Today I spent half an hour pressing my nightgown and robe. I told a friend, who was talking to me at the time, what I was doing and she was shocked.
“Why on earth would you waste your time pressing something only you will see?” she exclaimed. In fact, she had difficulty believing it when I told her I spent at least an hour every week with the ironing board and a hot iron - pressing cloth napkins, and my work robes, and pillow cases.
My friends remark prompted a train of thought, that I pondered while I ironed. Time spent at the ironing board is actually an excellent way to think. Your hands are busy, your attention is focused, but there’s not much for your brain to do, besides pay attention to the relative distance between your fingers and the hot iron.
I realised there are many things that I do around my home that have this same quality - focused attention, skill and experience, but my thoughts can wander far afield - baking, or sweeping the floor, or making meals, working in the garden certainly.
So why was I pressing my robe and nightgown?
Well, as I explained to my friend, I designed and sewed that nightgown, and robe. I thought it up, and drew it out, and measured and made a pattern. I cut out every piece of cloth, and laid every stitch. It’s elegant - simple and beautiful down to the small details, like top-stitched facings, and a barely noticeable embroidered pattern on the edges of the robe sleeves.
Nobody will see it? Oh but I will. I will see it every time I wear it, and I enjoy the knowledge of what I made. I will luxuriate in the feel of the crisp cotton, and the way that it fits me exactly right. Do I want to see it look untidy, wrinkled here and there after a washing? Or do I want it to look just as neat and clean as when I first made it?
So I press my nightgown.
And while I was pressing that nightgown, I gave thought to why such things are important. We have become, as women, so consumed with trying to do everything - to be Superwoman - that we don’t spend much time doing simple things these days.
I’ve never really fit into the mould of normalcy - true - but for many many years I surely tried to. I did everything I was assured I should, and more. I ran myself ragged trying to be a housewife (I was pretty good at it, but the marriage wasn’t healthy). I worked myself to a standstill at office jobs, while trying to also be a wife, and a mother. That wasn’t so fun, and I failed miserably.
I became an herbalist, and owned my own apothecary, and worked twice as hard - that was satisfying, true, and I was very good at it. I’d have probably kept doing it for the rest of my life, but other things intervened.
And here I am, somehow living in a quiet village in Italy, and rediscovering what all this means to me. Perhaps I’m old fashioned at heart, in many ways. I taught myself as a girl, how to bake, and sew and can vegetables, and so many other things. Not because I was told to do so, but because I wanted to know how. Does that make me strange? Perhaps. I ceased to care about that label a very long time ago.
It does raise some interesting questions, though about how we spend our time, and how we value our time. Is doing something a waste of time, simply because it doesn’t make you money? It’s not in furtherance of a career, or to impress your boss - it’s just what I do to please myself. Nobody will ever notice, or care that I press my nightgown, or see how well it’s made.
I will though, and that’s more than enough reason. Perhaps, at the end of the day, we should consider spending a little less time trying to do it all, and a lot more time doing what makes us smile on the inside - regardless of whether or not your time is "well spent".
And that's worth thinking about….
while you press your nightgown.