How I Learned I’m Not As Lazy As I Thought (And You Probably Aren’t Either!)

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Jon and I always had a pretty even division of dinner labor (that I felt worked completely in my favor). I made the dinner; he cleaned the kitchen. We did this for the first few years of our marriage, and when I became a stay-at-home-mom, I actually had to re-learn how to clean a kitchen because I wasn’t used to tackling the mess I made when I cooked.

However we still struggled with dishes. After breakfast, dishes remained in the sink all day. Then Jon would come home and wash them with most of the dinner dishes. Sometimes there wasn’t room on the counter for all the clean dishes so more would stay in the sink, and the cycle would repeat itself. On my highly motivated days, I might undertake to wash the dishes earlier and stop the cycle, but I had to force myself to do it. “I need to get over my laziness!” I thought.

Washing dishes is not my favorite chore. Because of eczema, my hands are prone to cracking and bleeding if exposed to too much water. So daily dishwashing took its toll. I ended up keeping lotion next to the sink, which helped a bit. The sink was also a pain to use; it was a very old sink and spewed water everywhere until you found just the right setting. I usually ended up fairly wet after dishwashing. But I still attributed my hatred of dishwashing to my laziness.

We finally bought a new faucet when our old one broke. This faucet swiveled, came out so we could squirt off the sink, and kept consistent, moderate pressure. It definitely improved dishwashing. But I still avoided it. Lazy girl.

Then my dad was in the hospital for his hip replacement. He had to learn to trust his new hip, which was tough because the old hip had caused him so much pain that he naturally favored it. As the nurse was teaching him to walk again, she said something that stuck with me.

“We will do whatever it takes to avoid pain, and it’s often subconscious. But it’s a natural reaction.”

On a whim, I bought a pair of light blue kitchen gloves at the grocery store. And without realizing it, I started washing dishes. There were no mental blocks, and I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t wait for Jon to wash them, and I didn’t balk at the thought.

And suddenly I realized that maybe I wasn’t lazy. Maybe I had just been avoiding the pain of cracked hands.

We’re often hard on ourselves. I know all of us struggle with laziness, but I think we also have an innate desire to create, to be productive, to put in order. We like to be constructive and productive. And when I feel lazy now, I’ve learned to ask myself whether it’s actual laziness or something that makes the task unusually painful or daunting.

When we don’t want to put something away, it’s often because it’s hard to cram it back into an overly full closet (the capsule wardrobe changed this for me!). It may be a pain to get the mop out, so we don’t mop as often as we could. Our art supplies might be buried away, so though we want to paint, we choose television instead because it’s the path of least resistance.

Choosing the path of least resistance isn’t always based on laziness. Sometimes it’s based instead on pain, fear, or struggle that can be effectively removed. I knew I should tidy the house at the end of the day but always fell into bed instead because I didn’t know where to start. And the mess built up. But once I started actually clearing our home of clutter, tidying at night became simple and actually enjoyable. I wasn’t lazy; I was just overwhelmed.

You’ll often find me at the sink washing dishes now. I didn’t realize how one pair of gloves (plus a nice faucet!) could change my entire mindset. It sounds silly, but realizing that I’m not just lazy has helped me in so many areas. Now instead of talking to myself harshly or just giving up, I rethink my routines and ask, “Why am I avoiding this? What could make this task simpler?”

When something does need to get done, how can we make it easier on ourselves? I remember Haley talked about self-care as taking care of herself as her mother would take care of her. Sometimes I challenge myself to think of my future self. Won’t my morning self be glad that my evening self took fifteen minutes to straighten up? Won’t I be happy to find water on my nightstand in the middle of the night? Learning this foresight is one of my favorite parts of growing older.

You’re probably not lazy either. I’m convinced that we often subconsciously know when we need to take breaks, when we need to avoid something, when we need to let something go. This past year, I’ve learned a lot about trusting myself and asking myself “why?” instead of criticizing and labeling. And I bet you can trust yourself too. I’m convinced you’re not as lazy as you think!

Are there any tasks you have avoided because they cause pain or expend too much effort? 

P.S. I love this  article by Anne about how the right tools can make the difference (like our new faucet!). And if tidying is the cause of undue pain, give The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up a try!

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