Chores help me get outside my head

I accidentally dropped this saucer while doing the dishes at the start of the quarantine. It was part of a cup and saucer set that I bought in a thrift shop in Cubao X. I really love this set and am upset that half of it is broken. I haven’t had the heart to throw it out. I guess part of me thinks they can still glue it back together at some point.

More than just taking up time that could be spent doing something else, the seemingly never-ending cycle of chores remind us that we are human. Making the bed, cooking, doing the dishes, cleaning house, doing laundry, working out day in and day out, doing all this by yourself reminds you that you are a machine and that that thing you call your life needs constant upkeep, or else it falls into disrepair. Don’t cook and you starve. Don’t do the dishes and your sink fills up and you have nothing to eat from. Don’t clean and dust accumulates, making it easier for you to get sick. Don’t work out and the same thing happens.

We tend to complain about doing chores because they’re repetitive and never ending and because we could be doing something else. While I still don’t like doing some of them, I’ve learned to relish being able to do them at all. I’ve always loved cooking and washing dishes, so those aren’t a problem. I’ve learned to think of cleaning house and laundry as ways to move my body and burn calories.

I’m disabled, so any sort of movement is, for me, something to be celebrated, even if it’s sweeping dirt into a dust pan or hanging up a shirt to dry. They also give me time to not think of anything except the task at hand, sort of like a mini mediation, and this has benefitted my work and creativity.

It’s when I do chores while thinking of something else that things tend to go awry, such as dropping a beloved saucer, for example. These days, I try to do my chores with intention, partly because doing something physical helps clear my head, partly because I want to prevent accidents like the saucer incident.

I know I seem privileged to be able to write long mediations like this, but what drives these words is a swirling pool of longstanding anxiety. I don’t write because I’m doing better; I write so things in my head don’t get worse. Chores help. Work helps. Friends help.

It’s a struggle from second to second, but I try to keep going. I’m always thankful for work and friends. And on good days, I am thankful to be able to lose myself in chores as well.


Yvette Natalie U. Tan is a multi-awarded author of horror fiction and the Agriculture section editor of Manila Bulletin.