Clean and Spanky

It’s doubtful that anyone who’s ever sat in my personal office at work would call me a neat freak. While I admit to a fair amount of compulsive tendencies, I am far from OCD. I think people can be categorized as either “lumpers” or “sorters”. But since I score right down the middle in a Myers-Briggs test, it’s no wonder I am BOTH a lumper and a sorter. In fact, I must lump before I sort. Piles on my desk are divided between

  1. must do today
  2. important, don’t want to lose, will come back to later
  3. someone else will want that later

Everything else goes to the circular file. And I am FANTASTIC at throwing things away and having zero remorse. If I haven’t touched it in a year: trash. Worn it in a year: Goodwill. If that toy has not been played with in a year: garage sale. Get rid of it, pass it along, thrift it. Regift it.

[There is a third personality type with regards to cleaning….its called clusterf*ck. Those people are hopeless. They’ll end up on Hoarders.]

As I feel anxiety prowling around the periphery of my consciousness, I identify disorder in my physical world as the culprit. Better yet, ordering my physical world combats the anxiety. So….in the strictest sense…..I admit the compulsiveness. But It works, God Damn It. Feel stressed, iron the basket of clean, wrinkled linen and cotton. Feel antsy, make an actual list of what needs to be cleaned in the house and scratch off each chore once completed. The exercise always alleviates my stress. At Door 16, I felt a kindred spirit with Anna. I have enjoyed the progress she and Evan have made in their lovely and well-loved home. She is a DO-er. Relaxation through tasking. I get that.

The act of DOING presses back on my impotence. When I feel powerless and immobilized by circumstances beyond my control…..the need to control my environment escalates. I am a whirling dervish of DOING.

To be truly known by another person and to feel truly loved and safe….that person would have to do two things. They would have to know and accept the ticker tape that runs in my head. They would have to respect how the ticker influences my sense of ease. They can’t be clutter blind. And they have to be willing to tackle the list WITHOUT PROMPTING OR INSTRUCTION. I can do the Honey-Do list all by myself but if you want to give a truly perfect gift… learn what it is I usually do for myself and then do it for me with me having to ask for help.

On this eve of Valentine’s Day….the manufactured and artificial day proclaiming love and adoration….I would attest that the perfect love sign would be to return home from work to a cleaned house (and I mean a really cleaned house including the fridge selves, the ceiling fan blades and the dust on the tile behind the toilet tank). There would be dinner made or delivery on its way. My car would get washed and detailed. And a date would be planned. Acts of service and quality time: that is what pleases me. I don’t need a trip to Jared’s. I think jewelry is lovely, but getting gifts falls short. Most gifts are impulse buys stuffed in a tissue sprouting gift bag. Yuck. I thoughtful gift, pondered and planned, hand wrapped and laden with meaning….now that gift ROCKS! A toast or poem or letter also fails because I squirm in the spotlight of praise. It would mortify me to be someplace public and have someone stand and proclaim my attributes. Horrifying. While words of affirmation are important to me…..I don’t want the billboard. And forget affection. If I am nervous or anxious….or the ceiling fan blades are dusty…..I won’t tolerate being hugged or kissed. My love languages are definitely quality time and acts of service.

As of late…I have been pressed against a mountain holding a spoon. Cutlery won’t get me through, over or under that mountain. The solution lies beyond my influence or control. I accept this is a Zen exercise, a tribulation, a test of my faith. But there is a reason Jesus implores us to not fear and to let go of anxiety MORE TIMES than he tells us to LOVE. Jesus knew we were prone to worry. And honestly, I think since we got booted from paradise, humanity has been trying to figure out what they can DO to get back there. It is the ultimate riddle. It is BOTH acts and faith. I got the ACTS part down cold. It’s the faith part I am being schooled in. So, I accept the impotence and the reality that only supernatural forces can change me and circumstances. In the mean time, I will be loving to myself.

So…..since I need a little love and kindness today….I do for myself. I love myself and know myself. I am comfortable with this pattern: organize my physical world and I will instantly relax. I feel “attended to”.  I DO the list of things that helps me relax and feel safe in my space.  Then I can luxuriate in the space I have created for myself.  After my Honey-Do list gets done…..I have TIME to do the other stuff I LOVE: write, bake, sew, hang with my sons, garden…….I give myself the quality time that makes my heart sing.

And today is a good day……by it’s end, I will have a clean home, a tidy space, a nice dinner prepared and I will start my week with comfort and ease. While I endeavor at the things on my list lovingly. Love thyself, today.

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