Hear ye, hear ye, we have arrived at the last Ideal Life theme of our cycle, and it is, by no means the most agreeable.
To avoid dragging myself through the muck, I’ll let you, if you’re interested, take a look at my original article about this lovely theme of a Clean House.
In my Ideal Life, I am a person who:
- has a tidy kitchen
- knows the last time the bathroom was cleaned
- has clean sheets on her bed
- can see out the windows
- doesn’t mind washing the floor
- folds and puts away laundry immediately
- doesn’t expect anyone else to be bothered by what bothers me
- only gets out what can be used in an hour
- has a sparkly sink and faucet
Where are you coming from?
My tagline for this theme this year was, somewhat sarcastically, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” I thought it would be funny to consider what truth there might have been behind this old adage. Does God really care if my house is clean?
Well, before you think I might have had some sort of grand revelation, I didn’t. However, I did further come to believe that, perhaps, there is some truth to that Bible verse that says, where my treasure is, my heart will be too.
My treasure is not just my money, but it is my time and my talent, too. By taking care of the things we spend money on, like our apartment, like our clothes, like our dishes–and by “taking care of them” I mean spending my precious, non-renewable resource of time on them–then my heart is in the right place.
Throughout the year, on those few and far between occasions when I would intentionally take the time to get to the end of our laundry pile and get it all put away, or when I would scrub the kitchen sink out with bleach so that it would shine, or when I would finally get fed up with how unthinkably gross our bathroom mirror had become and tired of waiting for it to annoy someone else who might be in a position do something about it and actually clean it myself, I did get a weird, otherworldly, inexplicable satisfaction from it.
Was it a feeling of godliness? No. But the result did feel like a non-negligible investment of one of my few resources. Kinda like the old widow with the two coins, ya know, in the Bible. It was what I had to offer, and it was the kind of thing that no one else would consider remarkable. The only reward I get for this kind of thing is that maybe God might notice and spare a little smile for me. And if that’s all I get, I would actually be that much closer to my Ideal Life, since, in my Ideal Life, I make God smile.
So. Is cleanliness next to godliness? Yes and no. More research is needed. But, yay, lucky for me, laundry is a renewable resource and dirty sinks and mirrors do not require any particular talent or resources to create.
The very haha funny irony is that here, in the last days of the year, I have to isolate from my family because somehow I ended up testing positive for COVID after our trip south for Christmas, during which, we learned upon our return home, we came into contact with two COVID-positive family members. The men in my household did not test positive, so I have to steer clear of them until I am no longer contagious. So how am I spending my isolation? Scrubbing the bathtub, decluttering the bathroom, cleaning my bedroom, sorting too-small little boy clothes and tidying drawers.
So. Thanks to COVID, I get to end the year with a clean house and a nice theoretical dose of godliness, replete with a smile playing on the very lips of God.
Where are you going?
This is never going to be something I love, now is it? Just as it will never be something you love. So to imagine that I could tangibly increase my satisfaction in this part of my life is rather Pollyanna-ish were it not for my “In my Ideal Life I am a person who…” statements.
All I can do is just be faithful to what I imagine my Ideal Life looking like: windows I can see out of, sinks and faucets that–when I feel like making them do so–sparkle, sheets that are fresh (this tiny little thing truly does increase my happiness), dishes that are done and laundry that is put away. It’s a tiny little hamster wheel, but one that has, against all my wishes to the contrary, become mine.
It is a humbling admission: the greatest value I bring to my family is as their laundress and housekeeper, which are two things I factually suck at. (Cue a fresh Kleenex box, Maestro.) If I could just accept this and get over myself, I would be so much less miserable in my daily life.
I have to wonder if Cinderella, once she was rescued by her handsome Prince, ever ended up feeling miserable in her daily life. Did she end up suffocating under the invisible load of being a mother and wife? Even if she had servants to scrub her bathtub and put away her laundry…did she find the burden of managing everyone’s schedules and the whereabouts of the accessories for their Playmobil DeLoreans and knowing when everyone’s passports expire a fate worse than death? Did being the one who knew intuitively exactly at what time to start getting shoes and coats on, based on her instinctive barometer of everyone’s moods, the weather conditions and the traffic built up in the intersection outside, ever make her want to run away and join the circus?
The question, before I got lost on my tangent there, was this: where are you going?
The answer is: I need to get over myself. I need to stop seeing myself as a real life fairy princess and start seeing myself for who I am: a middle-aged woman whose identity is now inextricable from those two words that she hates: wife and mother. And no matter how much I hate it, those two words are synonymous with housekeeper and laundress and bearer of invisible loads that no one else can carry.
So yeah. Where am I going? I’ve got to figure out how to get over myself.
In my Ideal Life, I am a person who doesn’t expect anyone else to be bothered by what bothers me.