Taking Care of The Simple Things

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Joe Kennedy
Joe Kennedy
Joe Kennedy

Yeah, baby.

A few weeks ago I lamented my inability to handle the small chores of daily life.

I wanted to be brilliant at the basics, in the manner of the Baltimore Orioles who played strong fundamental baseball during the reign of Earl Weaver, their manager, now in the Hall of Fame.

Today, I am a changed man. And I owe it all to an iPad app.

The app doesn’t wash the dishes or make my bed but, like similar apps, it enables me to keep a to-do list on my iPad at all times, with most entries placed under the heading of Work.

Now that I am retired and disabled, much of my work consists of chores I used to complete during the flow of daily events. Those chores ranged from making my bed and cooking the meals to keeping apace, as a single parent, with my kids’ activities, all while holding down a full-time job.

My kids have grown up, earned their degrees and gone to work in distant cities. I have retired from daily journalism.

The external incentives to live an efficient, orderly life have disappeared.

Now, my job is to flourish, not fade- for my own sake, and the sake of my loved ones, launched into the next phase of their lives. That makes fixing and eating a healthy breakfast, and trying to bring order to my home, critical parts of each day.

Bed-making and other not-so glamorous activities help me stay focused, or mindful of my minutes and how I use or waste them. An iPad alert — four notes from a glockenspiel — lets me know what’s next.

And during those times when my tablet computer and I are in different parts of the house, my smartphone does the chiming, and the action continues.

The phone’s involvement results from the miracle, for me, of syncing the devices to each other, so that everything I enter on one list automatically goes on the other’s, with all the details — category, date due, time due, priority and so on– intact.

In the past, way back, I planned my job , parenting and free time by using a detailed, often arduous rating system. Essentially, I compared each item with every other item on the list. It worked, as my old spiral notebooks, the planning ground, attest.

But when the list grew long, the complications multiplied and the time commitment expanded. Refining the criteria took forever. And reading the final product could be difficult. My illegible penmanship could thwart an evening’s effort.

The real genius of the new arrangement lay in the decision to accept housework as my job. That erased any expectation of enjoyment, and removed every shred of resentment I might feel for having to spend my retirement this way.

If it’s on the list, I do it. And with no complaints.

This approach seems to give me energy, but the experience is not all peaks. One recent day, I grew bored with the dozen mundane things ahead of me. I tried to trick myself into action by placing every domestic obligation under “Home,” to create the feel-good impression that each completed chore would contribute to a harmonious household and a warm hearth.

But I saw through myself and dawdled. Now, with most everything categorized again as Work, the system hums right along again.

Hark, the chimes summon me to my tasks.

I think I am on to something here.

Yeah, baby.

– Joe Kennedy