I couldn’t understand a word my coworker was saying. She spoke Italian, and I speak English. Grazie and ciao was the full extent of my knowledge of the Italian language, but I gathered from her motions that I was supposed to follow her. I followed Katarina down the stairs into the basement. Workers were everywhere. People from the kitchen (she calls it the “chicken”) were carrying supplies up and down the stairs, and a couple of other women were folding towels on a table on the far side, jabbering away in another language I couldn’t understand. Katarina opened the door to a storage room, filled with folded and stacked towels and sheets. In the center was a huge pile of wrinkled sheets and pillow cases. She picked up the iron and pointed at the large stack. Then she pointed at me!
You Want Me to Iron?
Two things came immediately to my mind. The first was that I had agreed to come to the resort and help them with marketing and web content in exchange for accommodations. However, I had found out through the grapevine that the woman I had initially spoken with was no longer working there and no one seemed to know anything about our agreement. Even if I wanted to push the issue, hardly anyone understood English, so I felt it was a lost cause. I surrendered to the fact that I would be doing manual labor, even housekeeping, but ironing! Wow! That was the second thing that came to my mind. I don’t iron! I’m serious. I’ve never learned how. If I needed something ironed I took it someplace to be ironed by a professional, because the only time I have ever tried to iron clothes in my life, I burnt my blouse and later badly burned my finger. I looked at Katarina in utter dismay. Then I took the iron from her hands and nodded in understanding. She left the room, and there I was, face to face with one of my biggest fears, ironing!
Lessons in Humility
The reason that I surrendered to the issue and decided to give it a try, rather than freak out, is mainly because of my yoga training. Ego is one of the biggest detriments to our own happiness. Ego causes us to make a fuss about things that aren’t worth fussing over. It creates obstacles rather than opportunities. The opposite of ego is humility and contribution, and well, I guess the universe had decided it was time for me to have some lessons in humility. So, I picked up the first of many wrinkled sheets, laid it over the ironing board (which felt as foreign to me as chopsticks once did) and began to iron.
Life Lessons from Ironing
I noticed that I would iron one side, and then when I thought I was done I would turn it over and there would be wrinkles on the other side. How was that possible? Again, I would iron that side, and then it would look wrinkled on the other side. As I thought about it (and ironed the same side again), I realized it was a good metaphor for life. Just when we think we have ironed out the wrinkles in our life, new ones inevitably show up, often in the same place they were before. Just like I had to iron the same spot several times before I felt it was wrinkle free, in life we have to work on the same areas over and over again until we see the changes we desire.
After my initial shock and frustration passed, I began to figure things out. For example, at random times the iron would hiss at me, like a snake, and scare the crap out of me! But then I noticed that it was omitting steam and the steam was helping to smooth out the wrinkles. Isn’t that a lot like life? Many of the things that scare us at first, or we think are bad, are actually helpful in the end. I found myself finding a groove, and the process of ironing even began to feel therapeutic. I pulled out my earbuds and listened to music, and before I knew it my entire shift had passed and the pile was empty. The life lessons for me were to be humble, remain calm, to keep an open mind, and to be persistent. I’m enjoying it here and I can feel myself growing with every passing day. It’s a good reminder that life begins at the end of your comfort zone.