Chore extravagence

I sometimes think we’ve traded the urgent, exhausting, and dangerous efforts at survival that our ancestors dealt with for the opportunity make phone calls, look things up on the internet, and stand in line.  I don’t want to get all cheesy, like, oh, how I long for a simpler time when it would take every calorie I could grub out of the land to create shelter.  No, that’s not where I’m going with this. But I am kind of pissed off at how much non-essential stuff clutters up our days, and how unsatisfying it is.

I sometimes feel guilty that I’m not more productive and don’t just get right on things.  But I had this realization today:  It’s not me!  It’s the chores themselves.  Yes, it’s their fault.

These “chores” aren’t the kind like Laura Ingalls Wilder had. No slopping the pigs or making a dress out of flour sacks.  No.  It’s these weird hassle-y chores that are spreading virally in the new millennium.

I started Labor Day weekend with a bit of momentum to accomplish some things before we all put away our seer sucker suits, white shoes, and gin and tonic supplies for the winter.

On Saturday when I got up, the water was off.  When I turned on the faucet, there was just air where the stream of water should be, so I immediately looked for my emergency kit that has three days of water, food, and batteries in it.  Then remembered that I don’t have one.  It reminded me of when Nurse Lady went to get some stuff from her kit during a power black out and discovered that the kit that she imagined being full of bounty merely contained one small bag of dried split peas.
I really wanted a cup of coffee before yoga, so I made it with the only liquid I could find – tonic water.  I could have used soy milk or orange juice, but the transparency of the tonic water seemed appropriate.  That, and the fact that I’ll have no need for tonic for several months.  I have standards.

I made the coffee, which wasn’t as bad as it sounds, and went to yoga.  When I told the lovely yogini that Lake M. was out of water, she had a look of horror. 

“The whole lake?” she asked.

The look of horror transferred to me. “I hope so.”

Then we both got it. She thought the lake itself had been drained, which would indeed have been pretty horrible.  But her question made me realize that it was possible that the lack of water was just happening in my house, meaning it would be my problem to solve.   Up to that point, my plan had been to just wait until it was fixed, but she introduced the possibility that it may require action on my part. The point of this segue, which you can’t even tell is a segue, is that I’m pretty good at both coping with things not being right, as well as procrastinating solutions.  If there’s no water, I don’t complain when I have to substitute tonic water.  If the squirrels in the attic get too loud, I go up there with incense and they temporarily leave. When the cold water in the bathroom faucet started dripping, I just turned off the cold water at the wall.  A year ago.  If there are holes in the laundry room ceiling, I cheerfully stop looking up.

Eventually, the water came on, and the next day I made coffee with water, had my delicious oatmeal glop from a recipe that I stole from C., and read a review of a book about willpower in Sunday’s NYT.  The author says that willpower is really the marker of a happy life, which made me feel, um, well, like maybe I shouldn’t be quite so happy?  I’ll get going with my willpower, I thought. But first, a few games of solitaire.  

I reviewed my list, which has these items on it:

1.    Call the person about the roof leak.  But first, figure out who that person is.

2.    Call another different person to put on gutters.

3.    Call the person who can invite the termites and carpenter ants to leave.

4.    Call the person to fix the dishwasher, which has been broken for about four months, because it has some flood warning alarm that goes off non-stop, and I’ve had to turn off the power at the breaker box.

5.    Replace the deck, after the ants and termites have moved out

6.    Plus all the usual stuff – water the garden, cut the grass, do the laundry and dishes, tidy, pay bills, obtain, split, and stack firewood, keep track of the boy child. Oh, and dust the shelves, because this is an odd numbered year.  Not to mention the weird chores, like tend to my freaky obsessions.

Okay, I’ve bored you enough, so I won’t elaborate on how it all goes down, but it’s all in the category of one step forward, two steps back.  As an example, I do a bit of research, call about the gutters, they say they’ll give an estimate by a certain date, and I don’t hear back. I call and leave a message, we play phone tag, two weeks go by, we finally connect, and they say it will cost $900 to install two straight gutters along long edges of the most rectangular house you can imagine, and that seems ridiculous.  It’s also annoying because I’ve applied my very limited supply of chore effort towards this problem, and nothing’s better.  I’ve called another person, and we’re in that part where they said they’d provide an estimate by Tuesday, and it’s not Tuesday anymore.  This may sound like I’m writing metaphorically about my dating life, but no, I’m not.  I’m writing about actual chores.

