Sweeping motions

I protect my desire for organization. I never want to get too honest about it. But, life has a way. A couple of years ago, I saw something on Facebook to the effect of “a clean house is a sign of a wasted life.” “It just couldn’t be,” I thought. And, at the same time, I thought, “Yes, that’s exactly right.”

I love when that happens.

Even in the face of that, all I want to do is tell you why I can’t ascribe to such a lovely belief. It is a lovely belief. When I try it on for size, my brow unwrinkles, I sit up a little straighter, and I . . . smile. Then, I put it back down and I think, “Yes, it’s lovely. I love the color, the material, the cut, the design, but I just can’t afford it. It’s too nice. It’s just not for me.”

My son is in his second year of Montessori school. The Montessorians are big on practical life lessons, like sweeping, window cleaning and washing table tops. My son loves it. He’s been having a hard time since his baby sister was born and when he’s throwing a tantrum we invite him to go out on the deck. He knocks all the furniture down, at first. Within a short period of time, though, he’s focused on “working” out there, another Montessori term. He wipes down the table, he uses the hose to wash off leaves and his outdoor toys. At first, he would ask us for paper towels to dry off the deck!

He becomes absorbed and forgets his tantrum and soon he is scurrying in and out of the house with his little projects. Like filling up a watering can at the sink and taking it outside to fill up his pirate boat. It takes so many trips.

Someone who knows me well, suggested that I terrorize my family with my desire for organization. That seemed a bit harsh! But, as I think back over my whole life and weigh this proposition, I believe it is true. And, I’m very grateful that someone is willing to be that honest with me and that I’m willing, today, to consider it.

A while ago, I was at a playground with my son. There was a dad sitting on a bench at the periphery of the playground, giving minute directions to his son and his wife, who were on the playground, about what they should be doing. I thought it was bizarre. Then, I felt angry about it. I could also tell that he just couldn’t stop. His wife looked frazzled. But, there was still love between them all. They were all trying hard to be together even though it was hard to be together.

I can be that dad. And, when I’m in it, it is so uncomfortable.

I remember being in my early 20’s, living on Mass. Ave. in D.C., in a beautiful apartment with a great view of the city. After a night of partying, I would wake up and scrub that apartment like it was a Haz Mat scene; wine spills, ash trays, bottles everywhere. I would sit in the sparkling apartment afterwards, my eyes drinking in the perfection; everything was exactly as I wanted it. But, I was alone and my life was a mess.

It’s like a trick, making me think I’m taking care of business while the important things are swept under the rug.

I think about my son, as he grows, as he finds ways to navigate the world and his emotions. His sweeping motions, cleaning on the deck, center him. He doesn’t think he’s cleaning, he’s focused on a repetitive activity, that ends up bringing him calm and can open him back up again to joy and play.

Writing is my sweeping motion. It cleans my thoughts, and opens up the possibility that maybe I don’t have to sweep anything under the rug today. Maybe, I can afford the luxury of having a disorganized, messy, full, beautiful life, after all.


Inspired by the WordPress Daily Post for October 14 entitled “Sweeping Motions.” The featured image is “The Red Dragon and Woman Clothed with the Sun” by William Blake (1803-1805). All works by William Blake (1757-1827) are in the public domain.

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