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The Devil In The Details

A womanly, socialized habit to obliterate my sense of self with an almost exhausting level of stoicism? Psychosis? A need to store trauma somewhere? A desire to be a people pleaser?

A womanly, socialized habit to obliterate my sense of self with an almost exhausting level of stoicism? Psychosis? A need to store trauma somewhere? A desire to be a people pleaser?

I observe small efficiencies every day within my small, contained world.

It comes to me at an instinctive, cellular level.

My mother’s earth-toned apple cinnamon broth, with just the right dose of honey, and a measured degree of warmth is served at 6.30 am sharp in the ghost light of the morning, much before the cook arrives.

In this mosaic of dark and light, amidst the long and subdued sunlit bars in her room, I have my morning cup of tea, where she and I discuss what she will have for lunch before I set off for my tame morning walk.

When it is time for a bath, my bathroom etiquette ensures courtesies to the next user, notably for him, the man of the house. The shower cubicle is cleared of my long hair strands, still flickering with their highlights, soap, an array of cosmetics that I may have chosen to use, my towel, and the floor is wiped clean as the sunshine-yellow shower curtain is shaken loose of droplets. Then his stuff is slid in. This, for me, is a relieving, and the needed bit of separateness in our intertwined lives, my right to stay alive in my own senses.

It is when the sun arcs, and settles into the skies, when the light cuts through windows with knife-keen precision, and crawls into our various rooms, and when the household clanks with domestic noise, that I take a clear-eyed dive into the currents of household activities, into tides that engulf me with their wails.

The lines on my face get active, furrow in frustration on days when things are especially untidy, my husband’s pliable COVID-19 work routines noticeably adding to the disarray, as I go about tamping down the general disorder: adjusting cushions in the living room, clearing untidy piles of newspaper, changing water in flower vases, dusting paintings, photographs and tinkly artefacts, arranging the beds in the manner I want the pillows, duvet and cushions, even as I get the staff started on breakfast, and decide on the lunch menu.

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Then it is time to remove the laundry drying in the air-simmered heat of the noon, fold and put them back into cupboards. And then percolate the coffee just before everyone is ready for its welcoming warmth at 4.30 in the afternoon. I make sure that the soluble compounds that leave the filter to emerge as freshly brewed coffee are of the right quantities to give it its taste, colour, and aroma.

Despite a retinue of staff, I move like a shadow, uninterrupted, rapid, and unhesitating, between the practicalities of getting to and from these tasks.

The need to do them builds up within me like a storm. I have a difficult feeling in my head and chest, a kind of fuzz, and on occasions even a sense of coiled, wound-up tension, and on others a tooth-grinding agitation, until I have them all done.

And it is within these orderly, tangible labours of mine that the problem lies. Many disagreements at home stem from these inaudible, and isolated humdrum activities of mine. From these tidelines that allow domesticity, and my real-world work of writing to converge.

In my mind, these routines of mine are necessary, time-appointed tasks. The scaffoldings needed to preserve the surface of subdued normalcy at home, its proportions, and delicate balance. Labours needed also to avoid the dramatizing of things; issues of an unkempt home, dust-laden interiors, late breakfasts, delayed lunches, and misplaced articles of clothing, to say the very least.

So for me heading to this held place of mine every day is a necessary travel. I have learnt to breathe into their rhythms with joy, and live with effortlessness in these moments. Of course, there are those days when I am filled with its ill-effects. With exhaustion, with afflicted, achy joints, papery dots crowding my eyes until I am ready to pass out in dizziness, and ill-grace and humour.

I know that in the mind of the others, in their accusations lit against me, my fixation to such routines are called “small-souled”, “a stubborn insistence of having it her way”, the aftermath of which leaves everyone around “with the doom of an emergency” and “with a distinct feeling that the pleasantness of the day has declined.”

If they feel breathless in their inadequacy, and darkened in their being should they not take responsibility for it? For their slackness in time management? I understand that delegation needs the sort of patience that I lack. Yet I feel a rosy swell of anger within for everyone’s easy dismissal of my efforts, their overlooking of its underside of toil, and its attention to detail.

“Let go of your difficulty for complete thoroughness to lean on others. Of your impatience that others will not do it to your standards, on time, or with the required finesse,” says my easy-paced spouse with mild amusement.

Seeing it as he does and as the staff do, it is hard to impress on any of these people, the seriousness of my prosaic tasks. Or get them to recognize my indignation for their making me invisible at eye-level, my actions imaginary, and even inconsequential at the level of domesticity.

I ask myself: Is it my love for routines? Is it an inbuilt ethic that looks at leisure as dreadful?  A womanly, socialized habit to obliterate my sense of self with an almost exhausting level of stoicism? Psychosis? A need to store trauma somewhere? A desire to be a people pleaser?

I can trace patterns, ascribe motives, and impose narratives, but I think the gateway to peace lies in learning emotional efficiency. In understanding what to undertake within the drill of my daily tasks, when to merely shrug and walk away in a tug of war between wills, and when to hover and oversee, when to swallow and stay silent. I need to learn the grit to adapt.

Crumbly epiphanies, perhaps, but workable ones that will help me breathe.

Image Source: PrettySleepy1 on pixabay

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