If you know me, you know I like a clean house. If you are a friend of mine, I have probably cleaned your house. Maybe you were pregnant, tired, taking care of a sick child, or just sitting at your kitchen table while my restless hands loaded your dishwasher. I am not writing about just that kind of cleaning. I am writing about cleaning up the things that get in the way of joy – I am talking about making space in my heart and my mind.
If you have followed my blog you can see the progression…. A year ago I returned from a trip to Montana and was finally ready to make some changes to my bedroom. I have written about sorting through closets and trying to decide what to keep and what to let go of. This past April I finally went through all my husband’s clothes and stored what the kids might want. I made space in the closet for my things. Instead of tripping over his clothes as I reached for a work outfit, I now can move with ease. What was comforting at first – seeing his clothes – had started to weigh me down and slow me down. I needed to make space in my closet and in my heart and mind when I opened that closet.
So many of us have too much stuff. Sometimes its a buffer against sadness. Sometimes its a part of a fantasy of what could be. I am finding that when you clear away what you don’t need, when you look at the sadness straight on or let go of the fantasy of what could be – what was – you make room for hope. You make room for something new.
But I am not stopping with just the tangible stuff. I am cleaning house in other ways too. Ideas I had that don’t serve me well need to be swept out (like those rules I am breaking!) People’s comments or judgments that don’t lift me or my loved ones up need to be tossed out. Behaviors that keep me and my kids stuck in old patterns need to be scrubbed clean. We all need a fresh start, a clean slate, a chance to be shiny and brand new.
And my fears and worries…the constant voice in my head that tells me to be vigilant or something bad will happen – I am slowly chipping away at that too. I need more clearance for happiness. In January I wrote that comfort and joy were hard to find. My heart and mind were cluttered with the story I told myself that things would always be hard because of what happened. I have recycled that idea into this – because of what happened things need to be easier. I have bagged up and dragged to the curb the belief that I can’t be truly happy ever again.
I will always have the sorrow. But I don’t need to keep the fear. By sifting through and pushing out what was pressing me down – I feel more ready to fly. And that’s what I want. That is what he would want for me, for us. My biggest goal has been to launch our kids. I am launching myself too by cleaning house.
This summer, one son drove his dad’s car across the country, one son hiked the glaciers of Patagonia, and our daughter sets off to start her career as a nurse. In the past when I would curse the legos under my feet or the endless stuffed animals tumbling off of the beds, I would remind myself that someday I will walk by clean rooms and know that the kids have gone. I would tell myself to be careful of what I wished for. But now this is what I wish for. The house will stay cleaner as they move out into the world and no doubt I will both enjoy that and miss the clutter of a busy family. But the best kind of cleaning house is watching your kids roll out into the world.
It’s late and that’s making me feel brave enough to share a poem…
She stands in the closet,
one hand on the rack of clothes,
the other hand taps the side of her leg.
She tries to decide what to wear to work.
At her feet a rack of tumbled shoes and pair of boots,
one flops over from wear and points to the door.
A black dress hangs in a wrapper,
a wedding dress is sealed in a box in the corner –
but it’s the work clothes that need a decision today.
So many choices are made and forgotten like yesterday’s sweater,
others linger forever like a tattoo.
Her hand flips through the hangers and freezes –
sometimes you just have to call it.
She pulls out the pink cashmere top from a yard sale,
(it was time to go the hospice),
selects a pair of forgiving black pants,
(we agreed to turn off the feeding tube),
and a pair of supportive shoes,
(when you could no longer push the morphine button – I did it for you),
steps out of the closet and on with her day.