I spent New Year’s Day conquering the worst of my feral laundry mountain. The five loads of muddy clothes and pyjamas and the three-foot high ironing basket. It wasn’t so bad. I watched the Cinderella DVD my gorgeous daughter asked Father Christmas to bring for me (unbeknownst to me). I had an excuse not to fall asleep on the sofa or play yet another board game or strain my thumbs mining for diamonds.
We had a mooching home-based Christmas this year, full of TV, Minecraft, and colouring. Trapped in by the endless rain, it’s been unexciting, but restful.
I jokingly put on Facebook today that I was starting the year as it would go on – fighting an endless losing battle with dirty clothes. A relative said, ‘oh no,’ I should be curled on the sofa with a Bailies and a mince pie.
There have been plenty of both this holiday – I’m quite proud of my mince-pie belly. I hosted Christmas Day and made a dozen mince pies, forgetting (or not) that I’m the only one who likes them. And we won’t even mention the giant Christmas Cake I’m eating single-handed, accompanied by endless slices of apple and cheese.
It occurred to me, as I contemplated my remaining one-foot high ironing basket and the two feet of folded clothes on the tumble-dryer this evening, that laundry is a good analogy for life. I live for the day I’ll reach the bottom of the washing hamper or the ironing basket, but the only way it would happen would be if I was alone. My perfect laundry-life can’t ever exist, unless we all live naked or not at all.
We spend so much time in life waiting for the perfect – perfect job, perfect house (or even vaguely tidy kitchen table), perfect car, husband, kids. The day the kids listen or put their shoes on at first time of asking. The book deal, best seller, movie rights (that might just be me!), the perfect night’s sleep or skinny body.
This January we’ll beat ourselves up with resolutions to become the perfect us. Because then, just maybe, we’ll find perfect happiness.
But it’s a con.
We’ll never find – and keep – the perfect, just as I’ll never ever finish the laundry. Because life isn’t static. Perfection is for a moment only. To aim for anything else is to invite a life of disappointment. If we strive for the thing to make us happy, we’ll miss happy in the striving.
It isn’t reaching the perfect empty laundry basket that made me happy today – I didn’t get close. What made me happy was the doing. Watching a lovely movie with my kids while bringing order to chaos. Achieving something. Working hard. Getting stuck in.
It’s a cliché that life is the journey not the destination, but clichés are born in truth. Running will make you happy; striving for the perfect body probably won’t. Writing and creating will bring satisfaction;, longing to be the next J K Rowling will not.
So this year my resolution, as I approach my Zero Fs Forties, is to remember happiness is there for me to grab every day, not to strive for in a futile quest for perfection.
And there will always be ironing, but that’s okay, because it means life is moving on.