Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Payoff of Laziness?

The Paper Source: Cupcake Apron

 So the other night I came up with around 45 possible topics and I don't want to do any one of them right now.  So I'm just going to go with the events of the day and see where the stream of consciousness takes me.  Hopefully I won't ramble too badly.

My daughter is in bed with me.  She just came in. Apparently she's cold.  She may have just been missing me.  I was not home for bedtime tonight as I was attending my Women's Cognitive Therapy Group.  This is the group to which the X and Y post's exercise belongs.  I came away with two assignments:
1) Choose a body part each day that I can accept for just that day without judgement.
2) Come up with a list of the payoffs of inactivity in the household to me.  What's in it for me when I decline to do the chores I need to do, considering that I then feel really bad about it. 
SIGH.  I suppose I can do this.  I don't know about the body part thing.
I have great feet.  I like my toes.  That's about it.  I'm overweight.  My body has not forgiven me for having two children and eating the crap I did while I was pregnant (lots of ice cream and chili cheese fries).  I have acne---STILL!  They told me back in school that it would go away when I grew up---LIARS!  (I have no baggage about that, not at all.  That's an entirely different post.) OK, my hair is not bad, though I don't like my present cut.  That's one more.  Hm...  I have cankles, which I hate.  I have fat around my knees, which I hate.  So I am going to have to suspend judgment of a body part each day for which I have severe negative judgement.  I guess that's the point.  In the process I'm supposed to consider disagreeing with the media message we've been fed all our lives as females:  that our worth is synonymous with our looks.  Just throw away 40 years of constant conditioning... no problem.  Uh, Jul, that's why its an "exercise."  Fine.

It's just hard when I USED to have a good body.  When I was 14, I can see now that I was gorgeous, well, not my face, but I had not an ounce of fat on me and I was playing two sports.  I could not understand how anyone could BE fat since I was not and thought nothing of eating ice cream and McDonald's with abandon on a regular basis.  I was so judgmental of other girls and women, as are loads of girls at that age.  This criticalness came up at group.  Not that I'm still judgmental of others; I did get over myself once I got a little maturity and I now cut every other female a huge break when it comes to, well, pretty much anything. But apparently I am vigorously critical of myself.  I know, boo hoo---the tubby little housefrau says mean things to herself when she should be cognizant of how she has more, and lives with  more ease than 99% of all human beings alive now or in the past.  Yeah, but in my everyday life, I'm not.  I'm wrapped up in my own insulated little world where my feelings and life dealing with kids in the suburbs is what there is to existence.  I'm not really helping others on a local basis, never mind regional or global (although I'm hoping this blog may somehow help someone out there not feel so alone).  But in group we were indulging the little things that vex me so and our leader asked if I'm usually so very critical of myself.  She seemed to think that I was.  I admitted that yes, for example, I am so competitive that I compare myself to every female I see at any given time.  Not that it's given any real thought, just an automatic gut feeling of a thumbs-up or down.  I'd only really admitted this before to my husband.  He thinks it's crazy.  I think every woman does it and that it's perfectly normal.

Anyway, wah wah wah, right?  The second assignment is more interesting.  I've been really frustrated about the condition of my home lately:  very cluttered, dusty, needing to be vacuumed, fridge stuffed with leftovers in Styrofoam boxes because we've been eating out too much, the detritus of preschool and kindergarten children everywhere, laundry out of control, half-finished house projects all over.  Yet every opportunity I have for some free time to work on some of this is used to rest.  I feel compelled to rest at every opportunity as if I were still nursing a newborn, obviously a learned behavior.  This "rest" is really withdrawal (I think) from the overstimulating world of caring for two young children, considering that I am quite the introvert.

At the same time that I am decrying the condition of the house, I am comparing myself to my mother who was June Cleaver with Multiple Sclerosis.  Our house was spotless.  The only clutter was a pile of mail on the counter, which my Dad regularly gave my mom a hard time about because that was the only thing one could give her a hard time about.  The rest of the house was like a model home.  She even wiped down baseboards.  We NEVER wanted for clean laundry,  and she put it all away for us.  There were NEVER dirty dishes stacked up around the sink the day after a meal, and she did them all by hand because my father hated the sound of the dishwasher.  She did all this even when she had to crawl to get up the stairs.  The only thing that slowed her down was eventual progression of the M.S.  Then she was forced on some levels to accept mediocrity.

I simply do not measure up to that.  I'm not that disciplined (neurotic?).  She knew I wouldn't too.  She very strongly believed, and said to me as if it were fact in stone, that "You were always lazy about housework."  Well, yeah.  I never had to do any!  There was no real consequence to leaving dishes about the house other than some complaints, which we all know mean little to a kid/tween/teen.  I did not have to make my bed, she did it.  I did not have to do dishes, she did them.  I did not have to do laundry, she did it.  If she asked me to dust or vacuum, as a normal kid, of course I didn't want to do it.  What kid does?

