You’ve probably heard of Sisyphus, who in Greek mythology was a king that was punished by having to roll a boulder up a hill, but when he got near the top, the boulder would roll back down the hill, and he would have to start all over again. And he was forced to do this for all of eternity.
Of course this myth has been interpreted in countless ways, but now that I’m a stay-at-home-mother in my late thirties, I see it clearly as a metaphor for daily life.
Everyday I face a heap of chores. Laundry, dishes, clutter, dust and more pile up in my house faster than you can blink. While my children and husband call me to their attention by name, my house screams at me visually.
Most days, besides taking care of the children, I only accomplish the dishes and laundry. As soon as I think I can mop the floors, a child will need me, and then another, and by then it’s lunchtime, and then there’s more dishes. Repeat this until dinner. It’s an endless cycle.
You don’t have to be a stay-at-home mother to feel this daily grind. It’s the same for everyone. Whatever your job – answering phones, creating a newspaper, teaching the same classes, standing at a counter and answering the same questions – we all feel our muscles ache as we climb the hill, only to have to start all over again once we reach the summit.
In my youth and into my twenties, life was all about the future. It was always going to be brighter and easier once I got there. Sometime in this last decade, I reached my future, and I realized that it’s certainly not easier, though in some ways it is a little brighter.
It’s brighter not because I attained the goals that I once had, but because, well, the goals are not the purpose anymore. It’s like that saying says, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”
On my worst days, I fight this uphill climb. I get cranky and I resent the constant storm that is always at my back – dirtying up whatever mess I just cleaned. On my best days, I embrace the work. I know it’s just the rhythm of my life right now, a circle within a much bigger circle that has greater meaning beyond my own life.
I often think about the six months I spent on a work abroad program in London, England and how I spent most of that time working 40 hours a week at a photo lab, processing film and assisting customers. It was a job I could have easily had here, and it was work just like any other job. But when I look back at that time, I don’t remember much about the work.
I remember the time I spent on my days off, exploring the city or taking train rides to towns in England, occasionally spending the night somewhere. Up until then the only city I ever lived in was Las Vegas, so I was in awe of London and its museums, plays, parks and historical sites. I was equally in awe of the gorgeous, English countryside. In my memory I spent much more time doing these fun things and much less time working, but I know that can’t be so.
So I think the same will be true when I look back at my children’s formative years. I’m going to remember the silly times my boys wrestled on the living room floor. I’m going to remember the day trips to the mountains or the mall. I’m going to remember curling up with my son each night to read a bedtime book. I’m going to remember blowing bubbles in the yard.
The mundane work – which takes up much more time – will gel together into a tight bundle, or a boulder, like Sisyphus’s boulder, and it will keep rolling downhill. I’ll keep picking it up because there is always work to be done. But along with my bundle, I’ll be collecting memories that will lighten my load.
Shelli Bond Pabis is a Winder resident and columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.