Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Wash, rinse, repeat

A Reading from the Bottle of Pantene

Wash, rinse, repeat

The idea for this blog squirted out of my shampoo bottle the other morning. As I lathered and rinsed my hair – I wash it too often to need to repeat the process – I realized those venerable three steps are the same ones I need to take to maintain trust and connection with all the people in my life. See if you agree.

Wash. When – not if – I get in a lather about something, there’s always someone whipping up that anger in me. I sometimes froth privately, sometimes spume publicly; either way, some part of my connection with that person is scrubbed.

Rinse. The lather often subsides on its own; the inward or outward tension fizzles as we move on with our days. But a sticky residue remains if I fail to rinse it off. I may need to talk through my frustrations, understand an opposing view or apologize for my actions.

Repeat. On a shampoo bottle, this simple word seems like a marketing ploy to get us to use twice as much shampoo as we need. In life, if we really want close, trusting relationships, the repetition never ends – doesn’t the Bible mention something about forgiving each other 70 times seven times, and wasn’t that really a metaphor for always?

Seeking and extending forgiveness is a daily practice. I hope to see and address each small wrong to keep it from bubbling into a bouffant of offenses that snags my relationship with those I love.

Here’s an example of combing through the tangles.

Wash

At the end of a family vacation a number of years ago with Craig’s sisters’ families, he and I were packing suitcases and hauling them to the car alongside one brother-in-law and his kids. Where were our kids? Sprawled on the bed relishing their last few minutes of cable TV. Seeing the contrast in our families filled me with shame – why hadn’t I taught my kids to be helpful? – which I instantly covered with anger. I returned to our room and berated my older three kids for being mindless, lazy and self-centered. I was loud and ugly.

Was their desire to watch a few more minutes of shows they couldn’t get at home so malicious? No. The malice was verbally abusing my kids because I was ashamed of looking like a bad mother. From my shame, I shamed them.

Rinse

Soon after I finished my tirade, I knew I had to come clean and apologize. Unfortunately, my kids had scattered and I had to hunt them down one by one. I found Kristen in the hallway. “Kristen, I’m sorry for yelling. I should have just asked for help. Please forgive me.” That wasn’t too hard.

Repeat

I found Anna in the room. “Anna, I’m sorry for yelling. I should have just asked for help. Please forgive me.” Two down, although the second was a bit harder.

When I saw Dave in the lobby, I was overcome by the realization that a few seconds of lathering had hurt three of the people I love the most. I teared up as I apologized to him: “Dave, I’m sorry for yelling. I should have just asked for help. Please forgive me.”

All three were quick to forgive. The harder part was forgiving myself for my automatic willingness to sacrifice their love and respect so that I could present us as the perfect family.

Then, as now, perfection eluded me, but at least I felt tingly clean for the long ride home.

Making the Bed

Making the bed

“Sunlight is painting.”     – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Order in the Bedroom

Making the bed

My mom knows how to make a bed. She pulls back her covers every morning to let the bed breathe, straightens the bottom sheet, pulls up and straightens the top sheet, does the same for the blanket and then the quilt, folds the top 6-8 inches of the top sheet over the quilt, and finally plumps the pillows and lays them flat beside the headboard.

Mom knows about hospital corners, changing sheets weekly (on Thursdays) and alternating sets. She actually folds that pesky fitted sheet and stacks the just-washed sets in her linen closet for the week. For most of her life, she dried the sheets on the clothesline – we’re talking beds for 7 people – to capture the smell of the outdoors.

Mom even knows proper bed terminology. Thanks to the sisters at St. Joseph Academy in Cleveland, she learned that, rather than make our beds – the manufacturer made the bed – we dress it each day. She took such good care with the dressing that she passed on two sets of sheets from my teen years for my own girls’ beds. I really dug seeing those groovy orange poppies again.

I used to make my bed – when I lived at home, when as an adult my bedroom could be seen by people walking to the bathroom, when I was training my own kids. But over the years, rather than my kids adopting my good habit, I adopted their bad one. When they stopped making their beds, I stopped making mine.

Craig has my equally relaxed approach. He’s not a morning person, so an unmade bed doesn’t even register with him until he’s walked past it a dozen times. That might happen on a Saturday or Sunday, in which case he’ll pull up the covers and toss the pillows toward the headboard. It’s more lumps than plumps, but it works for us.

Until now.

When I make the bed, I think of Mom. She made our quilt for our 20th wedding anniversary.

When I make the bed, I think of Mom. She made our quilt for our 20th wedding anniversary.

While millions of people are resolving this year – or at least the first few weeks of this year – to cut out carbs or blog daily, I’m resolved to make my bed every day, preferably not just before I get back into it each night (although my son-in-law pointed out that, unless it were past midnight, making the bed at bedtime would still qualify as keeping my resolution – I do like that guy).

Why start now? I think it’s a case of the teacher appearing when the student is finally ready. The teacher showed up for me on the pages of Kathleen Norris’ book Acedia & Me, which I began rereading after Christmas. Fittingly, the teacher is her mom. Norris writes:

“I was a bratty kid who didn’t want to make her bed. … To me, the act was stupid repetition; to my mother it was a meaningful expression of hospitality to oneself, and a humble acknowledgement of our creaturely need to make and remake our daily environments. ‘You will feel better,’ she said, ‘if you come home to an orderly room.’”

Her mother was right. My mother was right. It does feel good. And maybe this one orderly act will lead to others. Like putting away my dirty clothes littering the bench at the foot of the bed. I think there’s a little room on the closet floor.

 

To read more about my mom, click here and here.

To read more stories about mothers and what they teach and give us, click the following icon, which will link you to Emily Wierenga’s blog and her Imperfect Prose on Thursdays (she doesn’t like capital letters, but I do):