For five solid years, I refused to make the beds in our house. I didn’t see the point. I mean, you’re gonna get in them again and mess up the sheets and pillows in like fourteen hours anyway, so why bother? It isn’t like laundry, or dishes, or sweeping and mopping. There’s no sanitary issue with bed-making. It’s pure aesthetics, and as far as I was concerned, it was a waste of time.
I don’t know when that changed exactly, but I do know that looking back on the past three years, I can measure the state of my mental and emotional health by whether or not the beds were made. The problem is, like the chicken and the egg, I’m not sure which comes first, a good frame of mind or a neatly made bed.
After Lincoln was born, the beds went unmade for months upon months. I did my best to keep the chaos in check elsewhere, and Florida’s insane insect population necessitates scrupulous cleanliness, but the beds were off my radar. Looking back on those long months of post-partum depression, the unmade bed is the image that sums it all up. The unmade bed is how life felt then. Messy and despondent, sheets and pillows flung everywhere, unkempt and unable to care much about it.
I make our bed every day now, and the kids help me make their beds. It’s not such a chore when it happens every day…the sheets don’t get tangled and untucked at the bottom if you make the bed every day, so you can just pull everything up and smooth it instead of starting all over. I discovered this morning that I can make all three beds in the time it takes the water for my tea to boil. And when the beds are made, even if the rest of the house is a bit messy, I feel like there is peace and order at the center of it. My kids feel it, too, and so does the Ogre. If the beds are made, even if the rest of the house is a disaster, he knows it’s been a good day and that, more often than not, I’ll be smiling and cheerful and patient. If the beds are unmade, even if the rest of the house is spotless, I’m usually short-tempered and irritable.
This morning I was surprised to find myself feeling a bit glum, for no particular reason. Because of my history of depression, inexplicable sadness always alarms me. I tried to think back through the day before, to see if I could pinpoint anything, even a small thing, that would trigger gloom. As I was making the beds, I pulled a rosary out from the blankets and realized that I hadn’t said a full rosary yesterday.
Saying a daily rosary is a new thing for me. The rosary is a prayer that has been hard for me to get on board with. I love saying the daily office; there’s a poetry to the daily office that acts like a balm for my harried soul. But the rosary is a serious commitment, plus I can’t ever remember which set of mysteries belong together so I have to google it, and saying the rosary while meditating on google search results is frankly unappealing.
The other day, though, I was about to lose my head at the kids, so in pure desperation I snatched up a rosary and just started saying the prayers under my breath while picking up the house. And lo, I did not lose my head. I felt peaceful at the end of it, even if I didn’t do the proper meditations. Just saying the prayers was enough. So I’ve been doing it ever since, and I’ve felt a strange and unfamiliar peace at the center of myself.
I would never have believed that just saying the same prayers, over and over, counting them off on beads while my hands and sometimes my mind were occupied with other tasks, would bring peace. But it does.
Making the beds is a kind of prayer. So unnecessary a chore, so impractical, such a waste of perfectly good time and energy. But it’s a signal to myself and to my family, a promise even, that this day our home will have peace and order. Maybe not in the living room or the kitchen, but in the quiet places where we rest, there will be peace. I’m wondering, now, if our Lady gave us the rosary for similar reasons. Not to accomplish anything, per say, but to order our thoughts and bring peace to our souls. Not momentary peace, but the deep kind of peace that radiates outward. The kind of peace that can change a person, a family, and the world.