Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Salute to Wicked Stepmothers

Looking across Lincoln Park, towards Surroundings and the P & C Market

I love housework. I really do - OK not when I have to rush around. Pushing through housework is hell just like anything hurried. But when I can take my time, I enjoy - and benefit from - the instant gratification. I love how you don't have to be a rocket scientist to clean house, but you do have to pay attention. It's simple work that doesn't take long and can help you feel really good about yourself in just an hour or two. I love the metaphor of cleaning house, too. Clean house, clean mind. It really works!

One of the ideas we explored in Reclaiming was that maybe the evil stepmothers and witches in the old fairytales were originally the teachers and mentors of the heroines in those stories. We suspected that patriarchal censorship was responsible for transforming the teacher/mentors into evil characters. That mindset was very much a part of the feminist spirituality of the 1980's and 1990's. Trying to perceive the story underneath the contemporary versions was a fascinating archeology, eye opening to say the least!

The girls in fairytales always have to clean house and cook for their "evil" stepmothers, which helps them develop strength, skillfullness, resourcefulness, and great character without having any adverse effect on their physical beauty. The pampered stepsisters are always ugly as well as being total losers in every way, but the Cinderellas make out like bandits in the end, marrying the handsome prince and living happily ever after. The take away wisdom is that it's better to work hard than to sit around. I mean really, even Mary Poppins made the kids clean up after themselves.

Lately I'm looking into all the dark corners of my storytelling function, wondering if I could tell myself a different version of my own "truths." I'm not looking for new plotlines in my foundational archetypal fairytales, but rather a different interpretation, the way we worked in Reclaiming with the common myths and fairytales of our culture. Who knows what I might come up with?

To that end I spent a couple of hours this morning sweeping up leaves - from our porch and stairs but also for a couple of the neighbors. The sweeping helped me think, was invigorating, and when I was finished, the pavements were so nice and clear. My mind likewise feels clearer than it has in awhile.

Yep, I believe in the power of simple domestic pursuits. Oh yeah! Thanks wicked stepmothers! Kiss kiss!

Yes dogs can be total squirrels, unable to focus on anything. But sometimes, they are completely present. These dogs were waiting for their humans to come out of Peregrine Espresso this morning. Aren't they sweet?


Elizabeth said...

So now I will joyfully clean my little appartment and gain spiritual wisdom to boot
love you , Reya!

Joanne said...

I would gladly, gladly give up housework! Alas, I thrive best in a clean, organized home, so one demands the other :/

lacochran said...

Have you read "Women Who Run with the Wolves" by Clarissa Pinkola Estes? If you haven't, I recommend it. I think you'd enjoy it.

Val said...

that makes perfect sense to me! a much more valid interpretation. and cinders was always sweeping too.
those dogs are fabulous - its like when they get their 'food stare' - total focus - great
thanks Reya for another perfect post x

Reya Mellicker said...

Elizabeth your apartment would be fun to clean - because there isn't too much stuff in it.

Joanne I bet you have to rush through it.

OMG laura YES! Women who run with poodles who have mohawks, we used to call it. A great book - a classic!

Yes, "food stare." Dogs do get that. Sounds like giraffes have it coming and going as far as being able to focus.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

wonderful post....unfortunately, I have been in an avoiding housework phase for way too long and it shows - I generally enjoy housework it can be very zenlike and calming. but time seems so limited these days! thanks for the inspiration.

enjoyed your 'take' on re-visioning stepmothers and witches!

steven said...

reya i too love cleaning house. i vacuum, dust, organize the little piles of stuff, do laundry, sweep out the garage, clean the pool, take out garbage and recycling, wash counters, clean out fridges, etc. etc. i love it all! honest i do. i don't especially care if the house is sparkling clean and well-organized as much as i love that gratification piece!!! oh yes i do!!!! i can thank my mum for all of that because she brought me up to believe that it was not the work of a woman to clean etc. it was the work of any person in the house who enjoyed it! sweet evening in dc reya!!! steven

willow said...

You come up with the best productive thoughts. I'm all about myths and fairytales, so I'll be looking forward to your posts, as you like to say...yeah.

Reya Mellicker said...

Yes Steven - it's the journey, not the destination in cleaning. Because living in a space means it's going to get dirty. I'm not fanatical about the house staying clean, moment to moment. What fun would that be?

Mrsupole said...

Housework can be very calming and thought provoking. I am glad you do not have to rake up the leaves in the park. Beautiful pic of the park. Thank you for it.

