I did something today that I don’t think I’ve ever done before.
Now, before you go getting all excited, thinking this was some sort of major revelation or stepping point, let me tell you what the thing was.
I put an entire load of laundry in the dryer and let it run without interruption until all the items of laundry were dry.
I know, living on the edge, right?
The thing is, since the time I started doing my laundry (probably around age ten or twelve, so somewhere around two decades ago), my mom ingrained in me (and in my brothers) that most clothing will last longer, be less wrinkly, and just generally look better for longer if you don’t put it through the dryer. I’m a good instruction follower and so when I wash clothes I carefully separate out the nicer items – the things that I hang to dry – in order to preserve their lifespan. I tumble them for five minutes and then spread them across a drying rack in my bedroom for the next 24 to 48 hours, until they have truly dried and can be returned to their rightful homes in my closet.
Today I just couldn’t be bothered. I was tired and cranky. The drain hose on my grandma’s washing machine broke in the middle of a load that included scrubs I need for work the next several days. I fished out my soggy clothing, put it in a garbage bag, emptied the still half-full washing machine of water using a two cup measuring cup from my kitchen (the only item of any size that would fit easily into the old school top loading washing machine), trekked by bus to my folks place to pick up a car, drove home to get the heavy garbage bag full of soggy clothes, drove back to my folks place to run said clothes through an express wash cycle, loaded the still wet, but less soggy clothes into a new garbage bag, caught a ride home, had an argument with someone about the situation that surrounds repairs for things like a washing machine in my current living situation, and then deposited the new garbage bag on the still damp laundry room floor in my basement abode.
I was done. I was hormonal, in tears from the argument, frustrated that a simple task like laundry had taken over the entirety of a quiet afternoon at home that I had looked forward to after a couple of insane work shifts, and just generally annoyed at the world.
I was mad at myself, too. The argument I had wasn’t the argument I really wanted to have. The argument I really wanted to have is one that I know won’t change things that have been realities for as long as I can remember and as such is pointless. I knew that, but I still felt it deeply and I wanted to have that argument. I was mad at myself for feeling so deeply over something I should know by now will never change.
And so, I stomped into the house and in an entirely passive aggressive act of both rebellion and surrender, upended a garbage bag of clean, damp clothes into the dryer, flipped a switch and moved on.
And here’s the thing – the world didn’t fall apart. My clothes will survive one trip through the dryer without being much worse for the wear. It was actually a victory that I didn’t have the pointless argument that I’d had so many times before, and that I shut down the argument I did have in a speedy fashion. I said some things aloud that probably needed to be said, emboldened by hormones, exhaustion and frustration. And instead of self-destructing I texted back and forth with a wise and empathetic friend, even gaining a few self-insights that feel important.
It definitely wasn’t my most mature moment of adulthood, and there is lots of room for improvement, but in general, as I describe this afternoon here in writing, I feel like it was a bit of a win. I feel repentant for some things I said and did, and I’ll deal with any need for apologizing in the next days. And yet, I see growth. I didn’t pick the pointless fight. I gained a couple of important self-insights to ponder. I reached out instead of turning inward. I recognized that there are things that need to be said, and that perhaps I need to find ways to say them when I’m not running entirely on emotions and hormone driven exhaustion. I was able to process and then set the event (somewhat anyway) aside and spend some time caring for myself (healthy meal, a glass of wine, a bit of favorite television). It was only as I pulled the load of laundry from the dryer, spread it across my bed for folding, and sat down to write that I realized that what very much felt like a “terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day” really wasn’t – even at its worst. And that realization is a gift – a reminder of space for growth, and a chance to see where growth has happened in a season that has felt stagnant.