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:: problem solving for peace instead of perfection (lessons from my laundry) ::  

does anyone even use collapsible clothes-drying racks anymore?

not sure if mine makes me more old maid or college kid, but for the past month or two (or maybe it’s been more like five, pandemic time-melt is real), it’s been straight up kicking my ASS.

it’s made of these thin aluminummy poles that fit into plastic nubbins on a frame that accordions until you get it to the height where the top sets of poles latch over the top sets of nubbins, like so many promises, unbroken until they bust.

to be fair… i haven’t exactly been kind to the thing.

i’ve got a history of disregarding capacity limits of things like clothing racks and backpacks and handbags and, though not nearly as often anymore, myself.

oh how i used to overschedule my time! so many interests, committees, projects and plans. work to do, friends to see, all the best of intentions that would inevitably pile up and leave me so stressed out i’d need days of doing nothing to recover.

as for backpacks, you should have seen mine back in the day — literally splitting at taxed seams from obstinate attempts to zipper in what wanted to break free, so many rumpled brazen papers neither Kept nor Trapped.

as an adult my handbag hasn’t fared much better, despite an array of cute little separators and organizational pouches and my best grown efforts to pare down.

not a surprise then that my washing machine often ends up overstuffed too, leading to an excess of wet clothes needing someplace to dry.

the little pole nubbins of my drying rack have started to warp from the stress, its structural integrity slowly compromised over time.

because yeah, bags and racks (and souls) bend and burst from the bulk and wear of too much

even the most well-wrought of people and things will buckle at excessive burdens.

the degradation is slow, though.

every so often you crack just a little. a pole slips free from a nubbin. enough to be annoying, but nubbin (heh) you can’t handle.

at some point the stress starts to compound. a pole slips, you go to fix it and another pops out. take care of that one and there goes one more. you start to feel like it’s always something, right?

maybe even like you just can’t win.

juggling cumbersome things cannot be kept up for long. despite our best efforts at holding figurative shit together, soon something’s bound to drop.

doesn’t mean we don’t try though, right?

i’ve had plenty of moments in this struggle, angling to stabilize frame solid between body and wall, simultaneously nudging nubbins to poles. willing rack to stay intact. awkward maneuvers to keep clothing from sliding to floor.

twister meets red light green light meets the floor is lava, but make it laundry.

it’s a game i’ve played for FAR. TOO. LONG.

and with more than just wet clothes.

maybe you have, too. 

why, though? 

in this scenario i stumbled into a problem-solving loop that, in a super fun plot twist, ended up distracting me from solving said problem *insert face palm*

each attempt at hanging laundry became an exercise in modified weight distribution, pace of placement, and strategic positioning… and STILL poles would pop free and cast their contents swiftly off and to the floor.

this last time I got EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF LAUNDRY onto the rack and was walking verrrry carefully out of the room when the whole thing crumpled to the ground in a snap.

and i literally felt like doing the same.

not only had this been slowly sapping my energy and my time, but it’d been taking an emotional toll, too. which i know sounds foolish but is nonetheless true.

…the mild-but-real anxiety of wondering and worrying if the collapse was imminent and if so, what would be the thing to trigger the fall.

…the heightened stress of trying to win a victorless battle, to outsmart aluminum, to finally get this right.

…the shocked pang to my nervous system when it fell, the instinctive cortisol-laden lunge to catch it before it hit, the involuntary tension through my body the whole time. 

…and then stressed out, maxxed out, and flat out of patience — the mental anguish and resignation of accepting defeat and having to wage the same battle all over again.

because it’s not like i could just leave the soggy laundry on the floor.

like a domestic dryerless Sisyphus, balled up sodden laundry had become the boulder i’d apparently been cursed to trudge and budge uphill for eternity.

not the worst of eternal fruitless tasks, to be sure. and certainly nothing horribly high stakes. but the emotional fatigue and body drama has been real all the same.

all that energy, spent trying to make something work that no longer worked.

oof. i’ve been here before. maybe you have, too.

because that’s what we do, right?

we hang in there.

we work with what we have, we make do, we make things last.

