“The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.” ~ Albert Einstein
Really? Laundry? At 5 in the morning? Really?
It would be there later, whispering taunts from the basement, knowing I could hear it, laughing at my disdain for it.
It was so fun to ignore it. And it seemed somewhat important to ignore it, too. Who was really the boss here?
I’d descended the cellar stairs for one reason- to turn on the heat because my toes were getting cold as I sat at my computer. But the thought, “Why not?” tied itself to my ankle as I made my way to the furnace and the laundry flirtatiously pulled me back to the overloaded basket of ready-to-fold clothes.
The task was done in five minutes but not before I’d been reminded of something I’d known and lived for years: monotony never dies. It lives and grows after the newness of everything new and exciting wears off.
And there is a purpose and value in monotonous tasks: a slowing down and a deliberate simplicity is experienced in mundane and repetetive tasks.
But more than that, I felt alive and unburdened when I was finished.
How many times had I stood at a ballet barre knowing exactly what the instructor was going to tell us to do within seconds of her opening her mouth? We’d do the same thing every day for the first half hour, the music and the arrangement of movements being the only variations. Then we’d move into the center exercises, and finally onto choreographed work.
The pattern of the class never changed.
The work done there was foundational to the dancer. It was where the root of all technical problems began and where we’d be sent to resolve them.
Everything of value was built on the strength of that foundation work.
For so many years I had the habit of waking at 5 am, robotically doing laundry first, then reading, writing in my journal and finding my thought for the day. My day would unfold around that one thought. I always felt peaceful because I’d finished what needed to be done and the rest of the day flowed joyfully and effortlessly. My day would always end around 7:30 when I’d crawl under the covers and relax with whomever showed up.
I’d taken the strength of that habit for granted. I’d let upheaval in my life distract me.
Yes, it seems monotonous and predictable. But so is nature in a way.
The sun rises and sets, life comes and goes, wind disrupts, rain feeds, light warms, and cold freezes.
It lives in the background, the foundation of my day. Every day.
Living a simpler life that allows for the mundane and important tasks of my day to be done joyfully is my goal. Those chores are not my life, but they are essential to the overall flow of it; I enter the rest of my day peacefully, having done “first things first” . I have to clarify that “chores” can mean anything from household chores, to prayer and journaling.
For some reason I’m drawn to thoughts of Thoreau’s book, Walden, that I read when I was a teenager. I’ll have to leave you to find the relationship between the following quote and my ponderings about monotony. Somehow they are related!
They must be or I wouldn’t have thought them both at the same time!
It might take me the day to make the connection…perhaps the cellar is my Walden? (I made myself laugh!)
Here’s the quote:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.” (Walden, Henry David Thoreau, 1854, chapter 2)
I hope your day goes well – that you live it purposefully and simply. I hope that it feels like you have chosen a quiet and deliberate life, one that feels joyful to you.
I hope that you find purpose in the monotony…