So What Did You Expect? Part III

Week 42

So What Did You Expect? Part III

OK, first things first. I’m a week behind. I know that.

One thing I should have expected and stupidly haven’t has bitten me from behind. I’m speaking of technology. The malware on my computer has been at war with the infesting adware on the Internet to the point I cannot read articles, create memes for Portfolio, research agents and publishers, look up recipes or gardening tips or even research for Sacramentary without some adware trying to masquerade as a computer help service freezing up screens and prohibiting any further work. It’s grayed more of my hair and my husband’s. I’m seriously considering following my friend Maggie Crawford’s example and going offline for a bit. The alternative risks my throwing my laptop through a second-story window.

Back on point.

Well, more or less.

Anne Wilson Schaef noted that perfectionism is in reality a form of self-abuse. Human beings are not perfect; we never will be. And yet, the voices and signs and influences are there screaming that if we only did this, bought this product, pushed harder, slept less, ate the current Super Foods, meditated on all-natural fiber cushions to the ringing of authentic knock-off singing bowls and fabricated incense, we’d achieve perfection. And I, for one, can testify to beating myself up when I don’t quite make it. Case in point, housecleaning.

[NOTE: I have an ulterior motive here: recording the opportunities I’ve taken to heal after nearly a lifetime of perfectionist self-abuse. Read on, MacDuff]

Let me state here that housecleaning and I are not on friendly terms. I’ve abhorred it since I saw it eat up and exhaust my mother on a daily basis. It simply never stays DONE. And yet, as a wife, mother, homeowner, it is a necessary evil and I’ve had to adapt. Still, I’ve learned that I have to have the mindset and no little amount of disgust at the state of my home to do much more than the cursory bits of dishes, vacuuming and bed maintenance. However, some things have to be done each season of the year. Hence, I took a leaf from my father-in-law (of blessed memory)’s book and created The List.

About three weeks ago, I set up a schedule to break Spring Cleaning down into manageable chunks. Sundays and Fridays held more chores and projects because those are the days I don’t work and are not Shabbat. And few, if any of the items stayed done.

So far, The List has been a middling success. Several times I came home from what currently is a job from the Twilight Zone with little purpose and no end in sight, in a state mental exhaustion. I was fit for little more than making dinner and attempting the newest postures in the T’ai Chi form my son and I are learning. The mindset to spring clean was hiding; I was further in no mood to find it. Many a day on the schedule saw double-duty to make up for the days I vegetated in hopes of healing.

Then I got The Crud that included migraines, coughs, fever and all sorts of nasties. More time for cleaning lost, more time spent healing.

Now Mrs. Should Be rails and rants that my own mother would have had all this Spring Cleaning done by now; indeed, neither my mom nor my mother-in-law would have allowed such a state of affairs to begin, let alone exist. My mother-in-law managed it while pursuing a career as a high school math teacher, too.

But I’ve become better at shutting Mrs. SB down on that subject. I argue that neither of these amazing ladies showed the same interest I have in baking bread; growing my own food and then preserving them; or needlework I do. Neither was much of a writer, either.

But they kept an immaculate house, Mrs. SB shoots back.

OK, fair point. That mattered to them most. So it comes down to what matters most. To me, housecleaning ain’t it. Not even close.

When my children were small, I let the housework slide to read, play and go places with them. Trying to show them the joy in a pile of leaves or of bread dough (not in the same place, please) or dancing to silly songs had the higher value. Oh, we cleaned like furies and I know I screamed at them when one or both of the sets of grandparents were visiting, but it was not a daily spot-check and scrub operation.

As they grew, their school work and experiences, their interests, and activities held the higher value. True, some of that involved a LOT of laundry and making strombolis for a crowd, but that’s what mattered. The cleanup could wait. They had learned to do some of the cooking and had the responsibility for keeping their rooms picked up (sort of), and there was the flurry of pre-visit cleaning, but perfection had to take a backseat to what could be done and what would be seen.

I’ve mentioned before that they have all flown the proverbial nest now. Now it’s me, my husband and the cat. I won’t mention who makes the greatest mess. You figure it out.

I still bake, plant, harvest, preserve and stitch. I still write, when I can. But I am noticing the dust, the cobwebs, the trails of cat litter and crumby floors. I notice the dandelions already trying to invade flower beds. And I notice clutter: a plethora of figurines, papers, books, VHS tapes and tchatchkes that must have meant something sometime in our lives, but possess no joy and are now more stuff to dust.

So it is time to clear out.

Clear out the clutter and take out the trash.

That includes the mental clutter, the mental trash.

I’m not perfect, never was, never will be. But I can try to be enough.

Not perfect. Never that.


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