the mundane & the magnificent

This guest post is by Lindsey Mead, writer and blogger at A Design So Vast.

kids walking hand in hand, brother and sisterThis last Sunday was one of those rare days I’ve come to treasure almost above all others: a day with absolutely no plans. We puttered as a family, each of us doing his or her own thing, coming together in various combinations at different moments. Grace and I went to the grocery store and to drop some things off at Goodwill, and she sighed from the backseat, “Mummy, I love days like this with you.” My eyes filled immediately with tears and I nodded, not speaking for fear that my voice would waver. Whit and I curled up on the couch and he read The Velveteen Rabbit to me, proud of his newly-fluent reading. The kids and I made cookies for their school’s teacher appreciation lunch, and then worked at the dining room table on a puzzle while they baked, the house filling with sugar cookie smell.

I made homemade tomato sauce and apple sauce, hardboiled some eggs, baked two potatoes for lunch. I did two loads of laundry. As I was folding Whit’s pajamas and stacking Grace’s jeans in a careful pile, I felt a swell of gratitude and of well-being. I realized, not for the first time, that there is something I find deeply comforting and satisfying in the most quotidian domestic tasks. It has to do with the mundane and the magnificent that exist in every single day, with the way that life is a collage of the prosaic and the transcendent. Many people endure the drudgery as they wait for the divinity, but I’ve come to understand that both essential for me. They are inextricable, intertwined.

In fact, in some way that I don’t quite understand yet, the drudgery actually allows me to access the divine. Over the last few years we have consciously cut way back on our childcare, and I now own all of the household responsibilities. And I am startled, I admit, by the deep sense of satisfaction these tasks give me. I feel actual happiness when I fold laundry, or when I unpack half-eaten lunch sandwiches, or when I wake my children up every single morning, brushing their sleep-tangled hair back from their faces. Perhaps what I feel is contentment. But I’m not sure there’s a big difference between happiness and contentment anyway; are you?

I suspect that this is a manifestation of a larger settling into my own life, a sinking into what is, in all its dishwasher-emptying, lunch-packing, homework-checking reality. The everyday details and endless work of taking care of a house, and children, and a marriage sometimes daunt and frustrate me, sure. But more often than not, these days, they also fill me with something warm and steady that feels awfully good. I am certain it’s no accident that this sinking in comes just as I realize how truly numbered these days are.

This time, with small (and medium) children at home, of lost teeth and found pennies, of delight at a bird on the porch and despair at a missing teddy bear, will not furl out indefinitely. For some reason lately I sense the preciousness of these days; the awareness that they will end floats constantly around the corners of my experience.

For so many years I assumed that life would be this way forever, as one combative naptime spilled into another, and the rocking before bedtime felt endless. I took these days – with their bathtimes and melamine plates and kissed bruises, their exhaustion and their wide-eyed wonder – for granted.

But no, they aren’t forever. In fact they only last a minute. And I am so immensely grateful that I realized that before they were gone, and that I found, in my daily chores and responsibilities, a door through which I can glimpse the holiness of this season in my life.

* * * * *

Lindsey Mead, Design So Vast, author head shot, bioLindsey Mead is a mother, writer, and financial services professional who lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and son. Her writing has been published in a wide variety of online and print sources, including Brain Child, the Princeton Alumni Weekly, Literary Mama, Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career, and the Conflict of Modern Motherhood, and the Huffington Post.  She is working on her first book and blogs regularly at A Design So Vast.  You can also find Lindsey on Twitter.  

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