”Everybody wants to save the Earth; no one wants to help mom do the dishes.” — P.J. O’Rourke
It’s fall, and the temperatures have been a little cooler, and the leaves are ready to be raked, if that’s something you need to do in your yard. Like spring cleaning in March, there are fall projects in September and October that get our attention, and I know they are important.
I love a good project. For instance, cleaning through a big load of papers or clothes is something I’m happy to take time to do but spending five minutes doing the best thing with items in the first place is much harder.
But what about the small, daily items? They might not be as exciting, but it seems to me they are pretty important yet often get pushed aside.
For centuries, people have been trying to figure out how to balance the desire to do big things with the need for the daily or weekly items. It’s great to run a fundraiser for a project to raise millions of dollars, but it’s more important to our overall joy (in my opinion) to accomplish the daily chores and tasks that allow life to run smoothly.
When I was growing up, I had a solution for cleaning my room. Have you ever seen that enormous space beneath a bed? It’s just begging to have things pushed and shoved beneath it, especially if a monster might hide in that space, or at least that was what 10-year-old me believed.
My parents had other ideas, so I had to figure out what needed to go where to avoid such a hidden mess. Get a fourposter bed with no bed skirt, and it’s amazing how clean that area remains!
My point is this: it’s almost always more gratifying to do the big jobs, solve the big problems in life like building a new home or making a huge life change when you could have simply done a better job on the front end of upkeep on the house you had or taking better care of your physical and mental health.
Some of us want to do only the big (aka important) things, and we forget how important the little things along the way truly are.
Sometimes, however, the big task might seem too difficult, too daunting, and we can never take the first small step that will one day result in the goal we wish. After all, you’ll never marry the guy or girl (big step) if you don’t ask them out on a date (small step). Some of us are so paralyzed by the small tasks, we will never get to the big, fabulous things we wish for.
When my mother was painting portraits of our family members, she took pictures along the way. I’m going to be honest when I tell you those drawings weren’t all pretty. Yikes! Is that really how I looked to her? But then, I saw the finished product, and it was prettier than I believed I might be. Life is so very much like this.
It’s fall. According to the professionals, we should be storing summer clothes, inspecting the chimney (hire someone), winterizing the lawn equipment and outdoor items, doing pest control to prevent those winter rodents that might seek shelter, unless you welcome mice and rats, of course.
It’s life. According to the professionals, we might be looking to visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World or lose weight or become “successful”. Each of those final goals requires a lot of steps. No one is suddenly 30 pounds lighter or a million dollars richer. No one leaves America for the Taj Mahal on a whim. Everything takes some planning.
• If you want to see the Taj Mahal (or any other Wonder not in the US) and you live in America, you need a passport. In order to get a passport, you need to have the necessary documents to prove who you are, a passport photo taken, a passport form completed, and money for the passport. You can’t just decide to hop on a plane without the smaller steps being taken first.
• If you want to fit into those pants that you can’t even pull over your hips at the moment, you will need to lose weight. That involves changing the way you eat and the amount of movement your body is doing each day. You also could decide it’s easier to buy new clothes, but I hope that you’ll still think about the health aspects of what you eat and how you move because losing weight isn’t necessarily the answer. There is so much more to being healthy — stress, good foods, laughter, and movement all play a part.
• If you want to achieve “success,” decide what it looks like to you and research what you need to do along the way to get there. Instead of jumping to the top of the ladder, learn about the way the different steps work.
I’d like to save the Earth from the damage we humans are doing, and I’ve discovered that in order to do that, I need to understand a whole lot of smaller pieces. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds when we see some of the bigger names talking and writing about the importance of saving the planet. But it’s necessary to learn more, and I’m working hard to do that.
The point of all of this? Living a meaningful life, enjoying the journey, requires us to “wash the dishes,” doing the mundane daily tasks to achieve the big picture and maybe save the earth.
Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Always, she writes from her heart in hopes of speaking to the hearts of others. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.