While I’m reviewing my list, the oven starts randomly beeping with an error message to remove the probe from the roast.  There is no probe.  There is no roast.  I turn off the power to the oven to quiet things down, and add it to the list.  I congratulate myself that I have two kitchen appliances that need repairing.  This seems efficient.  I do research on the internet, and find a service place that deals with both things, and has an e-mail contact form.  I’m thrilled, because I love e-mail and hate the phone.  I instantly get an auto-reply saying to contact them by phone during normal working hours.  Grrr.

I go out to the car to remove a cd from the car stereo that’s due at the library, and get an error message there too:  Error 4.  I research this on the internet too, where I learn that I have to take it to the dealer, who will likely suggest that I buy a new stereo. 

I heard something on the radio recently about obesity and how we really don’t have good mechanisms to tell us when to stop eating.  They tested this by having two people eat soup, but they rigged one  bowl up so that it was continuously filling.  The person eating that soup didn’t feel full, though they ate 70 percent more soup than their dinner partner.  I’m wondering if someone is doing this same kind of experiment with my chores.

I realize that these aren’t big problems.  Money, effort, and time will solve them all.  None affect my health, none are even very inconvenient in the scheme of things.   So the purpose of this whiny little post isn’t to reveal what a poor homeowner I am, which is surely true, but rather, to comment on the nature of chores today. 

I, believe it or not, am a pretty hard worker, but there’s nothing to work on here.  It all involves making phone calls, waiting for replies, making more calls, researching stuff on the internet, standing in lines, writing checks.  No sweat will be broken.  I would much rather dig a hole, hammer a nail, split wood, or feed people.

I was thinking about all of this today during my commute, and I was starting to feel that thing of, wow, these aren’t even problems.  Relax already.  Which is good, right?  But I’m very good at that already, maybe gifted.  Maybe I’m an “ignore-the-house-falling-apart savant”, not to brag or anything.  So I’m trying to find that fine line of thinking hard enough about the stuff on my list that I’ll actually address them, but not getting so overwhelmed that I just want to crawl under the covers.  I was trying to put that thought into Warrior 3, because sometimes imagining things as asanas gives them life in a good way.  I pulled over to buy some veggies at my favorite farm stand, and I was sitting in my car, focusing on my Warrior 3 chore list, when I saw a big white truck backing toward me really fast.  I honked, but it didn’t stop Rambo man from just plowing into my car until he contacted it, creating large fresh dents and scrapes.  It would be so much easier to forgive if he just said, “Oh, I’m sorry!”  Because we’ve all done stupid things that we instantly regret.  Instead, he said, “you weren’t there when I started.” Which wasn’t true, but maybe it’s like me believing the chores are their own fault. Maybe that’s karma.  All I know is that my list is getting longer every day.  There is abundance in the world!


  1. < clip > "I would much rather dig a hole, hammer a nail, split wood, or feed people."

    < question/offer > If "feed people" includes taking someone out to lunch then I am more than willing to help you.

  2. I hear you. The tedium of the modern chore list is mind numbing. Thanks to technology and electronic gadgetry, I waste most of my time trying to fix broken things. I'm getting pretty good at ignoring all but the most awful problems, because I just can't seem to get the basics done anymore.
    Sorry about the stupid guy who ran into you. And the gutters, termites and other annoyances. No wonder we yearn for a sod house and a milk cow somedays. Hang in there!

  3. Eric, sure, I'll take you to lunch. That would be a big help to me, I'm sure. Tomorrow?

    And Mel, I'm glad you spend your time taking pictures of tiny miracles rather than dealing with the stupid problems of broken things!

  4. OMG...i am exhausted reading makes me think of all the things I have on my list here....

    Could you possibly add my stuff to your list too?
    Procrastination, if I can't get something done IMMEDIATELY, is always my friend....

  5. I am sure that I am an “ignore-the-house-falling-apart savant” as well. We have skills after all! Thanks for making me laugh. Now where did I put that incense? Debi


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