Habit Forming & Domestic Love
I was craving writing again. I have done a lot of speaking on the new YouTube channel, I have revived my production and editing capacities for a new TikTok account and familiarizing myself with Reels, I post daily - yet there is something different about writing these blogs and I am glad to be back.
What a privilege to create content as part of how I 'make a living'. I know many see it as an obligation or burden - the pressures to "put stuff out there" grating on them. For me, it comes from a very genuine desire to share the things I am thinking about, working on and learning from... no matter how mundane.
Today, I am called to share on the subject of domesticity. I am realizing that I am particularly interested in habits (sun sign in the sixth house anyone?!). Listening to my first podcast interview yesterday on Rival & Queen, I noted my fascination with people's routines. I imagined other people might find this a dull topic of conversation, while I soak it up and have many follow up questions about when people read, do they brush their teeth twice a day etc. When Truman Show came out I found myself fascinated with the idea that we could watch others live all day and while social media or reality TV seemed set to satisfy these longstanding desires in me, they did not.
Instagram has to a degree provided some nourishment to my insatiable curiosity about how others' live but only from the accounts I tend to follow most closely. I have a strong distaste for overly curated feeds, with their pristine minimalism and matching palettes. I am more likely to be zooming in on the background of someone's Instastories to see what leftover dishes remain on their kitchen counter or what contraption they use to hang their frying pans on the wall rather than caring about what brand they are plugging in their well chosen outfit.
I have concluded that I am fascinated with practical, mundane details because I am looking to soak up information in an area where I feel lacking. While others struggle to find creative outlets, new ideas of what to cook, write or express creatively, I am nearly nuisanced by my overabundance of ideas - swatting them away like inconvenient flies nagging my brain and keeping me from focusing on the immediate task. On any given day, I have 6-10 things I want to post about - a photo, a caption, a video, a blog, a quote, a tip etc. I often have to reign myself in and say, 'you already posted once or twice today, it will have to wait until tomorrow'.
I believe I have often had A-type friends because they find my loose creativity (read at times lax disorder) fascinating and I am trying to soak up whatever natural skillset they have that allows them to fold laundry the second it comes out of the dryer, without thinking twice. Our instinct to be attracted to opposites comes from an evolutionary drive to fill ourselves out where we underwork our muscles - let's just hope we have some overlap in other areas not to drive each other crazy.
This brings me to the topic of relationships. I am fortunate that all my live-in romantic partners had a splash of bohemian, a strong dose of spontaneity and an ability to thrive on the edge. Otherwise, I don't think they could've lived with me. I am not particularly neat. As a child, I did not whine or cry much (or get bored), but I refused to participate in mundane activities like getting ready for bed, taking a bath or tidying my room with the kind of reluctance that can only be described as colossal. I have been reading more about ADHD and I relate to many of the things I have heard - even if they are primarily from TikTok. Tiktok ADHD self diagnosis - is that a thing? (I have also been informed by Gabor Mate's book Scattered Minds).
One of the things that stands out is a stubborn refusal or near torturous resistance to doing mundane tasks or chores. The inability to sustain focus without wanting to jump to the next (dozen or so) task(s). This is in frustrating contrast to the hyperfocus I can maintain on some very complex and/or mentally or physically demanding undertakings. Need a friend to move your entire apartment and carry heavy boxes and furniture in and out of a moving truck and up/down stairs all day? I am your girl. I won't stop until it's done. Want me to put away the clothes I wore that day as soon as I take them off before bed? Run for the hills.
Due to this impediment in certain arenas and acute strengths in others, it's been hard to claim the excuse of being unable to focus or follow through on tasks as I have not been a low achiever in life. I am a selective achiever, as I suppose many of us are to a degree. So often my lack of interest or follow through on domestic matters can be taken as an insult by my partner or other cohabitant. I used to be defensive about this - "it's not you, it's my brain!" But having been on the other side, unable to understand why it's so hard to hang your towel in the bathroom rather than crumpled wet on a chair, I must say I can understand the frustration.
