Going to the bathroom is a pain in the butt. (No pun intended.) Oh, sure, sometimes it’s helpful, like when you’re stuck talking to someone really boring at a party, or when a sleazy dude is hitting on you at a club. “Excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom,” you say, and you can politely extricate yourself from the situation. (I’ve even been on the receiving end of this trick as well – my friends in New Orleans will surely remember “the boy who went to the bathroom and never came back,” although our theory is that he meant to come back and continue canoodling with me, but he was so drunk he probably passed out on the toilet or went up to some other girl with brown hair at the club, thinking it was me.)
But I digress. The point is, in general, using the toilet is annoying. It takes up precious time (the average person will spend a year and a half of their life on the pot), and there’s nothing very interesting about it. And Geez, you have to do it, what – five, six times a day? Maybe more if you drink a lot of tea like I do. Sometimes you have to get up in the middle of a cold night and disrupt your sleep to go. “Ugh!” I’m always saying. “I have to go the bathroom again?” It gets boring.
Also boring are all the other things I do in the bathroom. Every morning I have my ritual of shower, moisturizer, make-up, and The Blow-Drying of My Hair (which is such an ordeal it deserves capitalization.) And then, at night, I have to get ready for bed, which involves washing my face, brushing and flossing my teeth, taking off my make-up, and slathering myself with various types of ointments and anti-wrinkle creams.
In a way, our lives are quite tedious. You eat, but you’re going to have to eat again a few hours later. You do the laundry, but those clothes are just going to get dirty again and need to be put back in the wash. Same thing with the dishes. Same thing with cleaning the house in general. You wipe down the kitchen counter, but it’s going to be crumby and sticky again by tomorrow. You make your boyfriend clean the toilet, but it’s going to get dirty again by next week.
When you start thinking about daily life like this, it sort of makes you want to stop doing everything and just lie on the couch playing the new game you just downloaded onto your i-pad (Ticket to Ride – an awesome game, by the way.)
Maybe, I was thinking the other day, the holidays are necessary because they give us a break from our normal, everyday routines. Sure, we still have to go to the bathroom, but holidays spice things up a bit. (Pun intended.)
But unfortunately, a lot of people see the holidays as tedious, too. They think about how, sigh, they’ve got to put up all the Christmas decorations (just to take them down again in January.) They think about how, sigh, they have to send out cards again and attend the same old cookie party again and go through the rigmarole of buying gifts for everyone again. To a lot of people, the holidays aren’t a break from routine, they just add to the tedium.
On Monday I went to work-exchange training at one of the yoga studios in Seattle. I’m going to be working there twelve hours a month in exchange for free, unlimited yoga. One of the managers, a soft-spoken British woman, showed me around the studio. “Most of this job is learning where the light switches are located,” she confided in me.
We went through the list of tasks that need to be done daily, and the particular tasks for each day. “So each time you come in, you’ll need to switch out the towels,” she told me, “and pop in the bathrooms to make sure there’s enough toilet paper. You’ll also need to sweep the studio.”
“OK.” I nodded. “Sounds easy enough.”
“Why don’t we have you sweep right now?”
I picked up the broom and swept around the edges of the studio, feeling awkward as she watched me closely.
“I enjoy the sweeping,” she said after a moment. “I find it quite meditative.”
She would, wouldn’t she?
But actually, she’s right. Chores and tedious tasks can be an opportunity for meditation and contemplation. When I’m folding the laundry or putting on my make-up, I’m not thinking or concentrating very much. Instead of feeling annoyed about wasting time doing something boring, why not use these chores as opportunities to take deep breaths and check-in with my body, mind, and emotions?
And if you, like me, don’t yet feel confident in your meditation skills, you could subscribe to one of these “daily meditation” websites, or peruse a book of famous quotes, to find something meditative to ponder while you’re sitting on the toilet or scrubbing it.
Maybe, since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, my meditation should be that I am thankful for all the tedious parts of my life. While going to the bathroom, I’ll think about how thankful I am for flush-toilets and running water. While doing the laundry and unloading the dishwasher, I’ll think about how thankful I am that I have clothes to wear and food to eat. And while getting ready for bed, I’ll think about how thankful I was for this day – tedium and all – and how lucky I am to have a warm place to sleep for the night.