Before the advent of steam irons, my grandmother would sprinkle her clothes with water to get them ready for pressing. First she used a glass bottle with a cork stopper that had a ceramic top filled with tiny holes to partially soak each side of each piece of clothing. The stopper looked a little like the rose attachment on the spout of a watering can. After moistening a piece she would roll it tightly and put it into a plastic bag. All of the pieces of clothing were wedged in there together. She left the clothes in the bag for some mysterious amount of time and then took them out and ironed them. The smell was heavenly. It made me feel safe. Even safer than her chocolate “Tollhouse” cookies made me feel. This sprinkle, roll, plastic bag routine also made the clothes much easier to iron. It was a ritual I thoroughly enjoyed. It was calming. Too bad my cousin Johnny wasn’t invited to participate. He always needed more calming than I did. But life was even more gender divided back then than it is now.
Here’s the thing — if she had left those moistened and rolled up clothes in that plastic bag for too long they would have become moldy. But my grandmother had the timing down. Her clothes never became moldy and they were always left in the bag for the perfect amount of time. The iron glided easily over each article of clothing she took out of the bag and placed on the ironing board. But my grandmother never set a timer or even looked at her watch to determine when to remove the clothes from the bag. She just knew. None of the clothes got moldy. Not even the last one she removed from the bag.
This type of knowing is kind of magical. We all have it in us. It’s difficult to access though when we obsess over schedules and lists. It’s easier to feel when we enjoy whatever process we choose to engage ourselves in purely for the sake of engaging in it. Not for recognition. Not to validate our own self worth. Not to prove to others or ourselves that we can do it. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a novel, removing a splinter, or scrubbing your toilet; letting everything else fall away and immersing yourself in the joy of what you are doing is what matters. Even if it involves hard work. Or mud. Or multiple attempts until it all comes together. Do the thing. Be completely in that moment. Enjoy the hell out of doing the thing, whatever it may be. Forget about time and you may end up using time more effectively than you ever have before.