By Pam Burke 

Life is like a list of chores


Let us consider, for just one moment, the problem of the common chore.

The everyday task, the duty, the promise made, the tedious thing, the burden that which must be completed, if not by you then who. The chore. The thing needing doing of which we have many.

What's up with chores?

It occurred to my husband and I, as we stared one day at the disarray around us — undone chores allowing life to run amuck — that we were sadly mistaken about the purpose of life.

We had thought many wrong-headed things about life and about adulthood when we were younger, but none of those not-thought-through things was as big as the misconception that adulthood was about making a living and doing whatever we wanted with our lives now that we were in charge of our own destiny.

But life, adult life that is, seems to be about the same thing as childhood-life: surviving chores.

Who knew?

The only major difference is that as an adult you don’t get an allowance for getting chores done. If I could figure out how to pay me to do my stuff, I would. It seems though that as an adult you’re just supposed to do the chores because they are your duty, your adult duty.

Just because doing chores is a fact of life, doesn't make it right.

You have to understand that I was not trained properly for the execution of regular chores. My mother instilled in her two kids the understanding that life is not fair, not fulfilling, not easy and certainly not, not, not fun. Chores are, we were trained to believe, an angry, soul-sucking burden.

One was not allowed to smile or laugh, whistle, skip, hum or otherwise partake in merriment with the task at hand, nor was one allowed to anticipate a sense of satisfaction at completing a chore-ish task. One did not get an allowance for doing chores, the duties of children. One just tried not to noticeably anticipate being an adult who did not have those chores.

My husband took his own route to that day of disarray. He had cows and pigs and crops to help take care of through his growing up years, and he thought when his life evolved into something without those responsibilities his chores were over.

We think it's safe to say that as adults, we were probably only attracted to each other, on an instinctual level, by our mutual misunderstanding about the role of chores in our lives.

We thought we had started out on our march up Maslow’s scale of needs. We had secured food and shelter, we were developing a long-standing love and a sense of belonging and one day we would work through the other steps to the top: self-actualization — which we envisioned as a perfect realm where we bent our will to our work and play pursuits at the artiste-level with a singular focus.

In other words, we would do cool stuff, and chore stuff would, um, take care of itself ... maybe.

We were, obviously, stupid.

That vision did not include dealing with precarious stacks of dirty dishes or toilet bowls with calcium deposits or piles of dirty clothes or a trail of tracked-in crud on the carpet. Or the way that stuff just keeps coming at you, like a tsunami of to-do duties, swelling and roaring and threatening to drown you.

There is no working your way past, over or beyond chores. They are there, with you every day, week, month, season, year, biennium and so on and so forth, no matter where you live, no matter what you do for a living.

Sometimes, I resent the fact that I have to shower every day.

My heart tells me that attaining a higher state of self-awareness and reaching a deep understanding in the development of my abilities should not have to co-exist with worries about whether or not anyone has clean underwear for the week.

And yet, if I don't wash those tighty whities, who will?

(Clean socks and unders are in the dryer at


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