Busting Boxes

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

My mother grew up on a farm in South Dakota. She always had chores to do before and after school. On top of the farm chores, she learned necessary domestic chores like cooking, cleaning, sewing, knitting etc… As I was growing up, the house was always spotless and full, homemade meals were on the table every day at 5:30. She tried to pass these wonderful skills on to me but I was much more interested in riding bikes, swimming and playing sports. As I got older, peers and partying were more valuable to me than hanging at home. Unfortunately, I left home with no ability or desire to take care of myself. I brought my laundry home on weekends from college and called my mom to ask what the stuff was that was growing in the bathroom and find out how I was supported to get rid of it!

I did eventually learn to do laundry, cook and clean (out of necessity) but they were never my favorite tasks. My mother would jokingly tell me that I needed a wife or domestic helper. As soon as I could afford it, I got a housekeeper. Imagine my Ma’s surprise when I told her, during a recent phone call, that I had just finished doing my laundry in a scrubby bag, had wrung the clothes on the rigging and hung them in the sun to dry! She giggled as I shared the descriptions of the different rags I had for tasks around the boat in my attempts to eliminate trash. She seemed thrilled that I was returning to my roots as a farm girl, except on the water instead of the dirt.

At home, Robert and I had a very egalitarian relationship with regards to domestic tasks. We took turns cooking, shopping and cleaning up after meals. One week I would shop and cook, and he would clean then the following week we’d reverse roles. We had a housekeeper come in to do the things neither of us enjoyed.

Organization has never been my strong suit. My office manager would lovingly say, “Tracy leaves a piece of herself wherever she goes” and remind new hires to make a copy of things before giving them to me. My office was generally organized chaos..I could USUALLY put my finger on what I needed as long as no one had moved my piles.

This change in lifestyle has had me see that ALL those descriptions I’ve had of myself and experiences others have had of me were really just like an imaginary box. A box defining, “Tracy”. I’d collect evidence that what was in that box was “true” and often berate myself for not being “better”. Since the box was just imaginary, there’s no reason why I couldn’t bust it up and create something new….something more conducive to life cruising on a sailboat! Holding on to views of myself or others allows no space for anything new or different to show up. It allows no space to grow.

It made the most sense for me to take over all things “galley”. At home it’s not a big deal if Robert wants to go to the store and decide what to make for dinner that day. On the boat, it requires some far ahead planning. At home it doesn’t matter if things are put away in a different place each time one of us does dishes. On the boat, everything fits together like a carefully crafted puzzle. The “fridge” is an old ice chest to which a freeze plate and silver lining was added to keep things chilled. It’s deep so items for different meals are stored in bins. It’s important to get in and out quickly so we have to keep it organized. So, I am the “keeper of the fridge” and no one else is allowed inside.

Another consideration when determining roles and responsibilities is the limited space. It’s great to be out of each other’s way. So, Robert has tended to be responsible for all things outside the boat. He keeps the systems running, makes sure we have enough water, power to meet our needs and keeps us connected to the internet. He keeps the engine maintained. His skill and knowledge base is well suited to these tasks. While I’m learning what I can plug into the inverter and when, he already knows.

Other roles are just out of love for each other. Robert gets up first and makes the coffee every day. I keep our medicines filled and serve them with our “magic juice” in the morning. These small things help us feel loved and cared for.

We both know how to navigate and both can helm the boat although so far, Robert’s spent most of the time at the helm as we travel down the intracoastal while I engage myself in other tasks like making breakfast, filling up water bottles with filtered water, making ice, planning meals and thawing things out.

I’ve found that when I have the time and my mind isn’t racing with a million things that need to be done, the routine jobs of preparing meals, washing dishes, doing laundry and organizing can actually be quite meditative and relaxing! Who knew!

So, my lesson this week is to be mindful about making boxes and collecting evidence to prove I’m right about how I “am” or how other people “are”. Instead, I get to look at every moment, every encounter, as a new possibility. When I do, I just might be surprised!

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