A few mornings ago, I noticed two things: the sun was bright and strong, and I needed a clean t shirt. The following is a journal entry I wrote after I did my laundry that day, and I thought it might be nice to share my thoughts.
I spent an hour washing my clothes today- almost all of them- and then hanging them up and laying them out to dry. My arms grew tired! My hands, too. I really enjoyed it. You know, it´s good to work. It is good to use your hands, to do things for yourself. Hanging my clothing up on the black wire that´s strung from the house to the bathroom, some lines from the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery kept playing themselves over and over again in my head. “Its sweetness was born of the walk under the stars, the song of the pulley, the effort of my arms. It was good for the heart, like a present.” That description is of water, pulled up from a well, but I thought of it and how it might fit here, too. Maybe the present, the sweet thing, was not my clean clothes themselves, but the work: the effort of my arms. In itself, it is good for the heart. There is an interesting side to this thought, too.. You know, I am thinking that it is good to work like this: for the self, or for those you love. That work is good for the heart, like a present. But I understand too that there are many people who may not take such pleasure in their laundry days, because for them to wash by hand is their only option. For me, it is a privilege that I have, that I get to choose to wash my own clothes- at leisure- and derive pleasure and meaning from that experience. While I have no doubt that many people who have solely the option of manual laundry work definitely take pleasure and pride in and derive meaning from the experience of washing their clothes and the clothes of their loved ones, I think that I have a small responsibility to acknowledge that our experiences hold some slight yet possibly fundamental difference, due to my ability to choose. I think a lot now about how a lifestyle that is valued in many privileged households in my country is the so-called “rugged” one, and I think that while the merits of many of the aspects of this sort of lifestyle are worth their own recognition for sure, it is really interesting to think about how for many- dare I say for most- of my fellow global citizens, this “lifestyle” is not something to be desired or praised for one´s personal selection of it; it is simply the way one lives. Now, after learning more than I ever knew before about the complexity and often misguided nature of “development”, and the facts about how many people do or do not want access to things such as running water and electricity for many things (I presume that this could include washing machines), I am definitely not suggesting or advocating for an overhaul of the lives of every human being whose way of life could be considered “rugged” by myself and my peers. I´m simply stating a thought I had as I hung the clothes today: that it´s bewildering to me to have this choice, and as a result to have this option to gain meaning and perspective, potentially, from washing my own dirty clothes. How strange it is that others have only this option when they do their laundry, and how strange we are as people to romanticize and glean such lofty ideas from other people´s ordinary lives. I think it is good to work. I think I could write another journal entry later to talk about how I feel when I do things for myself. Perhaps my friends and I back home are not entirely misguided when we call certain aspects of what could be called “rugged” living precious practices to uphold. But how strange it is that we have the choice; to draw closer to a life that may hold some more discomfort than we are used to when it is beneficial to us and our self image, our health and our intellects, and to draw away just as quickly and easily when we find it to be “too much”, when we want an easier way. It´s not to say that people who can´t draw away don´t draw meaning from the same aspects of their lives, and more. It´s not to say that the way that I am privileged enough to live back home is the best way. In many ways, I think that it is not. But it is a privilege. I think that´s something to think about. And how strange it is, that after writing all of this in my journal outside by my hanging clothes, I still don´t know if there´s a way that I should think about washing my clothes in Tiquipaya, Bolivia by hand. If there is, I do not know it yet. I´m curious, though. If anyone wants to have a conversation about laundry, or about the idealization of “rugged” (or ordinary) lifestyles, or about privilege and the complex questions it raises, or all three, please get in touch! I´ll be around, likely overthinking things just a little bit on my laundry days.
With love & curiosity,