A little neurosis, a lot of sanity

I found these notes while going through some things the other day. Written back in November they are just as relevant today – now about a year in to this detour (and there’s a whole different entry!).

13 November 2012:

I find that my days are filled with little reminders that I am not in control of many things. Despite schedules, Sweetie sleeps when she is ready. Despite standard mealtimes and seemingly delicious food, Sweetie eats when she is ready. After days filled with unwarranted crying, Houdini poop that escapes from diapers, games with three minute entertainment value and countless other moving targets I needed something to pin down. So much of care giving is organic and like life in general, things are constantly moving and changing. Just like trying to influence the “input variables” at my previous employment, I tried to find something that I believed I could control.

The answer came in the day-to-day chores around the house, in particular, the laundry. Well, not just “the laundry”, but specifically the towels; and not just any towels, but particularly the bath towels. I found that if I folded all of our bathroom towels in a particular way that they all took on the same size. When they were the same size then they all stacked in same-sized units. And those units stacked neatly on the shelves designated for the towels, even where they shared the shelf with the sheets. It doesn’t describe well, but here goes: in half lengthwise, then in half lengthwise again (making sure the decorative stitching shows), then folded in thirds from the outsides in.

I found that this folding method did not work when Sweetie was awake and “helping” me with the laundry. That usually goes “fold one, chase two, re-fold one, chase child, repeat”. So I started folding the towels during her nap times. And I found that it was just me quietly folding towels.

This became my thing, my little neurosis, and one aspect of my life that I can control. I demand a particular fold, I work on it until it’s correct and I deliver my little bundles to their shelves. I change the towels on the same day each week. And I hang the fresh towels a particular way on their bars. These activities are simple accomplishments, small victories (and sometimes the only ones in my day!). I also found that once I set up this routine I was able to process while I was folding, shelving and hanging. I solved small problems, worked out home projects and planned meals. Focusing on something so common helps to ground me and definitely gives me back a sense of control. And focusing on something so UN-important helps me maintain perspective. I am better able to sort out the battles I will fight. Without sounding too esoteric, I think of it as a type of meditation on my day. Yes – a meditation while folding bath towels.

I don’t think this is a unique experience. I bet that plenty of you also have a little neurosis that helps you find a lot of sanity. I definitely don’t think it is as strange as it first seemed, and I highly recommend looking for it. Now it is part of my routine, and an important part at that. I completely acknowledge that having your towels folding a particular way is neurotic, but it is also nice. And on the rough days it is good to have something solid to fall back on. Hopefully it’s also going to help me prepare for the future. Sweetie is just as human and just as fickle as the rest of us. She is bound to stray from the standard and do her own thing. I don’t know how much the towels will cool my temper when she breaks curfew and comes home at a late hour, but I like to think that they will help keep me centered on what is important.

2 thoughts on “A little neurosis, a lot of sanity

  1. It is very easy to get caught up by the continual boundary pushing of the little ones until you feel fit to break. Finding a way to take yourself out of those situations, or to have a routine that breaks the pattern is really important. I can’t say I’ve tried towel folding (though I can see the attraction) but my release valve is running. I’m a runner that hates running, but I find that I lose myself in the monotonous plod, plod, plod, enabling me to regain perspective and have my own little eureka moments. Writing helps too, but I see you’ve found that already. 🙂

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