I was young then and read the little story aloud to my mother - a woman blessed with a keen sense of humor and as keen a perception of the fitness of things. She adopted the phrase on the spot. "Butter-balls to make" became with us the synonym for needless hurry and flurry and worry. When used interrogatively, it was the cabalistic formula that caused a precipitate and a settlement of many a muddy whirl of anxieties, the open sesame to a "chamber the name of which was Peace."
Half of the perturbations that chase the housemother "clean out of her wits" are as purely imaginary as those that beset the heroine of our wee scrap of a story. That other American Martha who cried out on Monday morning: "Washing to-day! Ironing on Tuesday! Baking on Wednesday! Bless my life, half the week gone and nothing done!" is hardly a caricature of the national housewife. Worry is a whirlwind that throws the weightier matters of the law of life out of plumb, and raises such a dust of minor duties and possible hindrances that the blinded victim can see nothing aright.
One of the fixed principles of the universe is that two objects can not occupy the same place at the same time. Another, which we are more slow to admit, is that no two duties are cast for one and the same instant. The throngs of homely tasks that obscure our toiler's vision in the anticipation of "another day's work," drifting and dancing in the light of the new day - a flood of elusive moths - have really sequence and order. Let her take hold of her astral or inner self, by the shoulders, and hold her steady until she can weigh and classify the importunate atoms. The pretty fairy-tale of the tasks set for Graciosa by her wicked stepmother supplies another and a pat illustration. The poor girl had to sort a roomful of feathers of all colors and sizes. After laboring vainly for hours, she called tearfully for her fairy lover, who, with one stroke of his wand, laid each kind in a separate heap from the rest.
Your wand - and my wand - dear Martha, is the cool, long breath of sober reflection that gives us time to say: "All these things can not be done at once. Some of the less important can be laid over into the convenient season which must fall into the lot of even an American housekeeper. I must keep each in its place. I will" - a strong "will," a long "will," and many "wills" altogether - "I will think of but one thing at a time, and do it as if there were nothing else in the world for me to do."
Range-Screen Lowered To Shut In Heat
The discipline of thought and nerves that must attend upon such a moral and mental effort will train lawless impulses and teach concentration of thought as well as the much-vaunted higher mathematics could. Work need not, of necessity, be worry. Industry does not imply haste.
"Count five and twenty, Tattycoram!" entreated Mr. Meagles, when the foundling's temper was likely to get away from her.
In the same tone of affectionate warning, I pass on my homely test of facts and values - "Butter-balls to make!" First, make sure of what you really have to do, and to do today. Secondly, having screened and sifted the mass, assort the ore before you begin to smelt it - and yourself!
In place of counting five and twenty, accept my formula - "Draw ten deep breaths" before you make up your mind that you have not time for one.
The world is full of fresh air and it owes us all we can take in leisurely and thankfully.
No matter how heavy your burdens, your experience reflects 'that of hundreds of others. It may be a mean kind of misery that loves company. The knowledge that others are fighting and toiling bravely along the same line with ourselves; that others have conquered the circumstances which oppose us, braces us for renewed effort. What woman has done, woman may do again.
You are far from being hopelessly "mired;" you have what is called "a good fighting chance" for life and usefulness. You have one tremendous advantage, a solid foothold to begin with, in the certainty that you are in the right path.
The confident assurance of this is half the battle. The other half is in doing your work as it comes to your hand. Don't cultivate "a long reach," It never pays. You "don't get ahead one inch." Perhaps God means for you to move by quarter-inches. He has ten thousand ways of disciplining His children, and so teaching them to make the very best of themselves. It is as certain as that He rules the heavens, that He knows just what sort of training is good for you. Your husband, your children, your home, are your working capital, a loan from Him - your talents, if you like that figure better. They are more than worth all the labor and the worries that fall into your lot.
Husband, children, home, work and worry fill to-day full. Hence the folly, and the danger, and the sin of "the long reach." The one coming guest whom you should never welcome is to-morrow's possible troubles. The children are not to be educated today, nor is John ill or dead at the present moment, and the "lonesome" maid does not go until her month is up. The faith that removes mountains wears short-sighted glasses and brings them to bear upon the work in hand.
This is not preaching, but practical philosophy. Try how it will work for a week - then a month - then a year.
Keep your house as well as you can for John, for the babies, for yourself, and let the neighbors run theirs to suit themselves. Comparisons, according to Dogberry, are "odorous." Comparison of this sort savors of discontent and trouble. Mind your own business and take your business in sections.
"Magnify your office." You are as important in your kingdom as the Queen of Great Britain and the Empress of the Indias was in hers, and have not one worry where she had a thousand.
Lastly, read in full the text relating to the "bread of carefulness." Look it up and take it as the application of my lay-sermon.