How Laundry Saved Me
I have been astonished over time at how people work so differently. My kids are classic kids, well adults now, but their habits haven’t really changed. No matter what they are doing they have music going. My younger one lives with her ear buds firmly in place. Folks, this is a medical student who is reading stuff so complicated that I have to sound out each syllable to follow along. How she can concentrate is beyond me. My older child is about the same, maybe a little quieter.
Do you write with background music? I definitely don’t. It’s just too noisy inside my head to handle more than the sound of my dogs chewing on their bones.
Let me tell you about a battle of the wills in terms of noise. Many many years ago, we bought a 100-year old house desperately in need of renovation. My daughter would turn on a hairdryer and my computer would crash. But, as things go, we couldn’t afford to make the changes right away. I was writing my doctoral dissertation, our kids were little and my husband decided it was time to create his own firm, leaving the one he’d been with for 18 years. Oh, and I was working full time as an associate dean at Yale while commuting six hours away by train for my PhD. Got the picture?
My husband loves opera. Loves it loud and constantly (plus he sings along). Well, he set up his new business in a room adjacent to my home office (which was an illegal kitchen upstairs put in place by a previous owner). I mention the kitchen bit because there were long counters plus a washer and dryer in the room. I was truly roughing it, but hey, it worked.
Well, it worked until Jon planted his new start-up company in the next room. The photocopier we both shared lived on the long counter—in my space. He uses a photocopier a lot. And, this was a noisy old big son of a gun.
So, picture me—the one who likes total silence when I work—a room away from Puccini. I kept closing my office door and turning off the grating sound of the photocopier. My dear husband would be in and out asking why, first the door was closed, and second why he had to keep waiting to let the machine warm up. Please would I leave the door open and not touch the photocopier, he asked. I started wearing ear plugs, but they hurt after many hours. What to do? Divorce was not an option.
The washing machine and dryer!! They were across the room. I started doing laundry. The chug chug of the washer combined with the whirl of the dryer solved the problem. My poor kids became the slaves, hauling everything they could find for me to wash. I began washing clean clothes! Nothing was folded and put away, just placed back in the washing machine. It’s a new concept on recycling. I wished Erma Brombeck was still around so I could share my household solution.
I should also admit that this was a time when showering and eating were a wild pleasure. My older daughter (who was quite young at the time) wonderfully slid a peanut butter sandwich into my office without saying a word. I still remember how sweet it felt to have her thinking of me. Deadlines—they are tough.
Within a few months, Jon rented office space. Thank God. We renovated the house years ago, but the lessons do live on.
So, tell me, are you a music person? Are you okay with distractions? Do you prefer the solitary life when you write? What are the quirks you have that only you can tame?