Thursday, May 1, 2014

Not So Neat, Or: There And Back Again

So I'm sitting here this morning, sipping my coffee while Took plays in the den in his brand new cardboard box, and I was wanting to write something.

. . .because, as I have mentioned in a previous post, we have been without a home computer for the last couple of weeks, and, as we all know, there is NOTHING that will make you want to write MORE than not being able to.

(. . .and really, since the dawn of the age of computers-in-every-home. . . I've gotten lazy.  There.  I said it.  Writing with a pen and paper just takes too LONG.  And my pen-hand is not NEARLY as quick as my typing-hands.  SO much more efficient.)

So while I was trying to decipher exactly WHAT it was that I wanted to write today, the first thought that popped in my mind was:  vacation.

A couple of months ago (February, to be exact), the Mister and I left our young offspring with my mother (with not just a little bit of angst and teeth-gnashing from yours truly), and set off to Jacksonville, Florida to catch our ship for a fantastic, fun-filled WEEZER CRUISE!!!!

And the trip was fantastic!!!  . . . and it was ALSO, VERY MUCH, not.

The experience was pleasant, peppered by moments of not-pleasant-at-all, and I'm discovering this morning that writing about it is probably going to be pretty intense, if I keep it honest.

And I'm just not up for that this morning.  Not yet.

And so I decided that I would just stick to a safer, easier subject (for the moment), which is:  my (perceived) neat-freak tendencies.

. . . Now, to anyone that has known me all my life, but to whom I have not spoken, or spent any great amount of time with in recent years. . . I'm sure you will probably find that last line positively laughable.

And I wouldn't blame you.

Not one bit.

. . . . .

When I was about fifteen, a very close family member came to stay with us.  We were of the same age, and very close friends.  So one day when my mom came to me and asked how I would feel about her coming to stay with us, and how I would feel about subsequently sharing my room, my closet, my dresser, my bathroom, my STUFF. . . my immediate response was:  "I'll clean out some space for her right now."  And I set about the task of making room for another female teenager, and her belongings.

And she became the closest thing to a sister that I've ever had, and, from my point of view at least, we got along famously.  =)

But for HER. . . it was probably just a teensy bit more challenging.

Because, as much as I loved her (bless her heart), she was DECIDEDLY a neat-freak.

And I. . .

Well, I was decidedly NOT.

. . .This is not to say that I was a grubby little piglet-girl, wallowing in the muck of my own messiness. . . but I will readily admit that I was FAR from tidy.

We were complete opposites in many ways.

And yet we made it work.  And (I HOPE, because I can only speak to my own experience), we were both better people for learning how to live peacefully together.

(In all honesty, I'm quite sure I drove her absolutely CRAZY sometimes. . . but blood is thicker than water, and all that.)
Example:  We were about the same size at this time.  We didn't really have similar taste in clothes, though.

And I really cannot tell you HOW many hours I spent pondering how she could ALWAYS look SO "put-together". . . and I somehow always ended up looking like I had either just finished, or was just getting ready to, paint a house.

(In retrospect, it probably all came down to my fondness for sweatpants.  I am passionate about a few things in life, and COMFY CLOTHES just so happens to be one of the big ones.)

But, putting all that aside, I WAS a teenage girl, and, on occasion, I found myself with a peculiar stirring to "look nice."

. . .and there was a closet, in my room, half-full of QUITE "nice-looking" clothes.

Only problem was that they weren't mine.

And, I would like to point out, that I was NOT callous enough to just take something of hers out of the closet to wear.  What if she wanted to wear it later, and I had dribbled chocolate sauce down the front?  (I did have, and still DO have, a tendency to find myself in situations such as these.)

So I wouldn't take her clean clothes out of the closet.

I had standards.  I had a personal code.

. . . I had a dirty clothes hamper that was filled with her "gently used" clothing that would work PERFECTLY for my particular problem.

(Besides, she always folded her clothes before putting them in the hamper and, as a result, her "dirty" clothing often looked much nicer than the clean, wrinkled clothes that I had shoved in my side of the dresser in the slapdash manner that was my personal calling card at the time.)

. . . What I am trying to convey here, is that I have NEVER been a neat-freak.

