Before I had Alice, I had a housekeeping routine. I ran a tight ship. It was my Jillian Michaels phase -if ever I felt like shirking, I could hear her voice pushing me toward my goals.
You can DO this.
But that’s probably because I was doing her 30-day shred every other day.
I thought I was doing pretty good -my house was clean, my freezer was full of food, you could see the floor in my laundry room…
But after I had Alice and went through some excruciating life experiences, it seemed like keeping my house clean was IMPOSSIBLE. Not only that, but every time I tried cleaning, I was flooded with all kinds of self-hate.
My old cleaning routine started in the kitchen. I’d clear the sinks, dump baking soda down the drains, heat up a bowl of vinegar in the microwave, clean off the top of the fridge while the vinegar was steaming my microwave, and then I’d dump the hot vinegar down the drains with the baking soda and wipe the microwave clean. From there, I’d clean the dish drainer, the counters…
It worked out well.
As I tried to employ my old cleaning habits, it wouldn’t take long for the shame to creep in.
Look at that microwave, you slob.
You’re not even fit to mother with a counter like that.
I would have to STOP cleaning. The Jillian Michaels-ish voice that had pushed me years before was now sinister and judgemental -critical and pushy.
For two years, this was my life. My husband picked up slack, but I knew by then that I couldn’t go on living my life from that awful place.
It seemed like most everything I did was motivated by fear.
Fear of others seeing a mess, fear of not being enough, fear fear fear.
With my cleaning shoulder to the wheel, my shoulders were constantly tense. This way of living bled out into EVERYTHING. The way I ate, the way I dressed, the movies I watched, the trips I took.
A few weeks ago, I faced a hard truth in the mirror. I was trying to have a better relationship with God, but I kept running face-first into some figurative crystal-clear glass sliding door. I couldn’t figure out exactly WHAT was keeping me from standing before God and walking daily with Him, giving my WHOLE self to Him.
Was I just too busy?
Was I “capable” enough to handle it myself?
Did I just not want to bother such a busy God?
Was it pride?
The answer is yes, to all of the above. But it was MORE than those. Those have been my excuses for YEARS, and I can see now that they were simply my “padding” excuses. They’re cushy and comfy and common.
But as I pushed past the padding, I found a REAL reason.
And it was painful and ugly and very sad.
The reason I hold back from God is that I’m positive that if I stood in front of Him completely vulnerable and naked that He would be disappointed. Do you know what that means? It means that I have basically no self-respect.
It means that my room has been dirty since, well, I can’t remember… a very long time. I’ve never bothered to decorate my bedroom fully.
It means that I don’t buy new things for myself. It means that I’m sure that my family will never own a house because I’m undeserving and will not take care of a house.
It means I don’t get my hair cut.
Realizing this was really painful, but it was also REALLY GOOD. Because as soon as it hit me, something wild bucked inside of me and I fought back. That something is my innate, my gut, the little girl inside of me who inherently understands that she is good enough and cool enough and comfortable in her own skin.
So I cleaned my room.
And then I decorated my room! I spent absolutely NO money and just filled my room with things that I loved and that bring me joy because I wanted to.
It was my way of sending a gigantic message to myself -a very important message I haven’t been sending for far too long.
Alicia, you are enough. What you have is enough. What you have to offer is enough. You are deserving of a space in which to breathe, connect, rejuvenate, sleep, and feel safe.
(thrifted throw, Ross special king-size throw bought at Christmastime that I finally assigned to my bedspreadless bed, gifted and homemade throw pillows, homemade banner made with fabric given to me by my neighbor -she gleaned the fabric from her mother’s stash, her mother was a nurse who helped my mom during her accident when I was a baby. I also got that cool wicker basket from the same stash. The blue vase was once filled with flowers a family friend had delivered when my son was born. The sticks came from my ball willow. Need sticks? I have SO MANY STICKS. The candlestick used to be my grandmother’s. The “Be Still” is written on contact paper “chalkboard” that is imperfect and I love it. The headboard was made by my Dad when he was high school, my parents used it for years -it’s my favorite. I traded a few sock monkeys for the old window -best trade ever. The books are in a basket my sister gave to me.)
It isn’t the fanciest, but I’m not worried about being the fanciest. In fact, the more I’ve worked on healing the LESS time I’ve spent TRYING to be the -est anything -the funniest, the wittiest, the cleanest, the craftiest, the chef-iest.
