A couple days ago I donated an iron and an ironing board that I haven’t used for three years. While at first this doesn’t seem significant, I noticed a part of me felt utterly liberated. I remembered all the men’s shirts and children’s clothing I had ironed during the 22 years of marriage. I also remembered my mother teaching me how to iron when I was about 7 years old. The second burn scar I ever got happened during those difficult lessons. As soon as she saw I was competent in the task I became the person in the family who ironed all the clothes-my dad’s, my sister’s, my brother’s, my mother’s clothes, and mine.
I never questioned all the chores demanded of me during my time in my parent’s house. I suppose the discipline I have as an adult serves me. I learned I had to earn my right to exist at a very young age. Through ironing, scrubbing the tubs, scouring the sinks, vacuuming, dusting, raking leaves, clearing dishes, washing dishes, preparing meals with my dad as a child and teenager, I know how to do chores and many tasks as an adult. Fortunately, what shifted is I’m able to do these tasks joyfully to music I love without an enraged mother screaming at me, Cinderella-style. However, even today I watched as a limiting belief bubbled up from the depths of me, in the absence of the iron and ironing board.
“You have not earned your right to live, eat, play.” Followed by another limiting belief “You are unworthy of existing if you aren’t doing, doing, doing.”
I now know these aren’t true. I no longer believe everything I think. And I believed these thoughts that got buried in the back of my brain. These two limiting beliefs among others likely became the fierce drivers of all the years I hustled for my worthiness to exist.
It’s interesting how the ghost of rushing about to be rushing about-a way to be a moving target in volatile environments can linger in the body. Odd to call being human a practice yet I do believe for me it is especially in a culture that seems to reward hustling, scurrying, and tasking. I’m grateful I continue to gain mastery in stillness, the pause, and quiet time for reflection. I notice the benefits of Being.
All those years of ironing taught me presence, a kind of mindfulness because I certainly didn’t want to burn my skin, though I still did a few times. For whatever reason, this task happened to be one my mother failed to angrily micromanage. Maybe she thought I was competent at this chore. I won’t ever know.
While ironing, my arms and body found a certain rhythm. I began to trust my mother’s non-interference. I discovered an odd kind of satisfaction in taking a very wrinkled item and with the heat of a heavy iron cause them to disappear. Wiggling the pointed end of the iron back and forth became easy, a natural movement, a rhythmic flow. Shaking the cold container of water to sprinkle the very wrinkled items, I experienced a respite from the heat, then an interruption I no longer wanted. Like bumping my head into my pillow at night, I had another rhythmic body movement to engage to try and regulate my jangled, traumatized nervous system. And there’s also the methodic important placement of the clothing on the board so you’d get to all the parts, especially of shirts-the sleeve, the collar, the sides, and back. Over time I realized by completing this task cyclically and diligently (I never stopped until the whole pile was done) allowed members of my family to feel neat, tidy for school, work.
I don’t ever remember anyone thanking me. It didn’t even occur to me that any of the chores I did were worthy of being appreciated or even noticed. With the ironing chore, my mother’s non-interference was enough of a grace, a gift.
These days I doubt anyone irons clothes unless they work the machines at a laundromat.
In life there can be many wrinkles which show up in interactions with people, in the events within a day, in the nuanced moments of discomfort, the rumpled papers of lost possibilities, and everywhere in the technology world-yet, there we’d call them glitches, I suppose.
How do you iron out the wrinkles of your life? When things aren’t pristine, coiffed, and spiffy? Do you add heavy heat, rhythm, and movement or do you sit quietly waiting for the pile to build up on the chair or inside a laundry basket of dirty, stained moments of unkindness?
Wrinkles will happen in life. Whether you choose to iron them out or accept them as part of the journey is always a choice. As you approach a certain age with emerging signs of crepe papery skin, you might happily saunter far away from the Botox, the heavy heat of smoothing out everything to perfection, and accept the crinkles inside, outside, show grace and compassion for the wrinkled expressions of others, and an acceptance that some life experiences won’t ever get ironed out. Acceptance can make your life deeply peaceful.
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately supports people thriving by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, and life. Laura is the published author of four books including Live Inspired which reveals the brave and deep work of self-discovery and her new book of short writings and poetry Abundant Heart: Thoughts on Healing, Loving, and Living Free where with her characteristic grace and candor, Laura shares thoughtful-sometimes comical reflections on healing, loving and living free as inspirational pathways for experiencing a soul-centered, fulfilled life.