My Week in Laundry



There were two piles in the middle of the floor, one dirty that needed to be washed, and one clean that needed to be folded and put away. I’m always behind on the laundry, this week no exception.

Early on Saturday, with coffee in hand, I began to sort through the piles, four clean loads lying on top of each other in one basket, and four days of dirty in the other.

I pulled out the shirt Miss F. wore when we had harsh words before school Tuesday morning, where I, in a terrible mood, said regrettable things, things that prompted me to send a text message to the aid in her class and ask her to apologize for me.  I couldn’t bear those words being the last she heard from me all day.

I pulled out Miss F.’s softball uniform and B.’s soccer jersey, worn for two games played in two different towns at the same time, my not being able to see more than 10 minutes of either one.

I pulled out the shirt I wore my first day back at work, after an unexpected and chaotic week away, my boss’ petulance exacerbating the crying jags I indulged in while hiding in my office.

I pulled out the dress I wore to my father’s funeral.

The dress I tugged at while I overhead two women say, “Does anyone know if his daughters even showed up?”

The dress I smoothed over my hips while a well-meaning guest, a person I had never met, took me aside to acknowledge that he knew this death was complicated for me and wished me peace.

The capris I wore running the morning of the funeral, where I may have run my fastest five miles ever, while letting the anger and grief and sadness and guilt pour out of me.

Past, present and future mixed up and blended, baseball jerseys atop a dress worn to a funeral of a grandfather my children never knew. And while I pulled clothing out of that basket and folded it in piles, I sat there wishing I could sort out my feelings as easily as we sort out the lights from the darks and the casuals from the delicates.

I’m not unique.  Every family has their laundry.

Part of my mission is to take the facts that belong to the story of me and my father, and learn to look at them as facts, not as burdens or hurts, or details that I allow to define me.

We don’t have to attach emotional energy to facts.  We can learn to become observers of the facts, even the facts that seem troublesome. Even the facts that we have spent our entire lives personalizing.  Yoga teaches us that.  And while that’s easier in theory than in practice, we have the option to acknowledge our stories, validate our stories, and respect our stories yet be liberated from our stories at the same time.

We can own our stories without them owning us, dirty laundry and all.




My Week in Laundry — 54 Comments

  1. Ilene, again, I am so sorry for the loss of your father.
    I believe in you, in your ability to sort through your stories, your feelings, the complexity of life.

  2. It’s so damned hard to sort through emotions for the dead. I’m still processing my sister, five years out, and I know that complicated pain. Wishing you peace and love.

  3. You have this amazing ability of making sense of things from events and objects. That one works well for you, I am guessing, because you sound very certain and strong even on the subject of death. I am very sorry for your loss. Take care. 🙂

  4. My condolences to you and your family for your loss Ilene. I agree with what ‘medium success’ said before me about your incredible ability to draw us in with something that’s seemingly small and simple. You extrapolate so many different emotions that are often gut-wrenching from such small and humble events, like doing laundry or doing your taxes. You take us along with you even as you’re going through that rollercoaster alone. Know that you’re not alone and that your strength and humility are ever present. Many blessings to you and yours my friend.

  5. I love last line, Ilene. Own our stories without allowing them to own us. It’s harder said than done, of course. Only you can fully understand your truth. Sending you hugs!

  6. Much peace and love to you. Yes we all have our laundry and some weeks reveal much different things than others. Our last week’s laundry revealed a lot of happy, dirty clothes from gardening together as well as my husband’s vintage The Who shirt cut in half by the nurse at the ER after he tore his shoulder. Ugh.

  7. You are so right with this! I have a similar paternal situation. Some things are broken, some broken things can not be fixed. And after a while, those stories of the lives we used to live but live no longer need to take up residence in a place far away from front and center in our hearts.
    I recently wrote, on my own blog, a letter to someone I wish I could help. Because after I wrote it I realized she’s not alone any more than I was alone or you were alone. Except we are all alone in the dark place. We are alone there until someone tells us we are not. So for all of the ones still afraid, it does my heart such good to see the others who are no longer afraid. Sometimes I feel like a who from the Horton book shouting “We are here! We are here! We are here!

  8. Wow. How did you make laundry into this beautiful, moving metaphor? You did, though. I am sorry for your losses, and grateful for how you are processing them here and giving me the space to appreciate what you faced and how you wrote about it.

  9. Been a tough week, it sounds like.
    I read this post, all the while thinking of how much I love laundry. Maybe it’s all the past getting cleaned and all the clothes becoming new again? I’m not sure, but it’s my favorite chore.
    Stay strong mama! Here if you need anything!

  10. Wow Ilene! I pray that the memories of you and your father provide you with much needed comfort. This post is so well written. The metaphors and juxtapositions throughout this post. This post can be applied to many different “issues” in life. Thank you for sharing. Andrea @ be-quoted visiting from SITS.

  11. Thank you, Tua. Seriously, I have yoga to thank for a lot of this ability to make sense of things like this, and for the willingness to do so. It lets you step back, right? To a place where things aren’t quite as personalized. I am extremely fortunate for that, with this situation as well as for others.

