Thursday, March 24, 2011

Stuff...Both Literal and Figurative

When last I wrote I was in the middle of Fall Housecleaning/rearranging, and now it's Spring Housecleaning/rearranging. I have always been someone who loved to move furniture around because I craved the fresh perspective, but now it is just exhausting. Of course, I was 5 weeks pregnant last time and am 28 weeks pregnant now - so maybe that has something to do with the exhaustion factor, but I'm not sure. Now I just want the peace to actually use the stuff I am moving around...the art supplies and books especially. I know that in this world everything tends towards disorder, but I am starting to feel beaten down by it all.

One bright spot is that I am planning on actually hiring someone to come clean my house from top to bottom when I am done with all the sorting and moving of stuff. And this place is dirty from top to bottom. I am not the best housekeeper and cleaner at the best of times, but I have sunk to an all-time low (or the dirt has risen to an all-time high, depending on your perspective). All the floors, sinks, cabinets, appliances, doors, ceiling fans, name it, they are filthy. I will also bring someone in to clean the windows, which is something we have NEVER had done in any of our houses. I have always felt too guilty to have someone come in to clean for me, even once, because I know I "should" be able to take care of it all; if not alone, then with the help of my children. But even when I have been energetic, happy and productive I have never had a really clean house, and I am to the point where I don't care anymore if I ever become good at it.

I have spent years trying to make it to the proverbial Proverbs 31 Level of homemaker-ness, but when you read that text you see that she had servants. I don't want and can't afford to have someone come in very often, but I definitely need someone to do it when it gets to this point - I don't have the strength or sanity to even pretend anymore that I can keep up with every housekeeping, homeschooling and relational duty I have as a wife and mother. And you know what? I don't think that when I stand before God, He is going to sternly ask me why my kitchen cupboards had coffee splatters on them. I get so worn out, spending so much time trying to keep up with all the Womanly Tasks (or else feeling guilty that I'm NOT keeping up) that I am neglecting things I truly feel would be more of a blessing to the people in my life.

I have friends who are recovering from illnesses and surgeries, and I have not sent them any kind of handmade card or book like I normally do at such times, because I am so behind on household maintenance. There are letters I haven't written, reading practice I have not done with my beginning reader, people I haven't had over for coffee. I have not written in my journal, have exercised less than I like to, and my spiritual life is in the toilet. Something has to give, and sadly, it has been things like that. I would rather hire someone to clean for me every three months than continue to run on a neverending housekeeping treadmill.

I remember reading the Mitford series of books, which are pretty annoying for lots of reasons - but I was particularly annoyed when I realized that the only reason the main female character was able to prolifically write and illustrate children's books was because she didn't cook, clean, do laundry or any of that. This is not to say that any of that work is demeaning at all, and it is totally necessary, and I can do it at a basic level, but not more perfectly than that - or everything else suffers, and that is what is happening now. I don't know whether it is my growing family, my aging self or my midlife hormones that have brought me to this point when I see that I will never receive the Susie Homemaker award, and that's okay. Why spend so much time inefficiently struggling to do something that needs more efficiency than I can bring to it?

I thought my 40s would naturally be this wonderful time of discovery, prolific creativity and insight. Of course, I am only two years in, but so far those two years have been more discouraging than the last 5 years of my thirties put together. I think it's because I am learning what my limits are and am struggling to accept them. That's humbling. I have always been someone who doesn't want to ask for help. For a long time I thought I didn't need any, and I didn't understand that the resentment and anger I sometimes struggle with is a symptom of the Trying-To-Be-All-Things-To-All-People disease. I don't know if I will ever be totally cured of that, but I am learning to admit that I need help, that I need rest, that I am not very strong at all.

A theme I see when I look at the very few posts I have made on this blog is the desire to feel comfortable and accepted when I am Not Doing Anything For Anyone Or Being So Impressive In Some Other Way. My whole life I have felt that I needed to either BE something amazing - either beautiful, brilliant or highly talented (none of which I have ever been) or else always DOING something helpful or productive for people, in order to feel secure. I have seen, though, in these past few years when I have definitely been getting less beautiful, brilliant, talented and productive, that no one has rejected me.

After 14 years of being a Christian, all this is helping the gospel to finally reach heart level. If the people in my life don't reject me because I'm not always super impressive, then I can be sure God won't. I have understood that intellectually for a long time, and didn't think I worried much about it. But as I am going through these psychological struggles, I am seeing that I can't read anything theological that isn't about grace. It is the very heart of our faith to admit that we are imperfect in all areas. To the extent that I don't live that out in my life, to the extent that I hide my weakness, and my exhaustion and my sadness, I am denying what God says about me, and I don't receive the rest that is promised to all those who are heavy laden.

I will finally admit it. I am heavy laden, and I need that rest. I know that ultimately, that's a spiritual thing. But I'll still be thankful that I can call in the Merry Maids.