This means I spend less time blogging and more time in the sun, with my kids…
And I feel peace walking into a space that wasn’t inspired by anything except the voice inside of me that grows stronger every time I give it an inch.
I think I’ve mentioned before how I’ve come to embrace the Japanese tradition, “wabi sabi” which states, “Nothing is perfect, nothing is finished, and nothing lasts forever.” It helps remind me that I’ll never be fully at home on earth, which is exactly how I want to be. My bedroom has been missing siding and floorboards since we moved it, and that’s okay. Nothing is finished. Someday I might pay to fix that, but for now…
(floral wire, nails, and tons of clothespins left over from my sister’s reception)
The empty wall was filled with things that make me happy. In no particular order and in no particular order:
(piano pedals, empty frames -one from a wedding gift, one from my grandmother. Knobs from World Market, an embroidered bird popped out of a thrifted frame marked “Holland” on the back, an embroidery hoop missing it’s middle (it needs me, right?), and a wood slice from sister’s reception.)
(a white doily from my wedding, lotion from my kids -Mother’s Day gift, a glass bowl filled with papers I’ve jotted down the things I can’t control -usual topics are myself, the past and others, a framed doily made by my great-grandmother.)
(My shoe collection! It makes me so happy! The Christmas one was my great-grandma’s, the rest have been picked up along the way. The crystal clear shoe was a gift from my husband on our 10 year anniversary at Disneyland)
There’s more to the room, but I have a personal rule about not cleaning up Danny’s stuff. It’s a figurative thing that I take literally. Buh dun dun. *cymbal crash*
Last Monday, I decided to try my routine again. After getting my room in working order, I decided I would try to move the clean chi to the rest of the house. I was wary, afraid The Jillianish Voice would come out and start chasing me around the house with big girl panties and boot straps. But I had new microfiber cloths, and I REALLY wanted to try them out. So I put one foot in the front of the other and picked up my cleaning routine…
I was thirty minutes into it before I realized I wasn’t cleaning the kitchen.
I wasn’t cleaning the kitchen like I ALWAYS cleaned the kitchen first when I started my cleaning routine.
I was cleaning my room! I was cleaning my room first naturally!
DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS?! The message I sent to myself the weeks before -the I mattered enough to have my own clean haven and retreat in my room -was SENT BACK! The body and brain got the message, and they reciprocated! Even though no one sees it but me and my family, it was given attention first.
I started feeling a little slow, but I pushed through -mostly because I wanted to use my new microfiber cloths. It’s like when you don’t want to workout but you have new yoga pants, so you do it.
I made it through the entire house, minus the floors. Also: my house is tiny, so making it through “the whole house” isn’t too crazy. It helped that Danny was gone for training.
The shame voice crept in here and there, and I got upset with the kids at the end of the day… but inasmuch as we are striving for PROGRESS not PERFECTION, I’d say it was a triumph, Mrs. Pierce, a total triumph. Minus the part where I washed a red pen with my white king-sized throw… and the part where laundry was left in the washer the night before -MILDEW… and the part where the toddler pooped so much even SHE said, “HOLY COW!” when I changed her.
And thus we see that the road to good intentions is, indeed, paved with hell.
And at 5:30 pm when Danny texted me, “What are you up to?” I texted him back THIS PICTURE from the flat of my back on my bed.
I think there’s a reason I chose “Be Still” as my Chalky Contact Paper Mantra.
Actually, there’s THREE reasons. Two of them are here -the way they gravitate toward my bed now is 85% endearing and 15% grating.
At the end of the day, I got the kids in bed and I took time to bathe by lamp light. Then I watched “Austenland” one more time before it expired (Danny rented it for me on the Playstation before he left), and paint my nails. I used my lotion from the kids to lotion the legs I’d shaved just for me, and wrapped myself in a soft nightgown my friend gave me.
My bath was just another little message sent to myself… self-care is my life line.
With my 30th birthday approaching, I decided to take it and make it the birthday where I send a grand message to myself that the next 30 years will be spent making sure I send the RIGHT messages to myself. I’m making a pile of things to burn (old clothes, make-up, self-help books that ONLY MADE ME WORSE) and a list of things I’m buying for myself (like books that actually help and my first new pair of tennis shoes in 7 years). My 30-day shred DVD has already met her demise. I burned her last year, and it was glorious. #lighterfluid
It’s going to be a landmark birthday!