Apparently, I can change my life and the world simply by making my bed.
If only it were that simple.
A military hero named Admiral McRaven wrote a 2014 commencement speech about making your bed, which later became a bestselling book. I understand his point, I am even a little envious. But in my case, it is just too late. Fifty-one years of faking it–not making it–is a little hard to undo.
Admiral McRaven states that his hedge against stress is making the bed. My hedge against stress is a Nestle Crunch bar. He states that the morning ritual of pulling corners of the bed sheet at a 45-degree angle and then pulling tightly will help him deal with the stress that lies ahead of him. What? I need a protractor in bed? Of all the office supplies I could fantasize about bringing in bed, the protractor did not make the top 10.
I mean no disrespect to this impressive person, but it’s never going to happen.
I wish I could be different, but my brain was not adorned with the farmer mentality of waking up early and starting my day. Maybe because I inherited the “late gene.” That’s right. I am blaming my messiness, laziness, unapologetic lack of order, and refusal to make the bed on genetics.
As an 8-year-old recipient of my parents’ old king-sized bed, I suppose I was the envy of my sister and brother. Truth was, I was intimidated by the monumental size of the bed and the daunting task of making it each morning. I quickly realized I could sleep on top of my bed in my sleeping bag.
In the morning, I simply rolled it up, stuffed the bag in my closet, and Voila!–a perfectly made bed would appear. Unfortunately, the sleeping bag trick did not help me in the punctuality department. I still ran for the school bus, Pop-Tart in hand, praying they would not leave without me. “You’ll be late for your own funeral!” my mom always said.
My disinterest in bed-making did not go over well at overnight camp, earning my entire bunk an unsatisfactory rating. I did not gain any popularity points by subjecting my bunkmates to my haphazardly made bed, which was home to four days worth of laundry, a curling iron, a few towels, two books and all the letters I forgot to mail.
When I got married, I believed I was home free from ever having to make a bed again. No such luck: I married the equivalent of the Happy Homemaker, a neat freak who made the bed when I got up to use the bathroom. Even if there were still two hours left before the alarm went off. I wonder if the judge regarded that irreconcilable difference on my divorce complaint.
The act of making the bed was always lost on me, existentially speaking. In fact, pulling up the sheets was the equivalent of Sisyphus pushing the rock. Why bother if you’ll mess it up again within a day?
Then all the scientific reports came out; the data that concludes how it is unhealthy to make the bed. That making the bed first thing in the morning traps the dust mites and does not allow the sheets to breathe after being slept on, perspired on, and God knows what else on for those illustrious eight hours a night.
I wish I could have used this evidence in my defense when I was younger.
Unfortunately, my resistance to making the bed did not help my futile attempt to teach my children to make theirs. “Do as I say not as I do,” is hard to emphasize when your bed is home to a calculator, four cats, a month’s worth of magazines, and that bill I forgot to mail. My daughter told me she actually gets anxiety when her roommate makes the bed. I haven’t asked if she feels compelled by this anxiety to follow suit.
My significant other is a patient man. Once a week, the cleaning lady comes, changes the sheets and makes the bed perfectly, probably sporting that coveted 45-degree angle. On occasion, my partner mentions how nice it is to get into a freshly made bed. So now and then, I spring into action and perform the “6 p.m. shuffle,” a technique I mastered years ago. Twenty minutes before “someone” gets home from work, I make the bed, put away the breakfast dishes and pretend I began my day with this priority taken care of.
Finally, my research tells me I am not alone. A staggering 59 percent of the population do not make their own bed. So, I took an online survey about the personalities of people who do not make the bed. The results say I am dreamy, that my head is in the clouds, and I think in terms of possibilities.
Admiral McRaven reminds me that starting my day with a task completed will make me more productive. Yes, I think, but a Nestle Crunch will make me happy. I wonder if there is any hope for me at all.