from the faucet is as endless as my thoughts and the string of words formed together wonderfully in my mind, and I allow it to flow freely. It also comes as a great aprés-meal way of allowing the food to digest first, before sitting or lying down. You know, as the elders would say, "pababa ng kinain".
ON COOKING AND PATIENCE
Since I was a toddler, I already knew that I was an impatient child. I was also constantly told by my parents that I was. At work and in life, I try to convince myself otherwise, or at least, manage my impatience to keep me sane and agreeable to others.
Recently, however, I have been trying to cook more than hotdogs and canned goods, and I realize once more how impatient I am. I cannot stand the recipe instructions to "simmer for five minutes" and all, without trying to think of something else to do in that five minutes. Because in that little span of time, I am already able to water the indoor plants, sweep the floor, and tidy up the kitchen. Once, I was even able to complete my 20-minute yoga routine while waiting for the meat to cook.
I am proud to say that thanks to cooking, I have become impatiently productive. While waiting for the water to boil, for the meat to tender, for the veggies to change its color, I am able to let go and trust the process, let the cooking do the cooking, while I excuse myself and busy myself elsewhere. It's a lesson I must apply in other areas of my life I find myself being impatient about.
Photo by Jem Bautista.