Yesterday was a Seattle Day in Northern Arizona -a steady drizzle that confused us all. In Northern Arizona, we are used to cracked, dry hands and lips and hair. We’re used to crashing, flashing monsoons that sweep in as fast as they sweep out.
Calm, steady rain isn’t something the desert is used to.
I fell asleep Thursday night to the sound of softly falling rain -it was right out of the pages of a novel. Providing, of course, that the heroine of said novel was in the habit of falling asleep the lying LONG WISE across the short side of the bed because there were boxes on the long end of the bed that she’s always too tired to move… I curled up in a endless nest of pillows and blankets and listened to the rain in peace for 3 whole minutes before having to get up and go to the bathroom. So maybe my life isn’t as novel outright as it is in my own head?
I woke up to rain falling, and tracked my package on Amazon, just as I’d done every 30 minutes the day before.
Friday morning finally delivered the good news: my package was in town.
I’m mildly suspicious that I buy stuff from Amazon solely because I want presents in the mail. And now Amazon has those precious “add-on” items that mimic the treasures in actual check-out lines.
OF COURSE I need chapstick and a lint roller and batteries and a package of 4″ plush monsters! Thank goodness I saw these or I would have forgotten!
But this package was different. It wasn’t full of anything I thought I needed in order to live. Instead, it was full of things I simply WANTED.
For the first half of my marriage, I could feel this brilliant sort of… I don’t know, potential. I could FEEL it. I couldn’t put my finger quite on what it was, and the most maddening thing about it was that I couldn’t GET TO IT. There was some kind of invisible, impenetrable barrier keeping me from accessing something I KNEW was there.
I could feel it was a good thing.
I could feel that I wanted it.
But for the life of me, I could not have it.
My husband and I complement each other really well. He adds numbers and I write words. He organizes my drawers and I make him laugh. If I were to commission a painting of us, it would depict us holding hands… him sunk just a few inches into the solid ground with his brow furrowed very Dannyishly and me floating a few feet into the hair, a helium balloon pulling me up up and away.
I keep him from dying of Serious Stress, and he keeps me from dying of recklessness.
The combination of our personalities, weaknesses and strengths is the stuff that makes Really Great Homes, and I could FEEL that, but getting my hands on it felt *just* out of my reach.
I am impatient, and I am a hard worker, so I decided to EARN my way through the invisible barrier. I decided to kick it down, scratch it down, beat it, break it and GET MY HANDS ON THE PRIZE. My Dad raised me with work, and I’m a capable gal. I read so many books about relationships. I read so many theories -each theory a thick weapon used to knock at the barrier, each weapon failing.
So many failures. I finally gave up and sat down beaten and sweaty next to the stubborn barrier and felt no amount of satisfaction that usually comes after years of honing my focus in on one project. Because I’m so impatient, spending YEARS on one thing is significant. Having my efforts fail? My devastation ran deep.
In third grade, I read Roald Dahl’s “Matilda” in one day. One SCHOOL day. I hid it under my desk during class and read. I sat on the ground during recess and read. I hid under my blanket with a flashlight and read. Once I begin a project, I HAVE TO FINISH IT. I’ve often felt this same drive when opening a bag of Swedish Fish.
But this project? This barrier project? This reading project? It was the most futile thing I’d ever done, and when I realized it, I felt very stupid. I put away all of my relationship books and turned away from my relationship to spend time focusing on WHY I’d spend so much time foolishly.
I took myself for a figurative walk -figurative because I wasn’t actually PHYSICALLY capable of walking around much when I realized the barrier was the boss of me -and I ended up finding MY SIDE OF THE STREET. I stood and admired it from the road, and I have to say: I was pretty impressed over all. There were colorful plants, cement stairs leading up to a beautiful little shop where I sold pieces of myself for much less than they were worth.
I took a few steps closer to soak in my awesomeness and that’s when I noticed that the plants were fake.
Of course they’re fake.
I can’t grow stuff! I knew that! I kill all plants! My thumb is black with garden shame.
It didn’t long to see that the plants weren’t the only fake thing on the block… my entire store front was a prettily plastered FAKE FAKERSON. The store front was beautifully masking an old brick building that had fallen into disrepair from neglect. The store front suddenly looked like a gigantic band-aid -it’s beauty lost on me. The side of my store was cracked -deep cracks ran along the sides and bled into the ground.
I peered through the windows and found -instead of the insides of my shop -my own reflection. Each window was, in fact, a mirror. The mirrors were cloudy and dusty, so I huffed and puffed and blew my breath onto them and polished them with my sleeve.