we stick it out. we don’t give up. we don’t give in.

even though the real winning move might be to give up on one thing in service of something greater, our collective weathered baggage around permission and giving up often obscures that view.

whether the permission we seek is from others or ourselves, the path to guilt-free giving up is often paved with problem solving, to prove we really tried.

now don’t get me wrong… i’ve got no beef with problem solving.

in fact, as a middle school teacher “how are you going to problem solve that?” was one of my favorite ways to answer a question students had means to answer for themselves. just to remind them that they could.

what i don’t love is how problem-solving process can, if you’re not careful, spin you into a cycle of disconnection — from yourself, your intuition, the real heart-and-soul of the matter.

when you become hyper-focused on fixing a thing, it’s easy to forget that elimination can be a fix, too.

when you’re so lasered in on the micro of the problem, it’s easy to lose sight of the greater macro whole.

before you know it you’re fighting a problem more than solving it.

no matter how “positive” a person is or how bright the sides they look on seem, real life comes with real constraints that can wear you down over time.

to pretend otherwise is irresponsible. to demand otherwise is violent.

we each live within our own very real circumstances that can, at times, be or feel limiting.

some more than others, each of us more or less at different times.

and the more we’re faced with our particular sets of constraints and the need to work within them, the tougher it can become to imagine them gone.

when we find ourselves contending with a particular challenge over an extended stretch of time, it can start to feel like our only options lie in how we ENDURE it, not in how we might be able to CHANGE it.

to carry on with this super-mundane, low-stakes example, though a replacement rack might not break the bank, when money is tight every expense becomes a question mark we try to answer another way.

the expense of replacing a thing can overshadow its non-monetary costs and lead us to undervalue the price dearly paid by our spirit. 

i remember that i’d gone out and looked for a replacement rack once, but couldn’t find one anywhere.

now suddenly this time of mine had value that i hadn’t given it before, and i didn’t want to waste any of it searching for something that lived experience suggested i might not even find again anyway.

and although once does not a likelihood make, even the risk of a disappointment as trivial as this can feel like just too much to bear. especially in times like the ones we’ve been living in lately.

it can overshadow the loss of all the time already wasted hanging and rehanging fucking laundry. i mean SERIOUSLY… is THAT what i’m here for? i can assure you that it’s not.

it can feel heavier than the weight of the disappointment that builds on itself every time the thwack of cloth-muffled aluminum on hardwood slaps your spirit.

it can fool you into thinking that enduring is a better goal than ease.

so maybe the stakes are higher than we thought. maybe it’s time to inventory the daily small annoyances bringing you down that could be chucked or changed instead.

because every small and large circumstance we choose to endure rather than eliminate or improve keeps us tethered to dissatisfaction and limits and lack.

and every time we choose to chuck or change something that feels straight up crappy, we open up more space for choice and with that, satisfaction and hope.

when i had my final-straw moment, here’s what happened.

i thought about chucking the clothes rack but didn’t feel like dealing with the hunt.

and i’d decided that i was sure as shit never going to put myself through that whole mess again, so it was time to make a change.

i stopped trying to make the rack work the way it no longer worked.

i laid it on its side so it only stands one foot tall now and stretches out several feet wide… low to the ground and perfectly positioned for hanging dust rags, pandemic masks and underpants, obviously a win for the times lol

all my comfy pj bottoms and camera-ready upper-half clothing dries on plastic hangers hooked on tabletops and chairbacks spread out across several rooms.

and yes, if you don’t see me name it here, it’s no longer a part of my wardrobe :) 

so listen, this isn’t a story of reaching laundry endgame status. but the quality of my laundry days is SO MUCH BETTER than it’s been in months. 

and that undoubtedly affects the quality of all my days.

what a relief to have released myself from the sneaky cycle of enduring bullshit in the name of solving it.

screw endurance. i’ll take ease, please.

problem solving doesn’t have to be about solving for perfection. 

why not solve for peace (and ease) instead?

and let the pursuit of each new peace help you redefine perfection as the path, not the endpoint. 

to claim ease as the birthright you’re no longer willing to fight.

are you with me?