Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Home Maker

They say your house should rise up to greet you.  But my house, lately, has risen up and accosted, with odors, with disorder and with filth.  I get an F in housekeeping lately.  I know I’m hard on myself.  I know I have a perfectly reasonable excuse for not having an immaculate house.  I have three really challenging kids.  They make constant demands, scream if they are not met immediately and destroy as punishment.  Well, they destroy just for fun.  I think they must have attended the Kim Jung Il and Naomi Campell School for Future Tyrants before they were born.  This is how I account for their wild fashion sense and the absurdity of requests.  And it’s tough, meeting the needs of irrational people and cleaning one’s home.  You have no time and everything you do is undone almost immediately.  It’s rather frustrating.  So, I struggle.

However, my job is not housekeeper.  
My job is not caretaker.  

My job is Home Maker.

And making a home is a complicated task.  To make a home you have to create an environment that facilitates growth.  You want it to be a safe, clean, organized space.  You want it to be a warm, well-fed, comforting environment.  You want it to be a space that fits the people living there - with rules that make sense, with freedoms that match desires.  Ultimately, you want to create a space that is ready.  The floors are cleaned and ready for dancing.  The table is uncluttered and ready for yummy food.  The beds are made and ready for sound sleeping.  The couch is clear and ready for jumping and fort-making.  

T.S. Eliot said, “Home is where one starts from.”

I had a moment of anagnorisis recently.  That is the Aristotilian term for the tragic moment of discovery when you realize your true identity.  It’s painful awareness, and it’s usually followed by paripeteia, a turning point.  In Greek tragedy this is the moment that Oedipus realizes he’s having sex with his mother.  For me, this was the moment when I realized that I’m not doing my job well.  And it’s not because of the housekeeping.  That is only part of it.  The failure has been in my attitude.  

I go about my life with an attitude of “why me?”  I act like a victim.  “My kids are more difficult.”  “I didn’t get a single ‘easy’ kid.”  “My life is so hard because I do cloth diapers.”  “I have to cook all the time.” “I hate cleaning up toys.” “I don’t want to fold laundry.”  I treat everything as though someone else made the decision and I’m just forced to do the job.  I get resentful of my children. They’re taking me away from writing.  I get resentful of being at home.  I’m trapped.  It’s usually just background noise in my head, but then, when I’m tired or the kids are being particularly difficult, it reaches a crescendo of a whiny teenager.  I find that subconsciously I’m looking for exits.  I want small little ways to get out.  I let them watch more TV than I know is good.  I spend more time on the computer, on my phone, reading a book.  I just start to slide on my housekeeping and my upkeep of myself, the kids and the house.  I justify the behavior as necessary “me time.”  And me time is absolutely necessary.  But it’s the amount that is sabotaging my own existence and the lives of the people I love.  

Well, I accidentally hit the reset button the other day.  Because I had left my laptop on in the dining room so that I could use it off and on all day, it was accessible to a small person.  Said small person upended it onto the floor and destroyed it.  I spent most of the day crying.  I was mad at myself.  I was hit with the tragic discovery of my own weakness and selfishness.  Marco was mad.  I was mad at him for being mad.  I was crying with self-pity about having such wild children.  I was beating myself up for not being a good anything (there have been other failures lately).  I just cried and cried and cried.

The next morning, after talking to Marco, I sat there, again, all mopey and bummed and feeling like “my life is so hard.”  And I started up with the voices about my suckishness.

And then something just clicked.  The peripeteia kicked in.

I heard in my head my own voice say, “Is this the life you want?  Is this how you want it to be?  What do you want to be different?”

Me.  I want to be different.  I want a clean house.  I want things organized.  I want to be on a clear budget.  I want to be on a better schedule.  I want a plan.  These are not someone else’s desires.  These are not being forced upon me.  I’m choosing to be a home maker.  I’m choosing to be here, in this house, with these children, at this time.  So, why don’t I just do it?

So I got busy.  I cleaned my stack of papers.  I washed, dried and PUT AWAY all of the laundry, including all the diapers.  I cleaned floors, made beds, organized.  I planned dinner.  I cleaned the kitchen.  I stayed on top of the toys.  I just did my fucking job.  And it sure didn’t take me as long as I had thought it would.  And I felt like a million bucks when I looked around and was happy to be HOME.

Then I heard this Charles Bukowski poem, “The Laughing Heart”

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

My life is here, taking care of these three wee people.  I’m making the place they start from, their launch pad to their lives.  Making it clean and organized is necessary to facilitate all the other things I want this home to be.  I want my home to be a place of music, of creativity, of art, of learning.  I want it to be a place where conversations are savored.  I want it to be where friends gather, a safe place where anyone can talk about anything.  I want room for dancing.  I don’t want nice things because I want them to be able to jump, to paint, to be messy, to not worry about stuff.  I want toys in categories because then we can pull out the train or the puzzles or the instruments and focus on doing that one something awesome and enjoying it.  I want cleanliness so that they can know they care capable of taking care of things.  And that means they help me.  I want my home to be a place where good food is shared at a family table.  I want this home to be about sharing, about uninhibited play and about dancing. It doesn't have to be perfect, but I have to try to make it what I want it to be - ready.

My job is Home Maker.  I don’t get paid to do it, and it is ridiculously hard.  But this is my choice.  This is my life.  And the more I learn to beat that dark, deathly attitude, I can let more light in.  Then there will be more light so I can see my amazing home.

1 comment:

Jen Stults said...

Love this post! I've soooo been there before (and still am on occasion). The most amazing thing happened when we put our house on the market - we had to pack up and put away over half of our stuff in order to "stage" our house as best we could. And because the house has to be ready to show at all times, I'm much more on top of things. I, too, realized that I had become lazy. Sure, in the early months or maybe even the first year after the twins' birth, the messiness was justified, but now... it's mostly just laziness and as you said, not wanting to do the job! (Granted on occasion of illness, etc. I totally allow for slacking!!) The coolest thing that happened was that when I packed away almost all of the kids' toys, leaving just a few out to play with, we found that it was SO MUCH easier to clean up. So, I'm learning things and storing them away in my head to hopefully remember when we finally get to move and unpack. Because I, too, enjoy organization and cleanliness. It's brings peace to the chaos! : )

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