  12. Maribel – thank you for your extremely thoughtful words. Maybe it’s because my mind rarely shuts off – unless I’m meditating – but I picked up that shirt of my daughter’s on Saturday morning out of the laundry pile and then my dress…and there was my post. Life is lived in those small and humble moments, when you think of it though. There are plenty more of them than “big events,” or maybe those small and humble moments really are the big events. xo

  13. It’s incredible what you can reflect on when you look at what’s in that laundry basket. I always have too much of it to do, with three kids who get dirty a lot – but then I always remind myself to be grateful for all of that laundry and the full loves they represent. And my condolences to your husband’s Who shirt. That really stinks! And healing thoughts to his shoulder!

  14. Absolutely amazing post in every way. I have read this throughout the day and each time it is better than before. Well done. I feel very much like you when it comes to my mother’s death.-Ashley

  15. What you say in your first paragraph is so true – some things are broken and can never be fixed. Yet, we don’t have to allow ourselves to be broken over those situations. We have the option to honor ourselves by allowing ourselves to be whole and complete and live our lives that way. You obviously get that by what you say here and by what you say in the letter on your blog to that person you wish you could help. I stalked your blog until I found that letter by the way! I am so glad that you are no longer along nor am I. xo

  16. Thanks, Christie. The metaphor began most accidentally while folding laundry on Saturday morning, something I don’t do enough of around here! It has been a week full of revelations – about laundry in every context. I hope to share them all at some point on the blog – because if they can help me with perspective, hopefully they can help others as well.

  17. As I said in an earlier comment, I always feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of laundry I have to do but grateful for it at the same time – because it’s due to our full house and our full lives. So yes, I get loving laundry but for slightly different reasons than you! And thanks for the kind thoughts. Om Shanti. xo

  18. Thanks Michelle, and yes, we all have it – and I really do hope that I can somehow pass on that message that there are ways to deal with the dirty laundry while not giving all of our emotional energy to it. I really do think this is possible. And when we can do this, it’s empowering.

  19. Thank you Andrea. I’m so glad you hopped over. I have to tell you that your post last week, “Getting to the Good,” became an instant favorite of mine – and you had a quote in there that I thought of in relation to the whole situation that I describe here – about how destiny is not about who left you – it’s about who stayed. That thought gave me a lot of gratitude these past few days – because when I think about the people who have stayed and showed up for me, they far outweigh those who left. And that’s a good place to put my focus. Thank you for all of your kind words.

  20. That last line is beautiful. It’s so hard to do but I know that you have the strength and courage to see it through. There are so many complicated emotions and I wish that those thoughts and feelings, especially those associated with family, could be easily sorted into different piles like laundry, each keeping to their own and coming out clean in one cycle. You will get through this. Thinking of you. xox

  21. Uggh…my friend. I can hear it in your writing how it would be so much easier to sort our feelings like we sort laundry. I am so sorry for the loss and all the feelings that are coming from it. I love the line that we do not have to attach emotion energy to facts. I need to remember that because I often do. I need to be liberated by some of my stories. Laundry and family really do seem to go hand in hand.

  22. Thank you Christine. I feel incredibly lucky – despite my ambivalencein this situation – to have awareness. That’s always the first step. And then willingness is the second. My hope for all of us is that we can own our stories. It takes work, but I have faith we can do it! xo

  23. Learning to look at different situations in my life as facts has been life changing for me. I think of all of the situations that I attach emotions to! Especially the actions or non actions of others. Most of those things are just facts. It is I who personalizes them. I think with any close family situation, this becomes harder to do because there are/were expectations involved – especially when it comes to parents/old childhood hurts, and what not. But I do believe it is possible – and one day, it will simply be a story to me – that I own fully. Thank you for your kind words. xo

  24. Gracious, you have such a way with words. I so the post title and was all set to be “I see you your basket and raise you two more,” and then I started reading. I wonder what I would find if I went through my laundry this way…

  25. Oh this is so so powerful Ilene!!! Your vulnerability and strength rise through your words… There is healing in realizing that our brokenness in our lives with those we love and within ourselves doesn’t define us, and yet the emotions that we feel can also bring us to new depths of enlightenment if we let it. Part of our journey is experiencing those emotions…and allowing them to slowly dissipate into strength and knowledge. Those are critical growth spurts we must all endure…

  26. I love your comment, Chris, and in its own way, is reflective of everything I have learned about life as a yoga teacher – which is, we can take the energy of anger, hurt, pain, etc, and transform that energy into a different form. It’s like what the superfriends used to do, remember? But in this case, we can take the brokenness and transform that into knowledge, strength, and new depths of enlightenment like you say – and in my perfect world, use my enlightened knowledge to help others who have have similar experiences. xo

  27. What a beautiful post. I’m sorry about your father. All families do have their laundry and we deal with it differently. I’m glad that you don’t let yours pile up.

  28. You have such a beautiful way with words – even about laundry of every kind. You inspire me to stay current with all of my life’s laundry. Beautiful post, Ilene. And hugs to you during this difficult time. And any other time you want one. 😉

  29. Yes, I am grateful to have crossed that finish line, even if I didn’t recognize it at the time. I just wish the people ‘in it’ could know what it’s like over here on the other side.
    Maybe that’s what people say in heaven, too?

  30. I am in tears. And I want to hug you so hard. “We don’t have to attach emotional energy to facts. We can learn to become neutral observers of the facts, even the facts that seem troublesome.” Ilene, write books now. You have an unequaled gift with words and wisdom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge