I learned to iron from my mom, but not before I scorched a shirt or two. Cotton and Polyester were the fabrics of my childhood. And, although I liked my Danskin striped shirts and ribbed pleated pants, cotton was the classier choice for anything other than playing in our Haddontown neighborhood. When inside I had chores, one of which was the ironing.
I would set up the creaky ironing board in the kitchen close to the counter with the electrical outlet. And then I’d carefully plug in the Sunbeam, aqua iron until it was hot enough to smooth away the folds. I would iron my father’s shirts for work, my sister’s and my blouses, leaving the trickier ironing of dresses to my mother.
In my twenties I volunteered at a new age retreat. One of my jobs was to iron the leader’s white oxford shirts. Perhaps I was chosen because Virgos are known for our attention to detail. They never told me. What they did say was, “Janet, it’s imperative that you bring integrity to your work. There must be no lines in his shirt. Anything that takes his attention away from leading the group compromises the quality of the retreat.” I took them seriously, and performed my ironing with fear and seriousness. At the end of the week I was commended for my work, but at great cost to my happiness.
Today I ironed my dresses, two green, two blue, one orange and one black. It’s been a while since I’ve ironed. I tend put on no-iron clothes or slightly creased shirts. I take out a steamer from time to time, but sometimes it just doesn’t do the job of old fashion ironing.
There is something meditative about ironing. I can tell immediately if I’m doing it right. And I know this because the wrinkles disappear. I find this ever so satisfying. It’s clear what task is at hand, and it’s clear when it’s complete. Few jobs are that straightforward in life. Unlike my fear of failure at the retreat, I’m happy to do my ironing with music on in a state of ease. My dresses are done and I’m grateful to my mom for introducing me to the finer points of ironing.
I wasn’t planning on taking a break from my blog, but that’s what happened. I’m glad I took this break. I’ve needed a breather in general for a while, and the blog was just a part of what I needed to put aside. I enjoy writing, but I noticed something as the weeks went by without penning a word. I noticed that I felt relieved at times, and frustrated at other times. Same circumstances, different responses.
As the weeks went by I started criticizing myself. I was hard on myself for not writing even as other obligations loomed large. I’d think, “If I don’t write on a regular basis it’s predictive of not publishing later.” I questioned myself. “Could my attention on family and professional training simply be an excuse?” Of course it can. Or, more likely, it’s the choice I’m making at this time.
We all make choices. And each choice excludes another. To spend more time with family I give up writing. To choose a concert this summer I give up going out this weekend. To work more I give up a cleaner home. To write this I give up some sleep. We make choices large and small every day. Tonight I chose to write this short piece. And tomorrow? We’ll I guess I’ll see what choices I make and how they translate.
One imperative option is to take a break from self-criticism. Whether I have a blog post or I skip it, I am doing the best I can, as we all are.
I’ve dropped the ball. I haven’t answered emails, returned calls or followed through on making plans. This is not like me. Well, the me I used to be. Apparently, it’s very much like me at the moment. Usually I’m on top of things. Often I’ve stayed up late to make sure everything gets done. Not now.
Tonight I almost missed a terrific show. I tried to purchase tickets at the last minute, even though I planned to go weeks ago. And when I went online it was sold out. My friend Kathy bailed me out and gave me her ticket, so I was able to enjoy Brad Freyman in Pimm’s Mission. I was lucky this time, but who knows the consequences with my next near miss.
I seem to be the rather undependable, someone I swore I’d never be. Yet, here I am avoiding or forgetting to be more responsible. I promised myself I’d write more this summer. I was going to write a pitch and a proposal. I was going to read more. Do some research. I didn’t, though. There are exhibits to see I have yet to view. Not a priority, but still….. I’m not diligent with my running either. I don’t know what accounts for my lack of luster. But here I am behaving in a way foreign to me.
I have to say, I need this break. I have always been busy, too busy. I’m busy now, just not as busy with all the coulds & shoulds. I guess the difference now is that I’m not fighting this phase so much. I don’t understand it, but I imagine there’s a good reason for it. So while I’m missing what I think needs to get done, I’ll be curious about this rare break from my norm.
The impulse to judge is a strong one. Although I can be intuitive, seeing how someone holds him or herself or has a certain expression that speaks volumes about character, I can also go to a less caring place when looking at others. More often than I’d like to admit, I can dismiss someone at first glance. Sometimes, though, I’m fortunate enough to be proven wrong.
The other day I was in a group and I totally dismissed a conservatively dressed woman as someone tight, lacking a sense of humor. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. When she shared she had us all laughing with a wonderfully dry wit. Now, here’s a woman I wanted to know. Yet, I almost didn’t give myself the chance because of my own inaccurate conclusions.
I wonder how many missed opportunities I’ve experienced. How many people would have contributed to my outlook if I hadn’t been so judgmental. In reading a wonderful piece about a fat bride and her joyous wedding, Lindy West affirms true happiness.
It turns out I’m not much of an all-inclusive gal. We are in a gorgeous setting, in the warmth of Mexico. I am so happy to be out of the New York winter for the week. And, yet, in this lovely setting, I hear muzak when I yearn for quiet. I dine at restaurants that have stunning menus with adequate food. We are in the lap of luxury, and I crave simplicity. Tonight we walked the property. It is spa-like in design, though I heard a mariachi band playing to diners at a themed buffet. We went to the café for an after-dinner espresso. There was a lounge singer nearby. As much as I enjoy soloists, this was more paint by numbers than art. We turned a corner and could hear a mash-up of disco and pop. Lights were blaring, and a DJ was running a show as if a Jersey Bar Mitzvah depended on it.
We were actually looking for the rock band noted on the activity list. We found them. It turns out they were not as loud as the other performers. But they were of equal quality. There was nowhere to go that was silent, except out room. The room is beautiful. The bathroom alone is more spacious than our bedroom at home. And that’s nice. I appreciate a bathtub that has leg room for someone older than five.
There have been lovely moments. We saw the Mayan ruins and the Pyramid. That was truly amazing. And, I relish the laughs we’ve exchanged this week. The talks we’ve had. It’s been so nice to share time together, while also respecting the time we each enjoy on our own. I have no email. So, though I dread the idea of going through over a 1,000 emails when I get home, I am grateful not to have to think of responsibilities for a week. This makes it a true vacation.
I am able to jog. I’m happy about that. I explored Playa Del Carmen, and I went on an easy path. There’s beautiful street art, graffiti art and murals. Walking has also been nice. I’ve been able to walk and run on the narrow beaches. I had planned on swimming, but the pool is particularly cold. No heated pool except for those with concierge service. I do not like feeling like a have-not.
So, though there have been high points, I will not be returning. I know I’m so fortunate to be able to get away. And, I know what I don’t like. Now I will do my best to discover what I do want from a vacation. I have the sun and time off, which is half of the equation. Now I will work on figuring out the other half, thus completing the satisfying vacation experience.