Monday, October 21, 2013

The Laundromat (and Self-Pity)


The only condition necessary for this state of self-surrender is the present moment in which the soul, light as a feather, fluid as water, innocent as a child, responds to every movement of grace like a floating balloon. - Jean Pierre de Caussade in The Sacrament of the Present Moment

I stood in the sunny back room squeezing soapy water out of the final load while flies buzzed in lazy circles.  The washing machine was dead, so I wrung the legs of my husband's jeans until my hands burned from the soap running out, then sent at text to my husband to tell the landlord. 

Laundry never stops for a family of six, so while we waited for the repair man to pronounce it dead and the landlord made up his mind about replacing it, the piles and baskets crept slowly higher until finally, I was forced to take matters into my own hands. 

I lugged two baskets, "pressed down, shaken together and overflowing," out to the van and filled my pockets with quarters from the change jar.  I remembered the laundry detergent (miracle!), my journal, and a copy of The Sacrament of the Present Moment, by Jean Pierre de Caussade. 

It was a beautiful day, sunny, bright and cool after summer's last stretch of heat and nap time to boot and as I drove off with a van filled with enough dirty clothes to clothe a small army, the temptation to self-pity welled up within me. 

The laundromat sits in the middle, two blocks from the house we sold and two blocks from the apartment we're renting and though I've passed it a thousand times driving and walking, I've only been in it once. 

I pulled up and parked, popping the trunk and made two trips hauling everything in through doors that stood propped open.  A mild breeze mingled with the smell of fresh, clean laundry and everything hummed with the steady breath of washers and driers.  I tested my knowledge and technical skills to get the machines running, then settled at a wide low table that stretched across an enormous window at the front of the shop. 

The view was beautiful - crisp fall perfection framed by bright leafy trees that spread out before me, wide and expansive.  It was heavenly and I relished the silence, with my journal and reading laid open, cast in autumn's natural glow.

I tried to take a picture, I texted my husband, "I found my new office," and I settled down to dine on a moment of unexpected delight.   

Self-pity can be a pleasure, a pleasing meal for the unhappy heart, but it requires a condemnation of the present moment.  This almost always cuts us off from the possibility of finding pleasure, joy and gift in places unexpected.  By absenting ourselves from the present, we absent ourselves also from God's presence there.

I turned my heart on purpose that day, away from desire for what wasn't and into the moment that was.  Or rather, I should say, the tug of that blue sky and spacious window filled with the low hum of silence, turned it for me.  Looking into what was, my heart was tuned to the "movement of grace" and lifted along "light as a feather, fluid as water, innocent as a child . . . like a floating balloon."

This post is linked with Playdates With God.

2 comments:

  1. Kelly, I find the same thing to be true in making repairs to the house in anticipation of selling it. In the beginning I resented the time that it required /demanded / stole from the beautiful summer and family. Now I have begun to realize that I actually enjoy the work. It gives me a sense of accomplishment, and challenges my mind.

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    1. Yep, Dad, that's exactly what I'm talking about. It's so funny because in the end it amounts to depriving ourselves of joy, but sometimes it can be a hard choice to make and a hard habit to break.

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