Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Sweat of My Brow

Last week was a scheduled week off lessons for us, and I had so many plans for my leisure time. I would rewrite the first chapter of Strange Plots. I would build a bookcase, for which I already have all the material to hand. I would write a letter a day for Lent, and get up and say Morning Prayer and do all the dishes each night after dinner.

What I forget when making these pretty plans is that I actually have a full-time job, which is running a household, and that this job does not go away simply because I declare a week off. And since the other adult in the house also has a full-time job, that means that certain maintenance activities that need to be done in daylight hours fall to me. 

So: I spent hours last week shoveling the snow that would not stop falling. I could have fired up the snow blower, but I've never used it, and the shovel has no learning curve. For me, that is: I sent my 12yo son out to shovel one day and ended up redoing the job, which is why I just did it myself the next time.

I spent time up on a ladder on the porch roof, removing snow and doing non-OSHA approved activities with a hammer, sharp screwdriver, and a heat gun to clear the ice dam that was making water back up under the slates and drip into the kitchen. 

Both of these were exhausting jobs, and instead of shaking off the snow and diving right into to creative work, I put in a certain amount of recovery time (cocooned in a comforter trying to restore feeling to my frozen extremities, in the case of ladderwork on the porch roof on the north side of the house, which does not have the aerobic component of snow shoveling).

So much for physical labor, but I also spent the week in constant prayer for and worry about conditions in Texas. Long-time blog readers will know that we lived just north of Austin for years, and many friends were in rather dire straits for several days. Each night as I snuggled in my warm blankets I prayed for those who were without heat; each morning for those without water. And so, the only part of my grand vacation plan I achieved was saying Morning Prayer before I suited up and went out to wrestle with the elements, feeling like offering up my work was the only thing I could do for my friends far away.

As to the dishes, I have been chipping away at them in the evenings, but this resolve also reveals to me the weaknesses in my housekeeping, because when you have eight people using dishes during the day, you can't clear the dinner dishes until you clear the lunch dishes, which you can't clear until you clear the breakfast dishes, which is definitely not happening regularly. "Make your kids do them, MrsDarwin!" you say, to which I say, A, I do, many days, and B) you frickin' come to my house and guide children to maturity day after day for eighteen years, and maybe there will be days when you too wish things would happen without your having to make them happen. And some days they do, and for that I'm very grateful to my big girls.

As to writing: I've forgotten how, and have spent fruitless time staring at a page not even sure how to put down a word to capture what I already know I want to say, and that is why I'm writing here, to build up those muscles again. "In pain shall you labor," said God to Man, "by the sweat of your brow shall you get your bread." And don't I rue it, until that sweat is the only thing I have to offer in solidarity with those far away. Then, work is a gift -- not to God, who requires nothing, but to us who want to feel like we're doing something

But even if that is taken away, then we are most like Christ, on the cross, offering himself through helplessness. And so every moment is a gift. It's just not usually the gift we asked for. But I'll tell you what -- if I'd had my perfect week of writing and bookshelving, I bet I wouldn't have been faithful to my Morning Prayer. And in the end, that's the only thing I did last week that will endure through eternity.


Emily J. said...

Love this. Hope your leak does not return!

Anonymous said...

From a Houstonian, thank you! Last week was indeed dire for millions of us, and I am grateful for your solidarity and prayers