I would really like to cite several more examples with which to back up this statement, but then I fear I run the risk of painting myself as a creature something like the Junk Lady in Labyrinth.

(And I was REALLY not that bad.  . . . not quite.  I mean, I always washed my hair, at the very least.)

So you're just going to have to take my word for it:  I've never been a neat-freak.  And, if I'm being honest, I was probably always a lot closer to the "slob" end of the spectrum.

I was scattered, I was carefree, and I really just didn't care if my things were neat or not.  I had more important things to worry about.

. . . like what happened to that tie-dyed hoodie??

Seriously.  I LOVED that hoodie.  And it just disappeared one day.  . . . it is POSSIBLE that I might've misplaced it. . .

But I find that HIGHLY unlikely.

I suspect that my mom threw it out.  

Oh and don't act all surprised, mom.  We both know you did this.  Like that ADORABLE little two-piece, ruffled bathing suit I used to have. . . that WAS rather skimpy. . . that mysteriously disappeared right after that youth trip to the beach.  ???

I'm not judging you.

(But neither am I a complete fool.)



I've lost my train of thought.

Oh yeah.  Not a neat-freak.

So anyway, I think by now that I have firmly established my earlier tendencies when it came to cleaning.

. . . and they would positively AMAZE my husband today, if he could've seen me THEN.

I guess I should back up and say that the reason I've been thinking about all this is because of an encounter between me and Mister a couple nights ago. . .

The baby was asleep in his room, and we were getting ready for bed.

And Mister watched me, in silence, as I made my rounds around our home.

. . . fold and put away the afghans, straighten the cushions on the couch, make sure there aren't any dirty dishes in the sink, make sure all toys are put away, tidy up the bathroom, make sure all the bottles and knick-knacks on the counter are facing the right direction, and. . .

Why are you staring at me??

He looked at me, smiling with a smile that clearly said:  You are insane.  You should be medicated.  . . .and possibly hosed down.

"Have you ALWAYS been like this?" my husband asked.

And I thought about it for about half a second, before responding with a strong, loud, "NO!!"

My husband looked at me.

"Soooo. . . what happened?!?"

And, though none of it is pleasant, or anything I feel any sense of pride about, I am going to be honest, own up to my flaws and my faults, and tell you exactly what happened.

There was a time in my life, mostly during the college years, but extending after that as well, when I was completely out of control.

I was essentially living the stereotypical rock star lifestyle, minus the aid of groupies, fame, rock star-sized paychecks, or any discernible or impressive musical talent.  

(. . . I COULD play the flute fairly decently. . . THANK YOU OAK GROVE HIGH SCHOOL MARCHING BAND!! . . . but I never received a call-back from Jethro Tull, and so my flautist skills never really took me anywhere, and CERTAINLY never materialized into any sort of monetary compensation.)

What I'm saying is:  I was a wreck.

I . . . I lost myself somewhere along the way.  And, due to my self-imposed flaming wreck of a life, I lacked the self esteem to think that I deserved any better.  Or that I could, in fact, BE any better.

To put it simply, they were dark times.

Dark in my home, dark in my heart, darkest still inside my own head.

And I wallowed in that darkness, lost, unsure about where to go or what to do or even HOW to find the nearest exit, for far too long.

And, to give credit where MOUNTAINS of credit is due, it is entirely possible that I would still be wandering there today, vacant and lost, had I not had a wonderful group of family and loved ones that helped bring me back to myself.  (With, it bears mentioning, me kicking and screaming at least half the way.)

But I DID have these loved ones, that loved me DESPITE myself, and I will never be able to repay them for hunkering down, settling in for the long haul, and (to steal a quote from Supernatural) gripping me tight and raising me from perdition.

But it was DURING this time, when my life, my head, my heart, was in such a swirling tide of chaos. . . that the world around me was, too.  (And by "world around me", I mean my home.)

I'm not holding any punches when I say that it was filthy.

After all, I had so much going on in my head, felt like such a complete-shit-of-a-person, and spent most of my days wallowing in a thick, sludge-mixture of guilt and shame. . . how could I REALLY be expected to do something as mundane as. . . mop?

