My mother has always kept a very clean home. The kind of clean where you could be an occasional guest in her home, go into the bathroom and not be the slightest bit afraid when you accidentally drop your ring and it rolls behind the toilet. In anyone else’s house (who does not have a stellar cleaning woman) you would think, “oh shhhhhhit.” You would clench your jaw; squint your eyes as if it helps with the nastiness and, holding your breath, reach in to reclaim your valuable. But not in my mother’s bathroom….no sir, no ma’am. You can confidently reach back there, even sit down on the floor if it makes you more comfortable and take your time because back there – it’s clean. There are no forgotten corners in her home, where eventually someone must go and discover a pile of something questionably grey and sticky.
Lately I haven’t been home much. Between the holidays, my birthday and other people’s events, Juan and I have been out more than in, and when we are in we haven’t been all that productive. Without fail, when I go through a period like this, there comes a day where I just can’t take it any more and I need to do a proper cleaning. I need to spend a day, on my own, and tidy up, dust, vacuum, cook and organize. My mother, always the hard worker, is nothing but supportive and kind to me, saying things like, “oh honey…you work so hard, you’re always running around and doing this or that. Don’t feel bad! You deserve it; go out and have a good time, then make sure you rest.” I, quietly, always think the following:
Yeah, ma, right. This is coming from the woman who, with a weakening illness managed (at my age) to have a job, keep a home in tip top shape with no help at all, raise two kids, help them with their homework, keep close tabs on them AND cook every single day trying to keep her husband happy. All this and you could peek behind the television and find clean organized wires and no dust. Sure ma. I should rest…because I’m so busy going out and socializing after work. Sssssure.
No! What happens if you come over and drop something…..anywhere???? You’ll find…well, I just don’t want to say. But no ma, today is “clean up my shit” day. No funny business.
So today that is exactly what I am doing. I reached far behind the toilet, under the radiator and cleaned it all. I removed the light fixture cover and cleaned it (eeeew) and now, I am happy to say, that you can come over and drop marbles if you want, because no matter where they roll, don’t be afraid. It’s all good.
These moments will always remind me of her, and how I was raised. The best part of being an adult is being able to part with the difficulties of being a child and remember the core things that you now know made you who you are. Whenever I am tired or just lazy, and think that I don’t have time, I think of her and know that is just not true. It doesn’t mean that I always then do whatever it is that I am putting off, but that I know. Knowing, as they say, is half the battle. There will never be any room for denial in my life because my mother taught me, by example, otherwise.
Some days, I feel the need to ask my “successful” and “do-er” friends to sign a disclaimer that they will still want to be friends with me even if I don’t do anything impressive or noteworthy with my life.
At 33, I battle the fear of loosing my focus on a daily basis, sandwiched between going to work because I need money to live and doing all the normal stuff that needs to be done for our lives to run smoothly (like clean clothes, towels and apartment, food to eat and so on). I have a few friends in my circle that are very busy people, always getting something done and pounding past those milestones like fucking champions. Their stories speak of houses, renovations, trips to the vet, new cars and car payments, refinancing, retirement investing, babies, children, second degrees, job promotions and salary increase negotiations. There are times when I stare at the phone, my faced all screwed and folded into a look of anguish: what will I say if I call them? When they are done filling me in, what will I say? “I made these amazing blood orange muffins the other day, my asshole boss at the job I said I was going to quit three months ago is still an asshole, I’m still working on “the change” we spoke about a year ago and hey, I’ve been posting to a blog no one knows about!”
Ah yes, the conversation of champions.
I mean, don’t get me wrong: I love these girls. They are no joke…good looking, strong, successful and amazing in general. But I do sometimes, in the irritating insecurity that plagues the girl part of me, want to just put it all out on the table: “do you want to talk to me if I don’t have anything impressive to report? Please sign this disclaimer that you will like me even if I don’t find my way. As long as I don’t go dumb and useless, you’ll love me, right?”
But nothing is black and white, and my memory reaches out to put a stop to my nonsense, recalling a certain moment past with one of my “power girls”:
We lay facing each other on a twin bed in her in-laws house with the door closed as I watched tears stream down her face. Her beautiful blue eyes were red and so sad, the injured girl in her breaking my heart. The pain we know from love is like no other, except perhaps for death, and I searched for something to say to make her feel just the tiniest bit better. When the sobbing slowed and we just looked at each other in silence, I told her that even though we couldn’t explain it now, I truly believed that everything happened for a reason. I told her how amazing she was, how proud I was of who she was, that she was part of my life…and that she was strong. Then I joked about myself: I pointed out that at least she wasn’t like me, wandering about life in circles, asking herself questions over and over and never making any progress. She had accomplished so much and had come so far from where she began. It was then that here eyes snapped to attention for just a moment, and sternly she said, “at least you’re happy. At least you laugh and can be silly, you move around in circles but see beautiful things: you’re living.”
