the proper way to iron

I was ironing P.’s shirts last night (shut up; I lost a bet) and it got me thinking about this time during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school when I lived on my own for a few months (long story). I had to bring my clothes to the laundromat, which was in a scary part of an already kind of scary town, and I’d really never had to do my own laundry before, much less all in public like that, so it was a little intimidating.

This really old black man worked there, ironing people’s laundry. He was tall and lanky, with deep wrinkles that cut grooves into his face and hands. It seemed like he was always there, at least on Saturdays, when I would tiptoe in with my black garbage bag full of clothes and pretend I knew what I was doing.

And while I waited for my clothes, he would explain to me the proper way to iron: don’t push the iron into the clothes; let the iron’s weight do the work for you.


Oh how I push. With clothes, with life. And it’s so much work. And it doesn’t help. But I can’t let go of the weight and let it do the work for me. Because that would take patience.

Last night, I was complaining to P. that I’ll never get into shape. I’m trying to get back into running, after taking a break for several months (long story that’s also boring), and even though I’ve been doing other things instead, it’s like I’m back to square one: out of shape, no stamina, no strength. He told me that I just needed to stick with it, that it would just take time. “But I don’t want to wait. I want it now.”

“I forgot who I was talking to for a minute.”

I get so anxious. I want to know every little twist and turn ahead of me. I’m so busy pushing ahead, I lose sight of what is now.

Stop pushing and let the weight do the work for you.

So, last night, I tried to remember what the old man taught me. I spread the shirt out on the ironing board taut, and slowly brought the iron across it. I let it sit a moment, then moved on, and again, and again. Until everything was crisp and fresh and ready. No pushing required.

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