carry the load
Laundry round here is eternal.
Diapers, dirty dishclothes, daily heaps of socks and shirts and pants and bibs and towels. It piles up in towering heaps overnight, and just when I slam the dryer door shut with a satisfying thwack and declare it tackled, I turn to find my boys covered in marker or yogurt or (worst) mysterious unknowns.
I sigh, strip them down, fill the tired barrel of the washer once more, and set it again to spin.
Laundry without ceasing.
. . .
I have a handful of friends who are pregnant, most of them expecting number three or four, none of them amateurs at gestation but all of their hands and hearts already full to the brimming. I’ve promised them prayers, dip into their days with a quick email to inquire how they’re doing, but it never feels enough, not when I know how dark and depressing and downright overwhelming the burden of bearing baby can be. I wonder what more I can do, especially for the far-flung friends, the dear ones far across the country that I can’t surprise with a casserole and a hug and a how are you really doing?
What can any of us do to help carry the load?
Of course it’s prayer, I know that’s the answer, but it seems so small and trite sometimes. An easy promise to hold up, to keep in mind, to whisper good thoughts and happy hopes to smooth the way. I’m still learning, slowly, stumblingly, what I believe about prayer, but I’m quite sure it’s nothing like the power of positive thinking or the secret that stops the universe to grant my heart’s desire. If prayer is about bending myself to the way of Christ, allowing myself to be changed, humbling myself back into the heart of the divine, what does it mean to carry other’s intentions with me as I go?
I’m still not sure.
But I do know one thing: prayer reminds. Even when it may not help or heal, it reminds.
. . .
I pause from the pile of laundry to read a favorite blog, clicking through the pages as I ignore the clothes around me on the couch, half stacked in neat piles of designated owner, half still strewn in a messy dump from the dryer. When I stumble upon the simple post about praxis of prayer, a tangible mindfulness of uniting intention with the everyday, the idea falls into my lap like a soft jumble of small socks:
I’ll carry my laundry for them.
How many times a day do I bend to grab the plastic handles of the bulky baskets, lug them up and down stairs, stagger them around corners, fill them to the back-breaking brim? How many times a day could I easily remember those expecting, each one of my friends who carry something much weightier and more wonderful than even clean laundry? What difference might it make – for them, for me – if I slowed to remember when I stooped to carry again?
The more I muse, the more laundry I fold, the more it seems right. This is how prayer becomes incarnate: in everyday actions.
. . .
Laundry seems endless in these early years: the late-night laundry, the soaked and stained laundry, the kid clothes and grown-up clothes all tumbling together in the dryer. Pregnancy can feel like that, too: endless and oh-so-bodily. Good work, necessary work, but so tiring, so cumbersome, so overwhelming.
I remember at the end of my pregnancies when my husband rushed to grab the basket out of my hands before I lugged it up or down the stairs, balanced on my basketball of a belly. Let me help! he’d say with exasperation. Let me carry that – you’ve already got enough.
I’d laugh to myself (what did he think I did while he was gone all day?) but without protest I let him help. Let him carry the load. Let myself rest for a moment and remember how much I was already carrying.
Maybe prayer’s like that, too: a willingness to carry and be carried.
To learn when to remember and when to rest in each other’s arms.
You made me cry today. I had an absolutely horrible, miserable day yesterday. Someone to carry the laundry is exactly what I need. I love your Momma’s heart! <3
Thank you, Lydia! I love your honesty, but even more I love your optimism (like your post yesterday) that this mothering life remains full of deeper joy even during the awful days. I hope this week brings a little more peace your way…
Amen, Mama. <3
I feel so far away from so many of my dear ones, and all they *can* offer is prayer or good intentions from a distance. So this line struck me: "I wonder what more I can do, especially for the far-flung friends, the dear ones far across the country that I can’t surprise with a casserole and a hug and a how are you really doing?" And the fact that that even occurs to you, that you would do that for a nearby friend, touches my heart in a really deep way. By being so far from the people I love, I have missed out on both the opportunity to care for others and to be cared for in that intimate way. That sort of care is prayer made flesh, and I am desperate for it. Thanks for writing this. <3
“Prayer made flesh” – love this incarnation you describe. It’s so hard, isn’t it, being so far from the closest ones who can mother you when you need it most? I have been there, and it just aches. Carrying my load for you today, friend…
You’ve read Anne Lamott’s “Traveling Mercies,” right? One of my favorite explanations about the act of intention is in those pages. Lamott recounts the story of her first visit with her Jesuit priest friend. She says that he told her to stop praying. Years later she asked him about that encounter. He said something along the lines of, “Prayer had gotten so big for you. You needed someone else to do it for you for a while.”
That is, to me, the essence of what it is to be in a praying community. When things get too big or too dry or too heavy, someone else takes part of the burden, slakes our thirst with prayer words, carries the load.
After quite a restless time of prayer, I have gotten myself back to my prayer chair with more regularity. This morning as I sat with Psalm 19, my mind wanted to run circles around me. I nearly rushed myself through the process–too much work to get to and praying was just a distraction! Slowly, I turned my prayer book over, closed my eyes, and forced myself to sit in silence while I focused on the act of praying, opening myself to the presence of God that is so palpable if only I pay attention to it.
I am grateful for that time this morning. The slowness has seeped into my day, which was what I needed.
I love what you say about still learning what you believe about prayer. Indeed, each time we open our hearts, we are confronted with the possibilty of conversion. Yes, it seems so very small sometimes, but it is these small acts of intention, I believe, that let grace in the door.
Yes, yes, yes. I love Anne Lamott’s words and I love yours. If I don’t let a little slowness seep into my day, the whole mess spins away from me so quickly. Being confronted with the possibility of conversion is frightening, as you say, but isn’t that precisely why we ask other people to hold us in prayer? Because we recognize what’s wrong and we need help to make it right or to accept the brokenness that can’t be changed.