How The Boring Stuff Binds Us

by EMILY ORTON

I recently went toe to toe with a newly minted productivity guru.  “I totally disagree!” I said a little too loudly.  Okay.  So maybe he was a podcast voice in my ear buds while I was hula hooping in my entry way.  

 Rare photo of me hula hoop multi-tasking circa 2015        photo credit:  Wade Foster

Rare photo of me hula hoop multi-tasking circa 2015        photo credit:  Wade Foster

I bristled as the expert neatly separated the time we spend working on maintenance like laundry, meal prep and trimming toenails, from Life.  He blithely recommended strategies for minimizing those menial tasks so we could get back to Life.  He spoke as if Life was somehow separate from living. My sister was working on her master's degree in social work when she taught me this truth: 

Whatever the task, the relationship is the goal. 

I used to get an ad-free magazine called Seeing The Everyday.  The articles and photographs illustrated how the prosaic interactions with people right around us become the glue that binds us together. 

This ad for a now defunct magazine gives more practical inspiration than most TED talks.

In our first few days aboard Fezywig we celebrated Valentine’s Day with pancakes and whipped cream.  We didn’t have an electric mixer, so we whipped the cream by hand.  We’d never done that before.  We had no idea how long it would take.  After 10 minutes it was still liquid.  The luscious garnish started to feel like a science experiment.  How long would it take?  Was the Caribbean too warm for whipped cream? 

My unaccustomed arm tired and I passed the metal bowl.  Each of the children took a turn.  We’d whip till we were weary and then pass the bowl and whisk.  The pancakes sat in a stack on a plate in the main salon—waiting.  The sweetened cherries simmered in sugar—waiting.  

“When do you think breakfast will be ready?” Eli wondered—waiting. 

“I think you mean brunch,” Karina said passing the bowl to SJ who whisked as fast as she could for a few minutes.  She passed it to Alison who started with her right hand and switched to her left before passing it back to me. In the Caribbean it takes 30 minutes to whip cream by hand.

We weren’t just whipping cream. 

 30 minutes to  whip  this up (2014)                                     Photo Blame:  Emily Orton

30 minutes to whip this up (2014)                                     Photo Blame:  Emily Orton

Two weeks ago I posted:  The opposite of love is laziness.  

Love takes work.  It is also true that we can build love by working together.  I don’t want to romanticize toenail clipping.  (Ew!)  But underrating the value of mundane tasks may cause us to waste opportunities to build precious relationships.  The very relationships that the guru and I agree are essential to a meaningful life.

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