In this lockdown, I’ve made a surprising discovery — I really, really like folding laundry.
Laundry has always been one of those annoying chores that can be done by anyone, and I’ve been so busy doing other things that must be done by me and only me, so it was the first thing I’d delegate: to paid help, to my kids, to anyone who’d do it. But now, with plenty of time at home, and no household help, I’ve reclaimed the chore. Something about the mindless, rhythmic task has been soothing. Scoop clothes into the washer, transfer the sweet-smelling pile into the dryer, remove warm and comforting fluff and, with deft and sure hands, transform it into neat piles of sorted order.
To a lesser degree, dishwashing has also restored itself in my mind as a task I enjoy. As I listen to something interesting or chat with someone on the phone, I slowly, incrementally, create order from chaos. Almost before I realize what is happening, the unruly pile is neat, clean, organized, and ready to be stacked, exactly the way I like it (unlike when I delegate) into cabinets and drawers, in like piles that are pleasing to the eye and mind.
Chaos to order. If only life were that simple. But here, in my little corner, it happens all the time.
Of course, it’s never that simple. Tomorrow, these neat piles will be used, messed, cracked, and upended. The clean laundry, dirty again. The sparkling cutlery, covered with the grime and grease of another dinner. All things tend toward chaos, isn’t that so?
Maybe it is the small bubble of power that is intoxicating. Here, in my minuscule window of reality, in this relatively tiny slice of life called lockdown, chaos is containable, if only temporarily.
The Talmud describes how the priests of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem would vie for the privilege of cleaning out the ashes from the menorah each morning. When we think of lighting a menorah, all the images are of night, the fresh menorah sparkling in the darkness. We never take photo ops of the cold, grimy menorahs of morning, with ashes and wax drippings all over. It’s just not Instragrammable. But the priests understood that this too was holy, honorable work; this was their sanctuary, and nothing could be holier than the daily process of creating order from chaos.
Our homes, too, usually relegated to hotel rooms of our lives as we zip around all day to far more interesting and honorable places, are meant to be our sanctuaries. But I think we forgot. We keep thinking of ways to leave our homes: stores, restaurants, work, vacations. We meet friends at Starbucks and eat meals out. It doesn’t even dawn on us to meet at home. Life has a way of reminding us of truths.
Home is your sanctuary. The daily tasks of creating holiness and order within it are holy. We cannot flee now and we cannot delegate. We reclaim the maintenance of the sanctuary, and the entire world is in the same boat. The Zoom calls we’re on highlight those sanctuaries behind us, as we likewise get a peek into others’. No longer is it unprofessional to work from home. Home is the new Starbucks. Home is the new office. Home is the new restaurant. Home is the new vacation.
And even if those homes are disorderly, chaotic, noisy, messy, lonely, or anything else, one thing we can control: our little corners. Our small arenas of control. Laundry. Dishes. The privacy of our minds, and the sanctuaries of our own souls.