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September 6, 2023

What is Repetition? What is Codependency?

The meme declares it.

“Having an empty laundry basket is the best five seconds of the week.”

Yep. That’s all you get; five seconds.

Laundry. Endless. Tedious. A part of daily life.

The Sisyphus of it all.

We are aware of the famous quote, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting a different result.”

Laundry has, built into it, the repetitious, to the point of maddening. I think we can agree on that. We just finish doing a load of laundry, thinking we’re accomplishing something, only to see how more clothes are stacking up again.

It never ends.

As I’ve done thousands of loads of laundry in my life, I’ve had the chance to ponder some universal questions about the human experience.

What is insanity?

What is necessary repetition?

That’s what it comes down to, doesn’t it?

It’s not such an easy task to completely answer those questions accurately.

As I’ve washed my fair share clothes over the years, another quote has come to my mind…

“Life is managed. It isn’t cured.”

So, what is the difference between vain, or self-defeating repetition, and repetitious, but necessary, life management?

There is a difference. It’s not all laundry; it’s not all lunacy.

That’s the good news.

The no-so-good news?

We need to figure out the difference between the two for ourselves.

So, should we learn from the laundry?


Let’s kick things around for a bit.

What is insanity?

What is necessary repetition?

Codependency and its similar, disordered, relational patterns, are not a “one and done” kind of practice.

They happen over and over.


But all repetition is not good repetition.

Not all repetition is healthy repetition.

Not all repetition is necessary repetition.

Sometimes, it’s harmful, toxic, pointless, ineffective, unhealthy repetition.

But our habit of repeatedly doing it can normalize and justify its existence.

That needs to be challenged and changed if we are to improve our lives.

Laundry is a chore.

Is it a case of the healthy and necessary chore versus the toxic behavior?

That is the question.

The answer?

Laundry, first, yes, is a chore.

We agree on that. We ‘re not confused about its existence.

We don’t look at it as a hobby, as a game, as playtime, as fun. We don’t see it as a fulfilling relationship. I don’t think there’s anyone out there who is dating their fabric softener right now.

We know it; we call it.

It’s upkeep.

Codependency is…

But codependency is trickier. It can disguise itself as any number of things, like relationships, love, connection, purpose, something enjoyable and rewarding, and something that daily needs to happen in life.

We can dress codependency up as something that is a more meaningful chore than the unhealthy reality of what it is. We do that because we’re afraid to challenge the status quo. We do that because it’s all we know. We do that because we believe it’s our job, or we deserve this toxic dynamic for ourselves.

Viewing it as a “chore” can falsely subscribe dignity to something that should not be allowed to be dignified, let alone, implemented and practiced, from the start.

Laundry cleans things up.

Doing laundry gets the clothes clean. That’s the simple no-brainer.

Laundry is about the repetitive, unavoidable, and necessary stuff of life. We need clean clothes. It’s a health, hygiene, and well-being issue.

When things get dirty, smelly, stained, and are aesthetically not pleasing to look at, laundry is the necessary course of action.

Things can look “good as new.” Things can smell “April fresh.”

Things can move forward, supporting the theory that life is being tended to in a healthy, pleasing way.

It can make a major difference, this act of putting on clean clothes. It can signal hope, a new start, and positive momentum.

What is the result of doing laundry? Clean, fresh-smelling, and stain-free clothes.

Simple. Guaranteed. Bankable.

It’s something we can count on.

And that is important in life.

Codependency is…

Codependency can disguise itself as the cleanup job of laundry’s attributes.

And there’s where the confusion and the toxic danger can often flourish for us.

When we act in a codependent manner, trying to “clean things up,” we spend our energy, time, money, and lives cleaning up the messes that don’t belong to us.

Other peoples’ messes.

Messes that will not change, nor improve.

Here’s where we encounter the famous quote:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting a different result.”

As we convince ourselves we are effectively cleaning things up, we hope and expect that “this time” it will work.

“This time” the mess will be eradicated.

“This time” will be the “last time” we will have to clean this mess up.

But the mess will still reoccur, worsen, and persist. Our cleanup efforts are in vain. That’s the different experience codependency gives us, separating its reality from the repetitious and bankable results of laundry’s cleanup.

Hard truth.

Laundry makes things better.

It’s such a simple premise.

Clean clothes. Better life.

Being able to stay clean. Better life.

Being able to look better, more presentable, through clean clothes. Better life.

Laundry makes things better.

It’s hard to argue with those results.

Quality of life through clean clothes. We see it. We experience it. We wear it.

“Better” is realistic. It’s observable. We have the proof.

Codependency is…

But codependency has less proof; it’s rarely predictably clean and better with our life results.

Codependency can initially imitate the better things we seek in life: love, relationships, meaning, purpose, even atonement for our failures and mistakes.

We can believe the lies we tell ourselves that we are improving life through our codependent actions. Because of the repetition, we can believe it is working. It is necessary.

We can believe it needs to be a daily part of our lives, like laundry. It generates a better quality of life for our efforts doing the codependent things that are, otherwise, exhausting, distressing, counterproductive, and futile.

Codependency doesn’t make things better; it makes things worse. Any short-term appearance of improvement eventually gives way to larger, more complicated, and expensive problems.

The addict that we enable now steals from us and requires we provide bail money…

The abusive partner went “a little too far” last night, and now we are in the hospital…

The toxic friend depleted our mental health, because we were constantly stressed out by their messy, chaotic life choices, so much so, we have had a nervous breakdown…

These are just a few examples of us trying, in vain, to “help.”

But our help doesn’t help. It just hurts us, in the long run.

Question the Repetition.

So, what’s the answer? Is it an easy one?


Unfortunately, it’s complicated. Difficult.

Repetitious, yes, but necessary.

We need to ask questions about our repetitive behaviors.

Why are we doing them?

What’s the goal?

What’s realistic, versus unattainable?

Why are we insistent on doing the same thing repeatedly?

There is a reason; there is a payoff.

And most of the time, it’s not flattering.

Can we question that?

Can we be uncomfortable in doing that?

Can we confront and change our behaviors?

Can we do that regularly and repeatedly?

That’s the cleanup job we need to focus on.

Copyright © 2023 by Sheryle Cruse


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