Unexpected Good Advice

I called today to arrange for some home maintenance work that I need done twice a year.  The time frame they gave me was not specific (they might come anytime, all day, until it gets dark).  My gut reaction is anger, that is such a crap way to run a business, but on the other hand it is seasonal work and they are trying to do as many homes as they can in the next two or three weeks, so I guess that’s just how it goes.
Anyway, when I asked the receptionist for a smaller window I whined a little bit and said “that makes it very hard for me to plan the rest of my day.”  Her response was amazing.  She said “I know, but I just plan that as a day at home.  I stay home and dust and get my house really clean that day.”

First of all, she dusts.  This is an old school homemaker!  I can almost picture her home, because the company is in a town with modest, extremely well kept homes.  I’ve created an entire imaginary life for this lady (because I’m crazy like that).  I bet her grandsons come over one fall weekend and rake her leaves, after which she gives them cider and her husband sneaks them each a dollar. I think she still carves a pumpkin even though her kids are long grown.

Mostly, though, I loved her perspective — she responded to my complaint with empathy, which got me on her side, and then she gave me great advice — plan for a productive day at home, look at it as an opportunity, so that you aren’t sitting home hoping that they come early so that you can run out and do some errands.

I almost got the sense that she looks forward to it, her day of fall cleaning while she waits for the technician.

I want to apply this advice in both immediate and more general ways.  First of all, when I schedule this (and other) annual maintenance I will also make a list of fall chores to get done that day and have a great, productive day at home.  Second, I want to look at some other areas of my life that I consider annoying trials and find a more productive, positive way to respond.  I’m sure that there is a good way to use that time sitting in the pick up lane after school, maybe I’ll tuck a little stationary set into my car and try to write someone an unexpected letter or an over due Thank You note.  Maybe I’ll plan Thanksgiving dinner and browse recipes on my phone.  I don’t know, but I’m sure I could spend a lot more of my life finding something useful to do instead of sitting around feeling whiny!  Isn’t that old school homemaker wisdom at it’s core?

  • Mary

    This was such a great post, as I think more and more on how to ‘cultivate joy’ in my everyday life.

  • http://www.NancyFrench.com/ Nancy French

    I’m not sure I ever would be placated by a suggestion to dust. Maybe it’s just me?

    • Mary Alice

      Ha! No, I won’t be dusting, but the message I got was use the time and be productive.

  • Erin

    I used to internally complain that taking kids to all their activities took up up such a block of time, but then I realized most days it makes a perfect timeslot to go running in the same park as soccer practice. Suddenly my morning exercise time could be replaced with other daily chores and everything relaxed a little.

  • http://www.buildingcathedrals.com/ Kellie

    Yes, I wish I could have this attitude! I am much more likely to stew all day about how poorly run the company is that they make people sit there all day and can’t even give them a 2 hour window. But you are so right to take that advice and just make it a cleaning day or productive day in another way.

  • Juris Mater

    Great post. Living in the moment–in fact embracing the moment–has never been more challenging. But what a holy and counter-cultural virtue to cultivate. Bless this women for demonstrating it in such a simple and ordinary way. AND go you! for recognizing the wisdom in her simple suggestion.

  • Kat0427

    I love the reminder to use “wasted” time in a productive way. Sometimes, the most productive thing really is having a conversation with an acquaintance at the soccer field or to plan to do a puzzle with your kids when you’re stuck at home for the day. Other times, we can be paying the bills or cleaning. Or, we could use that time to pray!


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