So I have created some tricks for myself to make me more effective in this area. As I alluded to, I can cook 3 meals a day from scratch without the slightest dread or procrastination. Each time I enter the kitchen to prepare food I approach it with relish and creatively juiced excitement. But I also tend to leave a countertop war zone for my boyfriend to inherit during clean up. So I try to abide by tactical tools like putting things away while I cook or always putting my keys in the same place. To a degree, these 'adult' mechanisms work. But here's the thing, any new habit we implement is only as strong as the motivation we attach to it. It has been proven that an emotional investment is more liable to make new learning stick. Which brings me to the point of this article...
Love. When it comes to love, I find the motivation. Whether it's cleaning my dog's ears, visiting the cat next door when the neighbours are on vacation, or dropping everything so my friend can vent her issues to me on the phone, I seem to be able to show up where it's an overt question of care. The thing is, where I have erred in the past - not sending a birthday card, being late or forgetting to put clothes in the dryer - I have erroneously disconnected these things from love. My mind classified them as insignificant and hence the part of me that usually drives me (connection) went dormant.
One day I had a photoshoot in our loft and I cleaned and rearranged it top to bottom. It looked stellar. My boyfriend seemed so touched - melted - as if having been seduced in courtship all over again. When he realized we were having guests over and this explained the effort I had put in, his elation turned to visible hurt. He realized I had not made this effort for him/us but for near strangers. This clarified something for me - when I try to impress acquaintances with a nice home, I do this from a place of ego and vanity (and respect for them). When I put the energy to maintain our shared home, I show my care, compassion and commitment to my seven year relationship, myself and the joy we can continue to create in our lives.
I realize it's 2021 and I am talking about domestic chores as an act of love to my male partner. It all sounds very 1950s but it wouldn't be so if you knew that cleaning was always shared in all my relationships and that this has often been an area in which I have fallen short in my life. Lack of order has been a cause of conflict in almost all my relationships whether that was losing my keys or neglecting some other task I had committed to beforehand. So for me, there is emotional weight to this seemingly mundane and traditionally gendered topic. Unrelated to my sense of femininity, the domestic issue speaks more poignantly to how I show love.
The other day I finished cooking and realized I could clean the pans now rather than later. My partner had cleaned the floors and bathroom that weekend while I was out and about with friends. He usually cleaned the kitchen after cooking but he had just put in his time (oops - am I keeping score?!). I remembered my friend Clayton telling me at brunch, "I have a rule. If it takes 5 minutes or less, I do it right away." I looked at the pans and knew it would take 2 minutes. I realized, I can talk myself out of this or I can do it simply out of love, the same way I make the time to walk my dog two hours a day and send extra sweet emojis in my texts.
I did it. It felt good. He seemed so happy when he entered the clean kitchen. He also celebrated how neat the kitchen was after I cooked that night.
My partner and I met each other seven years ago today. We do not celebrate anniversaries but I am happy about the coincidence of writing this article on this day. I am learning that love is not only expressed in affection, nice words and sentimental gestures. It is demonstrated in every day accountability, to oneself and others. When I make the bed each morning, I am showing love for myself and the potential embedded in the day ahead. When I take out my contacts at night, I am showing love and honour to my eyeballs. When I arrange my sandals at our entrance door so that they are not in the way as people come and go, I am honouring the flow of activity in our shared lives.
I suppose this is part of the logic of Feng Shui. I was so affected by Marie Kondo and her sacralizing of the mundane. Folding as an act of meditation. I need to infuse things with meaning, Spirit and love before I can treat it with the same respect as "creative" acts. This works for me and helps override the ADHD mechanism that wants to skip over the mindless practical tasks by rendering them mindful again.
I will be posting a new Habit Forming challenge on my Youtube today. Keep an eye out for it. Subscribe here to stay up to date when I share new videos on that channel. I invite you to join me in finding a habit or two that you want to show up consistently for as an expression of love for yourself, your life and others.
What we do is who we are, and our habits reflect our attitude to life.
The Latin noun habitus suggests an appearance or attire that we wear. Who do you want to be and how do you want to show up in this world? Let's choose a costume that presents what we truly value in our hearts. Habitus comes from the past participle of the verb habere - "to have, hold, possess; wear; find oneself, be situated; consider, think, reason, have in mind; manage, keep."
We find and situate ourselves in the small actions we repeat day to day. In that sense, every thing we do and don't do has a formative and sacred importance. We have the power to choose, to have and to hold, to keep in mind where we give our loving attention.