Posted by: HAT | February 27, 2015

Sometimes I Do Bad Things

Painting by Francisco Laso The Laundress a woman hanging laundry on a line on what may be a rooftop

our towels were actually beach towels

Hi, Gang!

It is my free day – a day I’m not required by the one course I’m teaching this year to drive to Louisville and teach and drive back, a day I’m not required to have a lesson prepared that will attempt to engage 24 bright, enthusiastic, and bored-by-text 20-something students on the topic of women and religion (how is it possible for anything about that to be boring? I am a genius at something after all) – so it needs to be full of everything else that does not get done on those days. Pre-planning. Grading the low-stakes assignments that are accumulating on the course Moodle site. Getting the minutes from the Session meeting last night edited and typed and posted in the dropbox. Laundry.

So, after a few hours checking email and drifting off to check something on the internet and drifting back to email and eating cookies for breakfast and mailing a document that had been sitting on my desk for a week to the person listed on the document and checking email and finding out it was the wrong person because we were using an old version of the document and apologizing for having done that wrong and forwarding the new version to some appropriate person but not because we are going to correct it, just for future reference, and drifting back to the internet and checking something else and making a comment for which I needed to go unshelve a book that is now sitting on the desk amid the other books that have to do with the course and making some more coffee and finally deciding to take a shower and get to workwork, I uncovered …

… a washer full of towels.

The towels were damp. They had been there approximately 5 days. I say approximately because it depends on whether you count Sunday evening, when they started to be there damp at the end of the wash cycle, as a day. Or whether you count today as a day. It could be as many as 6 days. Or as few as 4. So, approximately 5.

I know how this happened. It happened because I went to sleep on Sunday night. Well, people need sleep. But it was before the dryer cycle finished. And then, when I got up on Monday, I had forgotten about the washing towels from cleaning up the carpet where the pipe burst project. So the dry towels never got out of the dryer and the damp towels never got taken out of the washer and put into the dryer.

So as I stood facing the dryer full of dry towels that needed to be folded and put away before the new laundry cycle began, and the washer full of damp towels that now smell like the basement they were originally intended to clean up that needed to be dealt with in some fashion before the new laundry cycle began, I noticed …

… my mind, working pretty fast, making this situation into “not my fault.” Not my fault, because people need to sleep; and I just forgot; and why had no one reminded me about them; and why am I the one who always has to do the laundry around here anyway; and I actually have other work to do that is more important than laundry, which I was rather busy doing at the time; and if I kept on in that vein I could probably come up with at least a couple more, but then I noticed …

… that sometimes I do bad things. Just that.

Sometimes I do bad things.

And then I noticed …

… there is a definite taboo against just noticing that and not trying to make it go away or not matter, at least in my world – my household, my local community, maybe in “the culture” wherever that is. Because I could hear a number of familiar voices: “well, that isn’t such a bad thing, you just forgot.” “Well, it’s no sin to make a mistake, everyone makes mistakes!” “Why do have to put yourself down all the time? You are no worse than anyone else! Stop saying you’re so bad.”

But I didn’t say I was SO bad. All I said was … sometimes I do bad things. This was a pretty minor bad thing, the leaving towels in the washer for 4-6 days. I know how to fix that. I wouldn’t probably even have to tell anyone about it, even in my house, let alone you five. But it was a “bad thing,” and it was something I did. So I am wondering, why the rush – it was a rush – to distance myself from that, and why all the support for that rush to distance myself from facing that from the voices inside my head who, I think a good part of the time, pretty accurately speak for the world around me?

Because then I thought …

… if it is that much work just to acknowledge that sometimes I do bad things when it comes to a few musty towels, how much work must it be to acknowledge that sometimes I do bad things when it comes to something bigger than that? Because I think it is hard for me to change my behavior until I notice that it is a behavior that needs to change. I have left things in that washer before. I feel a little less likely to do that again, this time. We’ll see, of course, but it seems to have made a difference simply to face the fact of the situation, and that I created it, and to stop with that. So I am wondering whether that same approach would work the same way with, say, racial micro-aggression or shopping at WalMart. And I wonder if that’s why it’s so much work just to notice that sometimes I do bad things.

Because if I just notice it … I might actually see that I could do something else.


  1. […] then, after worship, because it is painful to come face to face with our omissions and how they have hurt people, there were rumblings of “who made those promises?” and “whose responsibility was that […]

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