Folding laundry: The key to unlocking emotions

My maid quit six weeks ago. She'd been with me for nearly four years and was one of the kindest and strongest women I've had the pleasure to know. But, her health had always been on the weak side and it finally was something she couldn't ignore. Doctors have advised her to refrain from doing any more housework.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I welcomed the new maid who landed up one morning in January to take the old one's place. The new lady is quiet, goes about her tasks dutifully but did seem a bit alarmed at the idea of doing laundry. Not wishing to lose good hired help, it fell to my lot to go back to doing laundry, a task my other maid had been doing for all this time.

At first, I resented the fact that I was losing a good chunk of time doing laundry when I could be so much more productive with other things. Slowly, though, I began to embrace it the way I used to, before I had handed the reins of this job over to another person.

This week alone, I've found it very helpful with two things: Dealing with being part of the sandwich generation and coming to terms with who I am as a person/writer/blogger.

It's a known fact that as parents, we're supposed to be the strong ones, for our kids' sake. After a while, it's almost as if we're responding on auto-pilot when they need a hug or a kiss to make things better for them, because we've grown into that role of the caregiver who knows what to say or do. What happens, though, when a parent exhibits frailty?

My mom, one of the strongest people I know, emotionally and otherwise, called me yesterday and from the sound of her voice, I knew she was choking back tears. The 'maternal' instinct woke up inside me and I asked what was wrong. Turns out she had a terrible toothache and the pain was more than she could bear. The painkillers weren't helping either. It was all I could do to not grab my keys and start the 30 km drive over to her place, but she'd anticipated that and assured me that she'd be fine.

I just wanted to hear your voice, she sniffed. My mom. 

Wait a minute. I'm supposed to say that! Not her! Yet, here I was, a woman 20 years younger donning the role of caretaker. After the first instinct of worry dissipated, I soothed her, told her to try and lie down, maybe apply some clove oil if she had any and call/message me again if the pain didn't die down. 

After this, I pulled out the stack of clean laundry and proceeded to fold each piece of clothing. As I did, my mind calmed down from the fluttering state it had inhabited and infused me with a deeper understanding of an important truth.

The more relationships change, the more they stay the same.

It appeared quite clear that as a member of the sandwich generation, I'm going to be taking care of two sets of needs at all times: my child's and my parents'. Practising mindfulness, even with the simply mundane tasks of folding laundry can help me stay centred about what I am capable of doing.

Additionally, as I put away the last neatly creased shirt into the wardrobe, an important thought struck me. This is me: the calm, relaxed me; the one who gets pleasure by simply putting away clean clothes. I don't need much to make myself happy.

 I'm happy doing what I do- be it blog or write or work at my job or giggle with my daughter or listen to my favourite songs on the radio or share that with friends and family or even cook a really bad gravy dish which needs extra salt (most of the time). 

And that's perfectly fine. 

I may never live up to the ideal of  the ideal blogger or the perfect mom who ensures that her child only has healthy, organic food in her snack box, but I am happy. I may be the tardiest when it comes to replying to messages on Whatsapp and I may not agree with every single thing that I read online. 

But, I am happy. In this moment, in this incredibly mindful moment, I am happy.

Sometimes, it takes the simple act of folding laundry to unlock the emotions inside.

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