And I don't really write poetry any more, but one that I wrote from that period in my life was:
Whisk me off to nowhere

I don't wanna see the sun.
Break my skin
I'll let you in
If you let me
come undone.

. . . . . 

So ANYway. . . like I said:  a wreck.

"As above, so below.  As within, so without." and all that jazz.

And the MORE out of control *I* became, the more messy and towering and awful my home became.  (And my car.  My car was always a wreck, too.)  And it eventually just all became. . . OVER-FREAKING-WHELMING.

Needless to say, it was not a sustainable way to go about forging a life, and I was pretty freaking miserable.

And the road from There to Here has not been an easy one.

It has been full of pitfalls, steps forward and steps back, and still a smattering of a few dark days here and there.

But I made it.

I survived, and the experience helped shape me into who I am today.  . . .and THAT person, unlike the one I used to be. . . is someone that I'm actually pretty damn proud of.


I've seen the edge of the abyss, and I've made it safely back.  And yes, it is terrifying to know that this same abyss is still out there. . .

But it is infinitely comforting to know that *I* did it.  I MADE IT back.  And, though it has been hard, and dirty, and exhausting, I've now fashioned for myself a life that I finally feel like I can call MY OWN.  One I feel that I BELONG in.

And it is a life that I am unbelievably proud of.

Sooooo. . . all that being said. . . the question still hangs:

What happened?

And what happened is this:

I got my shit together.

I got my life together.

And once I DID, once the mental clutter in my head had been cleaned out, it was time to clean out the physical clutter in my life, as well.

And so I did just that.

And, though it came as QUITE a surprise to me, as I'm sure you might imagine. . . I looked into the mirror one day, and staring back at me was one of the tidiest little persons on the planet.  =)

Now. . . I'm STILL not what I would consider a "neat-freak."

But I AM, now, a "tidy" freak.  =)

I refuse to go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink.

My floors might not be spotless, but I think you'll find that all the toys are put away.

My cabinets are not without Kool-Aid stains, but the bed is always made.

It's actually almost a phobia now. . . but in a good way.

If I'm feeling down, or out-of-sorts, I just look around me.

Things are in their place.

Everything is (relatively) clean.

There is a small modicum of order.

And then I calm down a little.

Because if the house is clean, if everything is more or less "tidy", then that means that nothing is spinning out of control at the moment.

And that is comforting.



So why did I just share all this crap??

It was all true, yes, but not at ALL complimentary. . . so why am I telling this painful, oh-so-very personal story??

Because I believe it's important.

. . . There was a woman I knew once, who, RIGHT after meeting each other, asked me "what kind of work" I'd had done.

. . . she was referring to cosmetic surgery, lip-plumping injections, things like that.

And my response to her was, and to this day would remain:

"I don't think you understand the kind of life I'm living."

I have NO desire in me to try and portray myself in anything but an honest, sincere, and genuine way.

Anything else is a waste of time in a life that is far too fleeting to begin with.

And what if my son reads this one day?

Then I hope it would come as no surprise to him.  Because I intend to be honest with him, too, about the mistakes I've made in my life.

They were all lessons, and I really DO believe that learning from these mistakes is the primary way that we grow our souls.

And I hope I never stop trying to find the lesson in the heartbreak, or the opportunity for growth in the disaster.

Because it is ALWAYS there.

. . .

AND I'm writing and sharing this for one more reason, and that is to illustrate a point:

People change.

It is not easy, and it is not fun.  But it IS possible.

Like everyone, I have been wronged in my life.  Some of those wrongs keep me up at night. . . but not nearly so often as the wrongs that *I* have perpetrated keep me up.

But I don't hold hard feelings against those that wronged me. 

That was then.

Maybe they're a different person now.

Maybe the way they treated me keeps THEM up at night.

Who knows?

All I know is that people CAN change.

I did.

And that means that anyone can.

. . . and, to me, that's a pretty freaking positive thought.


So BE KIND, people.


Everyone out there really IS fighting their own battle, waging their own wars, and advancing and retreating as the days go by.

Be kind.

It's not just good for them.

It's good for you, too.




No comments:

Post a Comment