If you live in Denver, I bet I know how you spent your day today. You, like me, were lulled by a combination of spring break and promised balmy weather, and you hauled your offspring to the zoo.
Despite the fact that the weather was NOT all that balmy (71 degrees, my hiney), I did find myself at the zoo with everyone else in the city today. I met Amy, one of my very best friends, with her kids, and she’d brought along two spare kids, so all together we had seventeen million children to keep track of. Give or take.
And since everyone else in the city was also there, this translated into the sort of day where I just pushed the stroller and counted and recounted heads. The baby wanted to walk, but never in the same direction as the rest of us, and the big kids were…well, big kids. Amy and I agreed that teenagers are like toddlers, except louder, more rambunctious, and with less awareness of their surroundings. Good lord.
By the time we had trudged from the parking spot (which, because of the crowds, was in Kansas), to the zoo, around the zoo, and back to the van (in Kansas), I was beat. I was dusty, my feet hurt, I was weary of keeping track of all the people in my charge, and my head was rattlingly full of all the EXCLAMATIONS and HYSTERICALLY FUNNY VOICES from the big kids. All I wanted was to go home, slip off my shoes, and whine about how many people we had to battle to look at the elephants (what? Some people have a glass of wine, I tell the story of my day with just as much drama as I can muster).
Here’s where I finally tell you what any of this has to do with spring cleaning. When I got home, I found my home in a divided sort of state. On the one hand, it is spring break, and since we haven’t been doing school, I’ve had a little more time around here to get things in order. I don’t want to suggest I’ve GOTTEN things in order, but I’ve made some definite strides that direction.
However, on the other slatternly, useless, messy hand, I flew out of the house this morning in a panic. I was running late, and I threw together a lunch on our way out the door. Instead of cleaning up lunch detritus, I’d pawed through a few stacks of paper, looking for my zoo membership card. So my ambitiously tidy home had a generous slick of messy on top.
I looked around, at the abandoned newspaper on the table, the crumbs and peanut butter jar on the counter, the papers that were strewn in the living room. It was just nearly as stressful as being at the zoo with everyone else in Denver. And it finally hit me: I want this place to be tidy.
Me. *I* want it.
To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled with this challenge. Spring cleaning? Seriously? Yawn, and besides, don’t I have enough guilt in my life? I am acutely aware that I could keep things tidier around here. I tend to think of the mess level as a sentient being. My preference is to ignore it as much as I can get away with, and deal with it just enough to keep it from eating anyone. I think of the cleaning I do as part of my job, effort that I give to my family because…well, because it sucks when you can’t find clean socks. Or the floor.
But today when I slumped in the door and surveyed my domain, I realized that my efforts here at home benefit me the most. When I put in that work upfront, I get to walk into a home that doesn’t accuse me, a place where I really can sit down and relax.
It reminds me of something I read once about running. If you use the proper form, shoulders back, stomach tight, head up, then over time running is actually less tiring. It feels odd and like a lot of work to hold yourself in this unfamiliar way, but a few miles down the road it pays off in endurance.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I could use a little endurance in my life, and I think stepping up to this challenge just might be a way to get it. Why, just the work I’ve done in the stupid laundry room has caused a sort of ripple of serenity in my day. Whenever I walk in there, I see the progress I’ve made and I feel hopeful.
So here, now, 75% of the way through this challenge, I’ve decided to take it seriously. I have two more days of spring break available, and I’m going to use them to tackle the messes around here that drag me down. I’m…I was going to say “excited,” but that’s not quite right. My jaw is set. My trigger finger is twitching.
If disorder really is a sentient being, I guess what I’m saying is that this house ain’t big enough for the both of us.