That’s why we all need each other, like pieces of a puzzle. If we were all the same shape we could be side-by-side at best, but not united. With that I will go and be on with my day off, letting myself be proud for small things like eating a meal that does not contain cheese, actually putting all of my clothes away, putting the recycle out before midnight and crossing something off my list that has been there since last year.
That, according to many different people and institutions, is an essential key to success in matters that require a significant amount of discipline. Weight Watchers, school, work, clubs and teams: they all hold us accountable for something. For each of these, there are things that you personally are responsible for, and the idea that people are looking to you to do these things gives you point of reference. Your conscience is alerted. How many times have you wimped out on a promise you made to yourself? How many times have the items on your “to-do” list, like making a dentist appointment, joining the gym or signing up for a class, gone undone? These things you let go, yet you find time somehow, to do things for other people – right? The reason this happens is that when someone asks you to help them with something, we feel the responsibility to come through for them. When a professor gives a deadline for a paper, you know that if you don’t hand it in on time there will be negative consequences; knowing that you will be stepping on a scale in front of other people at your weekly Weight Watchers meeting makes you think twice before going off course and eating those cookies.
So there it is.
And today I am going to jump in, head first. I am going to pledge to start posting on my blog more frequently, and more importantly am going to write about all the things that I am trying to accomplish, hurdles I am trying to surpass and fears that I need to face. The thought that someone out there might actually read it will be my first step towards accountability. This brings me closer to a lot of things I have been thinking; particularly the idea that perhaps the answers to some of my questions and concerns lie in others. We are all connected on so many levels, and people have been helping each other thrive since the beginning of time. Plus, keeping all of this to myself has brought me to only one solid conclusion: I have been saying the same things, over and over, for a very long time. Whenever I read back through my journals I see the same recurring themes, the same frustrations and the same “longings” come up again and again. Like whispers they dance across the pages, spinning and twirling, taunting me…laughing ironically at the girl who keeps watching their show instead of moving up and onward.
And, since the odds of someone reading this one blog, amidst the immeasurable blogosphere are very, very slim, I will write all sorts of stuff, perfect or not, annoying or not and see how it goes.
Random Thought and Declaration:
One day, if I have a lot of money, I will do something nice for the people who make Pandora Radio possible. For now, that I have no such wealth to speak of, I will say “thank you, thank you, thank you…especially for what you play on my favorite station “the Shins Radio.” It makes my days better, my thoughts flow and makes my heart dream on.
Bloom: “Do you feel cheated?”
Penelope: “The trick to not feeling cheated is to learn how to cheat.
So – I decided this wasn’t a story about a miserable girl, trapped in a house that smelled like medical supplies, wasting her life on a dying person she sometimes hated – no.
This was a story about a girl who could find infinite beauty in anything, any little thing…and even love the person she was trapped with. And I told myself this story until it became true.
Now – did doing this help me escape a wasted life? Or – did it blind me so I wouldn’t want to escape it? I dunno.
But either way I was the one telling my own story so no – I don’t feel cheated at all…”
(from the card trick scene in the film “The Brothers Bloom”)
It feels so nice to be happy to be home….
I walked through the apartment and was happy to see all of our things: my plants, my kitchen; the familiar way the light filters in through the blinds. Every simple little thing brought me joy, from walking around in my underwear to making coffee and putting away dishes in my little kitchen. The trees have all gone green in the week that we were gone, and they have that wonderful newborn green color that only early spring brings. All the leaves are not full grown yet, so the scene outside my window seems like a pointillism painting; like a fuzzy vibrating texture of thousands of miniature leaves on big, full-grown tree limbs. I got a particular sense of joy and satisfaction when I put an empty egg carton into the paper side of my recycle bin, loving that recycling is part of my life, after having come from a home where everything is thrown right into the garbage…all going to the same wasteful graveyards of the worlds landfills.
I am happy.
I am not making an adult-with-a-BFA-worthy amount of money, I have not lost the 10 pounds I have been talking about for a year, I still don’t have a plan, only a “what-the-plan-isn’t” plan and I have a long list of promises I have made to myself but haven’t kept.
I do have a job, I have lost four of the ten pounds and I have plenty of hope and optimism in my heart to keep me working towards all the other stuff. I have love. This makes me one of the luckiest people on earth.
Every return home like this is a reminder of the days when home was not such a happy place – when my heart ached for some nameless thing and felt no such comfort. So, for all of the things I may not have accomplished yet, I know that my life is in a happy place.