The Gift of Tending

Updated: Sep 18, 2019

“I don’t like cleaning or dusting or cooking or doing dishes or any of those things,” I explained to her. “And I don’t usually do it. I find it boring you see.” “Everyone has to do those things,” she said. “Rich people don’t,” I pointed out. Juniper laughed….”They miss a lot of fun,” she said. ” But quite apart from that, keeping yourself clean, preparing the food you are going to eat, cleaning it away afterward-thats what lifes about…when people forget that, or lose touch with it, they lose touch with other important things as well.”

-Wise Child by Monica Furlong

I love this exchange. It brings up so many aspects of being a human, that are easily overlooked. For me, there have been times and still are, when the everyday tasks of daily ritual really bore me. I almost feel like a kid complaining about how much I don’t want to do them. Junipers' voice was like my inner mother, reminding me- you must do your chores!

Rethinking this inner dialogue has been an underlying personal process for years, but it came back to me these past few days in conversation with a friend of mine, Victoria Smith from the Mojo Lab.

Victoria has been talking about the act of tending our homes, instead of using "chores" or "tasks". A chore feels like something to get out of the way. Tending sounds comforting. Even luxurious.

I remember a year or two back when I read this, something clicked for me. The tasks ARE life. A key essential part of it. Maybe one of the most important. And how lucky am I to able to take part? I think sometimes it’s easy to forget that every single person must do some level of necessary tending. We have to clean ourselves. Take out the trash. Make food. Eat. I think we forget because we have so many extraneous distractions now. (Such as video games, books, and cars in which we can go on completely unnecessary -in the pure survival sense- adventures). I feel like centuries ago, it was just accepted that tending was the way life was. There just weren’t as many extraneous things to do, and no time for much else. There were no dishwashers, washing machines, refrigerators, tvs, computers, phones or cars. We walked/rode horses everywhere, had to harvest all food and even water, everything took time. It was just part of life. And in many ways it still is, because our basic human needs haven’t changed at all. We just have machines to make it go a little faster.

To add to this seemingly simple yet easily missed discovery, I am aware of so many people in the world who either were born ill, or without the ability to complete these tasks and must have them done by someone else. One day, while chatting to a friend and doing laundry (sometimes we talk while doing “boring” tasks) I said this very thing to her. I spoke about how I take for granted my ability to walk down into the basement, to sort my clothing, to put away my pretty dishes, to scrub my tub, to use my shower after its clean, to pour my cup of tea. Whenever I am sick, which, thankfully at this point in my life is extremely rare, I struggle with intense frustration and depression when I miss a single day of being able to tend to myself. It helps me to remember on days I whine internally that I am alive and with that comes the gift of tending. The gift of tending home, myself, and for the other creatures I share space, food, and life with. Today I received a gentle reminder to appreciate the moments I get to take care of what I have worked so hard for, and the mental space to enjoy it after I have given my energy each day.