Lifestyle

FAITHFUL LIVING: Routines challenge us and build our faith

I was a teenager when my mother revealed a fundamental truth to me. And while I have forgotten the exact circumstances, I can easily guess as to what may have prompted her revelation. I was probably complaining bitterly about a task I had been assigned, for I can remember her admonition as if it was spoken only yesterday: “Much of daily life is predictable, somewhat boring and very routine. Accept this truth and learn to manage it in such as way that it does not disappoint you.”

I imagine my mother’s pronouncement was made during a Saturday morning as I stood in my bathroom with a sponge in my hand. You see, we cleaned every Saturday morning without fail. In fact, my life came to a complete halt until my chores were done, which included cleaning all three bathrooms, dusting all the furniture, and vacuuming all the shag carpets (remember the carpeting of the 60s and 70s?).

Today, as the mother of teenagers and the primary caretaker of a busy house, I value the fact that when one cleans on a regular basis the jobs are rarely big. I image that this bit of wisdom was lost on me at the time, however, just as it is frequently unimaginable to my own kids. “Didn’t we JUST do this last week?” they say to me, when they realize I’ve decided it’s cleaning time, once again. I am sure that I viewed my childhood weekly jobs as insurmountable, terribly unfair and downright tortuous. After all, I was certain that none of my friends had mothers who expected such routinely applied cleanliness.

My mother’s practical acceptance of what I now view as a simple, yet wonderful truth, annoyed me back then. I am certain that I made some kind of heartfelt pledge that my life would be a thrill a minute and I would find a way to never view anything as acceptably routine.

I thought about this long-ago moment of angst twice this week. The first time the memories came flooding back I faced a shower in need of a good scrub and I realized that there was no way I could avoid getting hot and sweaty and having water drip down my arms into my shirtsleeves. I also wondered how I would occupy myself for the next few minutes without going stark raving mad. You would think I would not give power to such thoughts, but preparing to do something I do not enjoy can be extremely difficult, even if I routinely repeat the task. Some tasks are never fun and will be difficult to begin, each and every time. I treated myself by sliding a CD into a portable stereo and the vocals of Barbara Streisand sweetened up my experience nicely.

The second time I considered the role of predictable routine I stood out in the middle of my horse corral and observed the amount of sticky weed that has grown up along the fencing during the summer. I have able-bodied children who will help with the pulling. And granted, I asked for such a problem when we placed two horses in an area that we knew would eventually be overgrazed, nearly inviting such a weed to take hold. But too often we make choices then complain about the results. To enjoy looking at horses with clean faces as opposed to dirty ones caused by dust gluing onto sticky hair, we must choose to seize the moment and organize a pulling party.

Ah, some wisdom is creeping into our thinking, is it not? The sweet truth that lies under the stark reality of life’s routines is this: Routines can either drain our energy levels and weary our souls with bitterness, or help us to develop character and commitment.

May I be the first to admit that rarely can I face monotonous tasks alone. I must invariably ask for God’s blessing, for facing a boring task is the first hurdle. Doing it well, over and over again, is the second.

If you think I am overstating my case, consider the amount of time we all waste — procrastinating at best, avoiding at worst — those things in our lives that routinely demand our attention and care. Consider the people around us who refuse to live responsibly because they perceive many of their activities as unfulfilling, unimportant and unworthy. Consider those who self-medicate, lose themselves in unproductive hobbies (did you see the guest on The Dr. Phil Show who spends 10 hours a day metal detecting?) or abandon obligations altogether because life is no longer enticing. Or stimulating. Or simply not exciting enough.

Turn up the music and dig in.

Freelance writer Joan Bay Klope’s e-mail address is jbklope@hotmail.com

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