Wednesday, November 07, 2012


All 'Dress'ed Up

As a teenager, I read an essay in our local newspaper that posited that being an adult was about having the self discipline to do things that not only did you not want to do, but that no one really wants to do. The author gave the example of cleaning nasty crud out of a clogged up sink. Not topping anyone's list of fun times, but as a kid you generally get a free pass out of it. As an adult, well, that crud's not going to clean itself...

That really stuck with me and for a long time that was my working definition of adulthood. Suck it up and do what needs to be done. Go to bed at a decent hour. Wash the dishes even when you are tired. Pick the veggies over the deep fried delicious (at least sometimes).

In putting together my clean all the things costume, I revisited the Hyperbole and a Half blog post it came from. And was reminded of the "There's no trophy" philosophy to adulthood.

This also relates to self discipline as it states that there is no "end game". You don't get to work real hard, win the trophy for having a clean house or all the laundry done, and then retire. There is no retirement from the drudgery of housework, the balance of career/family/friends/community/self, the challenge of eating right, the necessity of exercise. Which is why it is no wonder that these are the areas people struggle most with.

Oddly though, I think this is also rather freeing. Who cares if my house is trophy worthy today? There is no contest. There is no trophy. And it's only going to get dirty again. So it's better to know my limits and live with a low level of messy counters, hair covered baseboards, nachos for dinner, and a little bit of exercise than it is to burn myself out trying to be Martha Stewart, Hillary Clinton, Rachael Ray, and Jane Fonda rolled into one super woman with 163 hour days. I can't do it all to perfection. I can't do it all at once. And I certainly can't keep my sanity attempting to do so.

But I can do a little bit of everything I love best and delegate or ditch the rest. I may not be able to bake, read, sew, take photos, perfect The Dining Dragon, keep up this blog, hang out with friends, cook awesome dinners, stay up on the latest and greatest innovations in my field, chill with the kitties, hang out with the hubby, make repairs to the house, make improvements to the house, handle domestic paperwork, etc, etc Every Single Day. Most likely I won't do all those things in a week, or even a month. But that's okay. I can still do them all at my own pace and in my own time. After all, with any luck, I have many more days than just today to do it all.


  1. beautifully written! this is something I'm trying to retrain my brain to thinking after graduating, because boy does grad school put you in the mindset of "you must do ALL the things and do them perfectly and be constantly striving for greatness!" not that it's bad to have goals, but dangit, it's also nice to relax and have lazy snuggle days with the cats. being an adult is weird though, regardless!
    at least we can decide to have "pre-sserts" whenever we want... ;)

  2. Thanks April! School is the worst about teaching you to be a perfectionist! It also teaches you there is only one "right" way, which is total bullshit. I'm still working through that one.

    All hail the"pre-sserts"! : D

  3. I like your hair in that photo!

    And to be fair, for some of us, housework is not unpleasant in and of itself. I agree that there's no endgame, no finish line, and a large part of being an adult is just showing up and getting it done regardless of what one's inner five-year-old would rather be doing. But so much of it is attitude. For example, if I looked at caring for relatives in poor health as the time-sucking, often-irritating, exhausting, never-ending job that it is, I wouldn't do it. But I look at it as a chance to be with people I want to know better, to clean their environment as an exercise in continuing their own human dignity, to show them that just because they are requiring more care than "normal" that they needn't lower all standards and give up on life and into depression, it makes a world of difference. I can bake muffins to use up that stupid flour I hate and wish I hadn't bought, or I can bake muffins to tempt the capricious appetite of an ailing, frail woman. Having done both, the latter is a much more pleasant frame of mind. And isn't that a large part of managing adulthood - having the self-discipline to find enjoyment and beauty in the mundane?


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