It does seem like every fairytale had a bad guy and a hero. Funny how there never seemed to be that many wicked stepfathers, and I sometimes wonder if the Wizard of Oz was so successful because it had good witches, along with the bad.

When you say you are looking into the dark corners of your storytelling function, I was trying to figure out where you have any dark corners in your writings. You seem to have the brightest storytelling of anyone out there. Sometimes you have sad stories, but they are never dark stories. You always brighten up my day when I read what you have written.

You have a special talent or art in what you write. You have an ability to make us feel, to make us react, to help us learn, to make us laugh, to make us be there with you. You make us be. Very few writers have this ability. I will look forward to what you come up with and if you change your interpretations, I have faith that you will continue to challenge us in our reactions to your writing.

I am glad that you were able to clear your mind and I pray that brought much happiness to you.

Those dogs are so sweet looking and you also have such an ability to take pictures of things we might never see. Your pictures are just as expressive as your writing. You just are, you just see.

I want to thank you for just being you. I enjoy you. You rock!!!!

God bless.

lakeviewer said...

What wise lessons you teach! Love these pearls, these golden nuggets, these truths that are right in front of us the whole time.

Barbara Martin said...

To take my cue I'm off to do a little housework before bed.

I love the Burnese Mountain Dog in the photo. Looks a patient fellow.

Reya Mellicker said...

Mrsupole, my goodness, thank you!! Wow. And you too Rosaria, thanks!

The early years in REclaiming were GREAT for me. The name says it all: as a community and as individuals, we were taking back powerful identities through ritual, trance, good deeds in the political realm, and by undoing the old myths that portrayed us as weak, wimpy or evil and Draconian.

Maybe I should write a little bit about Reclaiming. If I have time, I'll do it tomorrow before work.

Reya Mellicker said...

Mrsupole: by dark corners I mean what is not in my consciousness at the moment. I'm looking for story interpretations that are different than anything I've told myself before, but still true. It's an interesting project!

Butternut Squash said...

Hi Reya,

How synchronistic! I just posted a short story I've been tinkering with for years. It is about the Cinderella Complex.

Now that I'm done, I have to get back to cleaning my house.

"Women Who Run with the Wolves" by Clarissa Pinkola Estes really is quite wonderful.

tattytiara said...

Haha, I would have to stumble across this post while I'm surfing blogs to avoid housework! Okay, I'm going, I'm going, but meanwhile I really enjoyed the food for thought you offer.

Sandra Leigh said...

LOL -I read your post, and went straight off to clean out the refrigerator. It had been calling out "Clean me!" and I had been ignoring it. You were right. It felt good.

karen said...

As a (hopefully non-wicked) stepmother, I did enjoy the salute!

Yes, I also enjoy that feeling of satisfaction when something is clean and sorted out. It annoys me that it has to always be messed up and redone, though, when there are so many other more pressing needs for my time, like blogging, of course!

lettuce said...

yes, i'm with you on the housework thing (though I have a sneaking suspicion I feel that way because I don't do too much of it...)

so many fascinating layers in fairy stories, I enjoyed this

Tom said...

love the dogs on the bicycle stand...hope the riders have another option, and that the pooches get a nice treat for waiting on their masters to get their morning fix.

Pam said...

One of the reasons I like renting is the inspection every six weeks. Forces me to have the place spotless, otherwise I'd slacken off.Reorganized the pantry recently however - boy it looks good! What I never liked about wicked stepmother/sister types is their bossiness.I have a bossy sister-in-law. You could eat off her floor, but as someone once said " why would you want to!"

Steve said...

You are SO right about housework. It's one of my favorite pursuits. It concentrates and focuses the mind, and as you said the gratification is instant.

Have you ever seen a book called "Sweeping Changes: Discovering the Joy of Zen in Everyday Tasks" by Gary Thorp? It gets at this very issue. It's a wonderful little book.

Ptolemy said...

What a beautiful Greater Swiss Mountain Dog!

Barry said...

Oh great! Now you've done it! Now Linda wants me to help clean house for my mental health!

My mental health will improve dramatically just watching her clean house.

Ow! Let go of my ear Linda! Ouch! Help!

Bee said...

Really interesting thoughts here, Reya. I think that I need to go Wicked on my teenage daughter's case and make her pick up after herself more. I'm letting her down by allowing her to be so lazy.

And I could use some of that philosophy for myself, too; my study is looking pretty messy!

Reya Mellicker said...

A basic life skill includes being able to take care of yourself. My mother didn't make us do anything, and instead took on what cleaning she could. We grew up in an always cluttered, chaotic, dirty house.

As adults all of my siblings and I are clean and like to clean. Except maybe my little brother.