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Another Day in the Country

Just because I can

© Another Day in the Country

There are some cleaning chores that I just do not like to do. Cleaning the garage is one of them. There are just so many organizational decisions to be made, and I dodge them. 

Cleaning out closets is another of those, and I’m sensing a theme, “How long has it been since I wore that dress?”

Dresses are a prehistoric clothing item for me since I moved back to Kansas. Where do you wear a dress these days other than to funerals? But I still want to keep some of those dresses, remembering when I actually did enjoy wearing them.

It’s the nostalgia that does me in — the remembering when, the desire for bygone days to be repeated in the here and now.

My mother, who in many ways was my mentor on the subject of aging gracefully, rarely talked about feeling nostalgic.

She had lived for more than 60 years with a man who was constantly “moving on.” The future is what fueled my father, but it was the future of world, the future of Christianity, the future of what he called “the Lord’s work” that came before his own personal future. 

I don’t think it ever crossed my dad’s mind that there would come a time in his personal life that he’d be restricted from accomplishing things for the future.

Doing things was what he did in life. “Doing the right thing” was his mantra, and when he found himself unable to do things, he was lost.

In that way, my father’s life told me something of what to expect as a person ages. So on a cloudy day last week, when I cast about for something to do, a disliked cleaning chore came to mind.

I balked at first.

“I don’t feel like doing it,” I mumbled, “so I’ll just read a book.”

However, something was niggling at the back of my consciousness.

“There may come a day when cleaning the bathroom will be much more difficult for you than it is now,” the voice said, “so why don’t you do it just because you can.”

That was a novel concept for a procrastinator. Do it now because you can — not just because it needs it, but because you can.

I hesitated for a brief period as I made a list of reasons that I shouldn’t rise to the challenge: It wasn’t that bad. The toilet was clean. The floor wasn’t cluttered. The sink wasn’t that bad. I’m not that messy. I could just put out a clean towel.

The list was getting longer, and then I set to work.

It is the clutter on the sink that makes a bathroom look messy. I have a long bathroom counter. All the things I’ve used and like to keep handy are all out there: brush, hairspray, inhaler, vitamins, make-up, jewelry, floss, toothbrush, toothpaste, essential oils — an unruly conglomeration of things and stuff.

Begin at the beginning, I said to myself. Throw away. Clean up. Put away. Find the lid. Organize. Simplify.

I began to enjoy the process, working with a grateful spirit, not feeling put upon or out of sorts doing the humble task but instead rejoicing in the forward motion of cleaning up my bathroom, counter and all — just because I can.

It didn’t even take that long once I started the task. After it was completed, I looked around for the next thing I could do just because I can.

What started out as simple cleaning tasks took on a mood of a celebration.

I cleaned out the refrigerator just because I can and found myself giving thanks for the variety of food that’s available all year round from sources all over the world.

I didn’t grow any of it except for a jillion peppers in the crisper.

There was cabbage that needed to be used, so I decided to make a batch of kraut bierock just because I can.

I always think of my aunt Naomi when it comes to bierock. She’s the gold standard. Her favorite meal on a summer evening was bierock and watermelon.

Maybe it was remembering her bierock that made mine turn out better than usual.

We can do so much if we set our mind to it just because we can. I can be nice to someone who’s rude just because I can. I can give away something I don’t need just because I can. I can clear out some clutter — in my mind or in a closet — just because I can. And I can make lists off all the things I can do instead of fretting over those I can’t on another day in the country.

Last modified Nov. 17, 2021

 

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