The Importance of Cleaning


This morning I got up out of bed with the firm intention of putting something in my stomach and going to the lake for a walk. This is a strategy for helping myself to feel like a human being before I throw myself into writing…Allowing myself to get in touch with my self, my connection with the power that I feel is my higher power, allowing parts of my self thrive so that I do not plunge myself into a black hole of feeling like a slow, unproductive failure as I struggle to finish my dissertation… And to ‘allow’ myself things. To ‘allow’ myself to live, to enjoy, to experience the things I like to experience… Which, even when I am not feeling fully obligated to do nothing but write, I am still feeling… The feeling of “not being allowed”. The voice that tells me what i am “allowed” to do, what I am “allowed” to feel, what I deserve… and most loudly the opposites of all of those things…in the deepest more basic sense — so deep that I can not even put it in to words most times.

So, the thing is, I got out of bed at about 9:15, and it is now 12:30. I have not yet gone for the walk by the lake (although I have envisioned getting down there a whole bunch)…and I have not worked on my chapter 6… But I have cleaned up the kitchen, and then made myself a juice, and then sorted some laundry, and then cleaned up the kitchen some more… Swept and wiped the floor, taken some old things out of the fridge and thrown them out and washed the containers, and put away clean dishes from the rack, and washed another sink of dishes…

As I stood at the sink a few minutes ago, scouring it with vim…I realized, I am standing there, in the same place I was when I was 9 years old, 11 years old, 13 years old, 15 years old… At the sink. Not allowed to leave the sink until things are cleaned up. Looking like I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. Escaping critical examination as long as I am busy, at the sink, with my head down.

My mother made my cleaning chores…to a degree that I am only coming to really understand…the way for me to get praise, to be worthy, to be successful… The end result was the strongest evidence that I was capable. Clean dishes, a clean sink, dinner made and in the oven, all evidence of activity cleaned up and erased. I even have this image in my mind of what the end result is supposed to look like. And if I don’t reach that… God help me. I am only a half-assed person. If I have not done the dishes and made everything look wonderful then there is still more to come. I am yet incomplete. I am yet undeserving of FULL praise and value. I am undeserving of full value. I may only be at 50% of full value. The more I preoccupy myself with what has to be cleaned up, put away, wiped…especially if I have not yet done it all, at least I can see my potential. If I know what I have to do, then I know what I CAN be.

But I never get there. Knowing what I CAN be, knowing what I CAN do does not a graduate make. Does not a loved daughter make.

Even if the dishes are done and the sink sparkling this time…well, we have tonight to look forward to…after dinner, when there is whole new mess/dish mountain to tackle.

I stood here today, doing the dishes, with that emotional muscle memory keeping me there… How much more quickly, I think, I will get personal fulfillment if I just clean up the kitchen. If the counter is clean, if the dish rack is empty, if the sink is gleaming… Going for a walk – that enjoyment is hogwash… scared Shantelle thinks. That is a drop in the bucket of happiness, because, my mother would think, MY walk does not make HER happy. That happiness is out of reach for her, if it is mine. But Mom tells me, doing the dishes will take SOOO much off of her plate. I will save her. She will not feel alone… She will know that I love her. Going for a walk will betray her, will humiliate her efforts to ‘survive’… Happiness is not that easy, Mom thinks. Happiness is about ‘surviving’…Not about indulging in basic personal fulfillment.

The cleaning… The dishes have me by the throat. Until I know that I am loved anyway. Until I know that I love my mother even if I do not do the dishes. Even if the place is a mess, I still love my mother. Until I know that I am a loving person even when I don’t do the dishes.

Until I decide to love myself anyway.

Until I see MY life as mine.

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About wonderfulshantelle

Journey To My Wonderful Self

Posted on May 2, 2014, in 12-step, AA, Addiction, Adult Children, Alanon, codependence, Domestic Violence, emotional abuse, emotional sobriety, Inner child, recovery, Uncategorized, withdrawal. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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