I actually had a quite embarrassing incident with my husband's family, who thought that I did not have good manners because I did not pick up glasses or other dishes I used and put them in the sink when I was done.  Well, in my house, regardless of my laziness as a family member,  it was considered rude for a visitor to have to clean up after his or herself.  The host was the one to clean up, not the guest.  The guest was not to lift a finger and was to allow the host to care for them. But that aside, as I mentioned, it is true that I left glasses around the house and it used to bug my mother that I did so, especially since I seemed to have this thing about not finishing the last swallow in a glass.  My sister on the other hand has always been very proactive about cleaning up dishes, and is still, especially at holidays at other people's homes.  So I guess I was lazy.  Now mom admitted that it was just with regard to housework, not with other work or academics or anything.  So why did judgement as lazy about housework hurt me so?  Why does it still hurt me?  Because it was true and it's gotten worse.  I guess because this judgement was reiterated after I was an adult and taking care of myself and husband just fine (no kids at that time).  I was trying to say that I'm not like that anymore but she didn't buy it I guess.  She would not budge from her statement.

So now what's the payoff for me to once again fulfill her judgement of me in this area?  It hurts me not to measure up but I don't change it.  I just hide more and spend as little time in the house as possible.  Like avoiding it is going to make it go away?  So that's something I'll have to think on.

The immediate pay off is that I don't have to do the work.  I can just retreat into myself and not do it or I can leave or I can be interacting with my kids and not multitask.  If I wait long enough my husband might do it !  Laziness.  Lack of discipline.  Is that it?  Our group leader suggested it may be somehow wrapped up in mourning my mom's death.  Perhaps if I met her standards would I not have to mourn anymore somehow?  That doesn't really sound right to me.  I'd think cleaning up would just make me feel better about myself.  Why not do the thing that will make you feel better?  Is there some other payoff?  I can still say that I didn't give it my full effort, and so of course I failed, rather than risk failing after really trying hard.  My ex-neighbor's husband used to chide her that she should feel ashamed of not working on the house when he's been out working hard all day.  Boy did I feel bad when he did that, because she was always way more productive than I!   I do feel that shame, but it's obviously not enough.  Then of course I can blame the depression and call this laziness a symptom rather than a personality fault.  I suppose that's part of it.  But you can change your brain with drugs as well as with thoughts, so I'm trying to do both.


  1. Julia, I wish you could see yourself through my eyes for just five minutes. "Tubby little hausfrau?" Oh NO, my dear. Please banish that description from your mental rolodex. When I think of you I commit the sin of ENVY. Envy of your intelligence ( you can do science?!??) your clear, thoughtful, beautifully phrased writing, your bravery and strength to cope every day with a sneaky, cheating, soul sucking mental illness.....plus I really love your hair! Seriously....I've always wanted dark, naturally curly hair.....for realsies!

    Every day people read your blog and no longer feel alone. By having the courage to tell your story, you soothe and inspire many. And house work blows. It's boring. Who wants to dust when they could reread Jane Eyre for the 49th time or knit a few more inches on that new baby sweater? I only do it cause I hafta. But I blast Stephen Sondheim musicals and sing at the top of my lungs while I do it. We're rooting for you. Every day. Love, Jill

    1. Oh wow, Jill. You are so kind. I will have to put this in my "Happy File." Do you have one of those? Keeping one was one of the best pieces of work advice I ever got. This is work, so your comment can be the first in my new file. Yes, I'm working on a playlist for doing work around the house. Listen to, if you don't know it, "Happy Little Working Song" from Enchanted. It mocks the whole singing Cinderella/Snow White thing. It's a hoot.

  2. Well, my husband didn't put TLDR (too long, didn't read), but he probably should have. I went through and reworded some sentences and took out the typos I could find. Sorry about those. Maybe tonight I can be more concise! Imagine that!

  3. I really think my laziness comes from frustration that no matter how many times I wash dishes or how well I wash the laundry they never STAY DONE! Plus, no one compliments what DOES get done (it should just happen like a magic fairy just waves her wand and *poof*); it is all the things that DIDN'T happen that attract attention. No matter that I've scrubbed the kitchen floor, the litter box didn't get changed. No matter that I've gone to the laundromat and ALL the laundry is washed, folded, and put away; the checkbook didn't get balanced. There's no medals, bonuses, or attaboys for having a clean house the same as there's no medals, bonuses or attaboys for having a dirty house.

    1. I know. The work is never actually "done." I think we need to come up with some other measure of success or "doneness," something that is actually achievable. I am sure that if the house didn't vex me so, my mental state would be much improved. All I need is unlimited funds.... ;) For now I pick just one place, the table top in the foyer that MUST be tidy. I can at least do that and when I am feeling overwhelmed I can look there and see some tiny bit of peace.