Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fighting entropy

My dad has been visiting for the past week, fixing up our bathrooms and kitchen. And we now have sparkling-clean walls, plastered and painted, and the civilizing addition of towel racks in the bathroom! It is pretty amazing to be able to hang up a towel. I like it.

My dad is a fix-it-yourself kind of guy. Back in the day, I fixed things myself, too. But then little hands got into the wet spackle, or someone drew on the freshly painted radiator, or the carpet in the girls' room got covered in black glitter while I was busy trying to put up the coat hooks. I gave up, figuring that some day, when the kids were older, we'd get the apartment back in shape.

But thing fall apart faster once you stop trying to stay on top of household entropy. It's as if that doorknob knows it can jam, and the water pipe intuits that now is the time to rust through if it wants to maximize despair. The caulking in the tub sloughs off in an ecstatic frenzy, just daring you to ignore it. You fall in the habit of Repress the Mess, and frantically focusing on what still looks okay.

And then when someone comes in and patches your cracking plaster walls, a miracle occurs. You see fresh minty-green paint over neatly repaired walls, and there's hope. And you suddenly see that the cabinets need scrubbing and the stove could be cleaner, too -- and you find the energy to clean them.

In the book I just finished, one mom wrote a piece about how she got to the end of a busy new-mom day and realized with despair that everything she'd done would have to be done again the next day.
I've been thinking about that: if I could choose one thing in life to do and have it stay done, what would it be? 

I don't mind the laundry, or cooking, or even picking up (though I could do a better job at that), because those things fall into a routine, and routines have rhythm. On the other end of the spectrum I don't mind major crises, because then I put on my bunker mentality and focus on staggering through. It's the things that fall apart randomly, inconveniently, sporadically that get to me. Because they're neither here nor there, neither routine nor extreme, and there's no room anywhere in the schedule or budget to deal with them.

So thanks, Dad. It's definitely been a pleasure to have you here!

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