My reflection became clearer and clearer, and I began to see that I was impatient. I was controlling. I was more powerful than I imagined -more opinionated than I thought.
I was sensitive and I felt everything that came my way. My life was an endless succession of absorption -I heard everything, felt everything, smelled everything, remembered everything… and I was tired from the rapid stream of stimuli. Did everyone feel like I did?
Did everyone have fake store fronts and fake plants and cracked walls?
I thought about looking around, but again: my Dad raised me to know about work and what work does. I didn’t have time to be wondering about other streets… my street needed some serious help.
As I opened the door to my shop, I found so. much. garbage. on top of a lot of greatness. It was dusty and dark, so much neglect!
Had I really spent so much time perfecting the appearance of the outside of my shop that the inside got THIS BAD?
I rolled up my sleeves and began the hard work of GUTTING OUT MY OWN STUFF. I threw away the fake plants and opted for more authenticity -big, stone lions that don’t bite or need any nourishing but still invite folks to stop on by for cookies.
I hacked down my fake store front and found that the original store front was REALLY WORTHWHILE though utterly lacking in trendiness… the longer I looked at it and the more time I spent with it, the more I came to LOVE THAT FACT. The lack of trendiness became it’s warmest feature.
The more I cleaned and swept my own shop, the wider my door swung open, the more visitors I had. More sunshine spilled into my once-darkened store.
I began raising my prices on my more worthy wares, realizing what I had to offer was seriously worth extra effort. At the same time, I began giving what I had to offer freely. It didn’t make any sense as far as appearances went, but my gut was so happy with the situation that I let my worries about appearances fall into the dump with my store front.
One thing hasn’t changed about my side of the street -the windows are still mirrors. I do my best to keep them clean so I will always have a clear view of what’s really going on with me. It seems the more I sweep my own street, the clearer and cleaner my mirrors become.
That’s what I like to call efficient housekeeping.
In my GUSTO of GUTTING, I threw out ALL of my relationship help books. I evicted Dr. Laura. I found that the barrier I’d been sacrificing myself to tear down wasn’t mine to tear at, so I could LET IT GO and let God deal with it all. It was time for me to turn away from the tension of tearing and controlling and face the beautiful music of acceptance.
And for a few years, I enjoyed the sunshine. I enjoyed the rain. My side of the street went from being false and unsafe to AUTHENTIC, STURDY… I worked hard to make it a safe place for my soul to stay. After all, I’m going to be here for the rest of my life. I stayed far away from self-help books and was very wary of any Internet advice… except when wax was spilled on carpet or red hots were stuck in nostrils -those were the days where tension and acceptance diverged in the woods and I took the lower road most traveled by.
I’m here to tell you that THIS FRIDAY, I barely made it through work. I couldn’t stand that it was SEATTLE RAINING and I wasn’t at home with a book, especially because I knew there were NEW BOOKS in my mailbox.
They weren’t digital books! Because I’m impatient, I love digital books. But I also love BOOK BOOKS, and I ORDERED SOME SELF-HELP BOOK BOOKS with crisp new pages and real covers and everything!
I looked in my mirror the other day and felt like I was ready. I’ve stripped my soul and polished my mirror enough to see that my biggest issues are
and I knew there were some great books that might help me NOT LIVE MY LIFE from a scared and shameful place, even though shame and fear lurk EVERY STREET IN THE WORLD, no matter how clean the owners’ keep them.
And so I go in search of the proverbial lamb’s blood to keep the misty fog and shame and fear BACK AWAY FROM MY SIDE OF THE STREET. They may pass by, but they may not stay.
THIS FRIDAY, I raced home from work, to the Post Office, picked up the baby from the sitter and then DID NOT MOVE FROM MY RECLINER FOR HOURS.
I spent a rainy afternoon reading a book under a throw blanket. It’s the stuff dreams and true living are made up -the place where they meet.
When rain falls from heaven, it brings a bit of heaven to earth… and I ransacked it like a pig in mud.
Opening my package, I realized I’d accidentally marked my books as gifts. I laughed as my gift receipt fell into my lap. I think I’ll accidentally mark ALL of my Amazon orders as gifts from now on because what are goods and wares if not gifts? And really -these books are my gifts to myself.
I’m finally ready for another layer of Gutting with Gusto.
It’s Good Friday on My Side of the Street.
And if you want a visual of my street cleaning, listen to this… my street cleaning sounds like this song. This song is me. This song is me gutting. Sometimes peppy, sometimes dramatically, sometimes sweetly, sometimes profound: