Thursday, August 03, 2006

Clutter

It was a disturbing homecoming. For that matter, it was a disturbing time away. Many revelations, as people newly met asked about parts of my background that I hadn't bothered or dared to think about in a long time. Between conversations, there were hours of quiet pacing through the grassland, searching the vegetation for rare plants. That activity demands a certain level of attentiveness, allowing self-reflection to percolate gently below the surface, but preventing the conscious mind from barging in on the process with a lot of willful direction.

I came to a better understanding of a conflict in a work relationship some years ago. I realized that those I worked under had mistaken my perfectionism for competence, and put me into a leadership role that was beyond me. I didn't have the experience to recognize competence in my team members - I didn't even know what competence might look like in that kind of work - and my perfectionist approach turned into obnoxious hounding when I tried to take responsibility for the work of others.

I could do that job a lot better now. If I wanted to.

Another thing I noticed in those hours between conversations: my conversations include a lot of complaining about Garth. I don't like to hear myself talk like that. What is wrong?

I already knew that we need more time together. I've been working on that. Him being on the other side of the planet makes it tougher, right now - he's back in Nepal for three weeks. But in his email today, he suggested a plan for a mini-holiday on my upcoming birthday. He's working on it, too.

But there was another revelation that emerged from the first day or so of being home. The place was a mess. An abnormal mess. Or maybe not so abnormal, but ever so noticeable in contrast to the spacious, uncluttered feeling of that big ranch-house in the sandhills where we all lived with just what we needed for the short time we were there, and did our best to keep our stuff out of one another's way.

I wanted my home to be clean.

For the first time in years, that was at the top of my mind. Maybe because my mind had been reset by the two-week break from any habits or obligations here. Maybe because I'd done a bit of cleaning at the ranch house and found it very satisfying. I felt like a new person, eager to make a home, instead of nodding a grudging acknowledgement to that duty while hurrying on to something else.

Now other needs and tasks and habits (like blogging) are rising up again, and I'm becoming resigned to the mess. No! Don't give in! Clean the bedroom, today! (You have to realize that cleaning the bedroom doesn't mean dusting the light fixture and running the vaccuum through. It means facing countless sideways-tipping and intermingling piles of who-knows-what, piles that take up more floor space than they leave empty. It means sorting, dealing with, throwing out, storing . . . you see, the bedroom has been my place to put what I can't leave lying around the rest of the house. But to leave it in the bedroom is probably even worse.)

Blogging. It feels like a chore, like an impossibly huge chunk out of every day. I have pictures and stories and ideas for posts even from before I left, but there are times when I just want to shove it all sideways and do something real. Not to have to listen to myself for a while.

And so I come to realize that a good deal of my complaining about Garth is really just a symptom of all this mess. There is a problem between us, yes, indeed. A big sprawling jumbled problem, and there are only so many times you can step over it all for a hug, before somebody trips and grumbles.

So if I seem preoccupied and quiet these days, you can smile and imagine me cleaning. Picture it as clearly as you can, and maybe you'll help it happen!

And in the back of my mind, I have a victory project. With the clutter out of the way, I can tackle refinishing the hardwood floors. I've been dreading that project, because I just couldn't see a way to keep the dust out of all my stuff. The idea of moving a lot of the stuff out, permanently, is a help. But the breakthrough was a comment Eleutheros made somewhere, about using scrapers instead of sandpaper. I boldly wondered - could you do that for a whole floor? Absolutely. I've never sharpened anything, so the prospect of sharpening my scraper after every ten square feet is enough to make me tremble a bit, but I know how to steady myself and carry on. No dust! Now if I can just think of a way to keep that cleanly scraped floor clean while I finish the whole thing bit by bit . . .

3 comments:

Laura said...

Well, now that I think of it (while washing dishes), I guess I have sharpened a pencil...

madcapmum said...

I'd love to see some pictures of that project as you go. The scraping project, that is.

Clutter can be stultifying when it becomes a way of life. I'm not a "keeper", but Chive is, and the kids generate mountains of treasures, and without constantly culling the cluttery masses the house gets taken over in short order. Then nobody can get anything done. Good luck on breaking trail.

Deb said...

I can understand cluter, and I can certainly understand the need to get rid of it. That's the way I operate lately.

I can also understand the marital stuff; how long does it have to be rehashed before it's old news? At least that's where I'm at. Hope you find sweet peace together.