Meditating through the anxiety

I iron my shirts.


I enjoy dressing to look good, at least as good as a middle-aged man can. You might even call me a clothes horse. I style myself conservatively, but I appreciate quality clothing. For work, I tend to wear jeans or khakis with nice dress or sport shirts. The tag may say No Iron, but no shirt never comes out of the dryer crisp enough for me. I iron them all.

While I’ve been working from home during this global pandemic, I’m just wearing my pullovers. Sweaters and rugby shirts (I love rugby shirts!) on the colder days, and polos on the warmer days. My iron has gone unused.

I rather like ironing, even though it’s hard to find time for it. It’s a simple, repetitive task that I do well. When I finish a pile of shirts, I enjoy the feeling of having finished something. I get little of that satisfaction in my line of work, given its nature.

It’s also sort of meditative to iron. Even though it’s a simple and quiet activity, it consumes enough of my attention to calm my wandering thoughts.

My thoughts are extra wander-y right now. I keep trying not to think about the long-term effects of our current world situation. How long will we be in social isolation? How many people will get sick, how many will die? Who of my friends and family will get sick or die? How badly will the economy tank? How badly will that harm my family?

Drying dishes

Fortunately, with everybody home, my other meditative bit of housework has mutiplied: washing the dishes. Our dishwasher has been broken for months, and so many other things require our attention first that I expect it will stay that way for months yet. Not that I mind. I rather like washing the dishes for the same reason I like to iron. So every day when I quit work, I walk into the kitchen and wash the dishes.

Only one other isolation report to share today, from yashicachris.


24 thoughts on “Meditating through the anxiety

  1. I am your opposite on the shirts. Any shirt that requires ironing goes into the bag that’s dropped at the cleaners from time to time. Those that do not come out of the dryer quite damp and hang in the basement to finish drying. A dehumidifier is crucial.

    We are cooking more so pots and pans stack up. They are my job, and I agree that there is a sense of wellbeing that comes from a tidy kitchen.

    • I did that for a little while a long time ago and the expense got to me. It just takes me an hour to iron up a week or two of shirts, so that’s what I do!

  2. DougD says:

    LL Bean shirts come out of the dryer crisp enough for me. I do have to iron my pants though, I really like Banana Republic khakis but they need ironing.

    My mother was a fantastic ironer, when she was a teen she had a summer job working on a flower & strawberry farm, but the farmer’s wife found out how fast she was at ironing and after that she mostly worked in the house.

    I’ve found more solace in dishes. It just seems so normal.

    • I dislike ironing pants. I don’t mind a quick press but I remember the khakis from the early 90s, they all required serious ironing. That was a pain. I don’t know why I feel that way about pants but not shirts!

  3. Victor Villaseñor says:

    “So every day when I quit work, I walk into the kitchen and wash the dishes.”

    Same here, with the whole family eating here, it generates a ton of… uhmn.. “meditating opportunities” that need washing.

    Also I’ve picked up the neglected garden again, we’ve been busy for a few months and the automated sprinklers I cobbled together from some sonoff switches and home depot hardware has kept it alive.

    Family first
    Remote work next
    Meditating the dishes later
    Pulling weeds and caring for the cactus when possible

    Stay calm (and safe!) Jim, keep writing!

    • We have 5 people here, and it’s amazing how many dishes we generate in a day. They do what they do all day and by the time I get done with work the sink is full. I wash them immediately; it’s like my commute, it lets me shift from work mind to home mind.

  4. Olli Thomson says:

    I enjoy ironing for the first two or three shirts then I start to wonder if I can get away without ironing any more – I can’t. When I was a kid I used to have so-called non-iron shirts. They sort of worked but they were made of some truly horribly material that’s probably banned as an environmental hazard these days. As I’m typing the ironing board is set up and there are ten freshly laundered shirts waiting patiently on me. I’m thinking I might have to tackle them in batches. On the other hand since tomorrow I’m working from home I might put it off for another day.

    • I remember the awful permanent press fabrics of the 70s. The no-iron fabrics we have today are much better. Long story but when I was in Ireland a few years ago I needed to buy a dress shirt and all the ones available were not no iron. I had forgotten what untreated cotton felt like in a shirt.

  5. We also have a dishwasher, but I prefer to wash up by hand too. I also find the hot soapy water kind of calming too. Yes that small sense of finishing something is pleasing.

    • I’m not a fan of dishwashers, I prefer to wash them by hand as well. My last house didn’t have a dishwasher and all of my friends were shocked I never installed one.

  6. Thanks for the link Jim! I’m with you but only about the dishes. Ironing not so much even though I was in the Navy for 22 years I seldom ironed my uniforms. On a Navy ship we all kinda looked like we slept in our clothes anyway. Stay safe and all the best to you and your family.

  7. Built our house 35 years ago. We’ve had two dishwashers go bad because my wife loves to wash dishes by hand! Their rubber parts literally rotted from dis-use! Dont plan to replace the current broken one but will spend the money on old cameras from EBAY and $12 rolls of 127 film!
    I enjoy your blog, just found it a few months ago and now i have plenty of time to catch up. It blends insights to life so well with the quirkiness and passion of photography. You should publish a list of sites you recommend.

  8. We keep our ironing board in the closet in our bedroom, so on the occasions where I carry out the task, I’ll watch YouTube videos on the TV we have in there (mostly photography vids). Frankly, it’s the only thing that keeps me sane when doing the ironing as, unlike yourself Jim, it certainly isn’t a job I enjoy.

    Without distractions my mind will wander until it alights, almost without fail, on the futility of the task, gradually becoming more annoyed by what I’m doing. I’ll begin to get cross at whichever person in history (I’m guessing someone involved in fashion, or possibly the inventor of the iron) decided that it would be best if clothes were pressed instead of left in their more natural creased state. I’ll wonder at how many watts of power and gallons of water are used, how many tons of carbon are emitted around the world in the act of flattening clothes that will, in some sort of cosmic joke, become creased again as soon as you look at the them askance. I’ll also wonder at how it’s possible that it can take minutes of effort to remove a particularly stubborn crease, but then just a tiny fraction of a second to accidentally create another one!?!?!

    I’m now feeling a little stressed just by having typed that. :)

    Glad that you find it relaxing though, and happy we live in a world where we can each be different.

    • You’re not wrong. Ironing is a job that keeps coming back, and it does spend resources. It’s like cutting the grass – you’ll just have to do it again in a week. What a pain. That’s why I choose to focus on the “hey, a job I can actually finish” part of it.

  9. tbm3fan says:

    Have had dishwashers where ever I have been but with only one person or now three I still wash by hand. The only thing I use the dishwasher for is to store the drying dishes. I also have always ironed my 100% cotton dress shirts and always will. I’m not ironing dress shirts right now. So when I go into my office, which is 16 hours a week now to deal with messages from patients and labs, I wear jeans and a casual cotton shirt.

    In the meantime I work on the cars during the day and on cameras when the sun goes down. Have repaired the meter on a Konica S2, doing a CLA on an Exakta, and ran into a roadblock on the shutter of a Kiev 3. Can’t remove the top roller to release the jammed gears.

    • I’m a big Oxford shirt fan. There is nothing finer than slipping into a broken-in Oxford shirt — so comfortable, so crisp looking. It could be the world’s most perfect shirt.

      Someday I hope I can make time to learn camera repair.

      • tbm3fan says:

        Been wearing oxford button down shirts since 1969 in high school due to an after school job. There are a dozen hanging. Same with khaki pants but to which has been added navy, brown and charcoal.cuffed and pleated.

  10. Pingback: Meditating through the anxiety — Down the Road | Omitade Temitayo

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.