Just beneath the surface of normal

My Own Special Brand of Gratitude

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My morning got off to a horrible start. I wanted to hide in bed, all my clothes showed every one of the 15 pounds I’ve gained since I started this job and (because clearly someone replaced my normal mirror with a fun-house mirror) about 30 extra just for fun. Also I missed the train by seconds. So I spent my morning under a giant stormy raincloud of “fuck all of this”. But for some reason, the Internet seems determined to help me get over it. My Facebook feed was inexplicably full of things that made me laugh or smile. Or breathe.

First, there was this commercial for Thai life insurance that made me all squishy over being kind just because it feels good. It’s nice to see that at least someone in the world doesn’t always sell things to people by making them feel afraid and inadequate. Anyway, it kind of made me want to be nice helpful again, instead of keeping a death-ray behind my desk. Not that I’m giving up my death-ray (not that I have one – not that I’d tell you if I did).

Then there was goats playing on sheet metal. I laughed so much that I watched it three times. Because one of those goats is a total dick. The other two are like, “look at our awesome synchronized jump-balance” and the brown one’s all “nope”  like that kid who knocks down your gravity-defying sandcastle. I don’t know what’s up with the bystander. I guess there’s always one.

Sprinked liberally among these treasures were images of people making choices to be happy, grateful, loved, etc. Barring mornings after half of my friends inexplicably had insomnia on the same night, my feed never has such a carefully curated message: get over it and choose to enjoy your damn day.

Since gratitude is one of those things that’s supposed to help (ed note: it totally did), I’ve decided to write about what I’m most grateful for right now: that someone else cleans my house.

It was over a year in coming. My friend Susie has been trying to get me to call the girl who cleans her apartment since she found her on Craigslist – possibly the only honest, enthusiastic, affordable independent housekeeper ever to post on Craigslist (sorry if you are also all of those things – I totally wasn’t talking about you because you’re obviously also the only…..on Craigslist). “It’s not your gift,” she told me, “leave it to someone who loves it and needs the money and spend your energy elsewhere. Everyone is more productive in a clean house – think of all the things you like doing that could finally get done!” I agreed, but there’s a lot of conditioned shame around being a woman who doesn’t keep a spotless and gracious house – especially when she’s also unemployed – and I avoided facing the reality for as long as possible. All of that new domestic goddess porn all over Pinterest doesn’t help. I keep thinking that if I pin enough pictures of organized spaces, it will magically happen (it hasn’t). I think Susie even gave me a cleaning for my birthday last year, but I never got around to it.

Time went by. We made a few attempts to schedule, but I am terrible at phone calls and I finally had to just text her in order to make it happen. Thank goodness for the 21st century. I would be a damn hermit without it.

It helped that my dad and step-mom were coming for a visit and my house was in terrifying condition. I’m not sharing pictures because I didn’t take any, because why would anyone take a picture of their messy house? But I did an image search of “messy house” and at least discovered that it could be much worse – well, maybe not in the kitchen. I mean, it’s not hoarders bad, and I do clean when company is coming (which is at least twice a year and sometimes I invite strangers over just so I’ll have to clean), but there was just no way I was going to be able to catch up in time. Every pile – every stampeding herd of dust bunnies – mocked me and sent me to the couch in a stupor of overwhelm and frantic crochet-soothing.

AJ finally came on the day my folks were due to fly in. Yes, under the wire IS my favorite place – why do you ask?

She stayed for six hours. I have a small 1920’s catalog house with 3 microscopic bedrooms and one cavernous pink-tiled bathroom. The whole thing is 7 rooms. We skipped the bedrooms, because they’re not clean enough to be cleaned yet (which makes the most perverted sense in the world, but whatever). So the magical power of math tells me that’s 4 rooms in 6 hours, and the magical power of deduction tells you that I’m not being modest about the condition of my house. But here’s the most remarkable part, and the thing that keeps me in reverent gratitude almost a week later: she washed the walls. THE WALLS, you guys. It never even occurred to me to wash walls. I’ve been cleaning my house wrong (on the rare occasion I do it) my entire life. I don’t even know what to believe anymore.

I think I understand now what Susie meant about it not being my gift. Because AJ evidently loves to clean. And doesn’t like to sit still. Which I can barely comprehend, because I didn’t even know there were people who don’t like to sit. It’s like she’s my dark half – or maybe I’m hers. Either way, my gifts are cooking, crocheting, writing, daydreaming, connecting with people, being a supportive friend, having adventures, having a good relationship with both my husband and teenage daughter, and healing from a whole host of childhood/early adult traumas. I like doing those things. I like them unfathomably more than cleaning – yes, even therapy. But she’s the one who decided my walls needed washing – it’s her gift, who am I to question our differences? She makes decent money by doing what she’s good at, and I make decent money sitting behind a desk and being nice to people all day (even when they’re being petulant assholes). I’m happy to give her some of it to never, ever have to scrub a wall. Ever.


It still wound up being a lot of work for me, running around in the room she’d be working on next to triage enough clutter to allow her to clean. But I would work for a bit and then take a break while she scrubbed away and I watched with crippling (or possibly just beer-drinking, relaxing) shame as I sat there while someone else did the job I’m “supposed to” be able to stay on top of because of my vast trove of innate uterus-having abilities. I’ve scheduled her for an upcoming Sunday to help me organize and declutter so that I can do even less when she comes and she can hopefully escape us in less time.

All of this is to say that I have come home from work every day to a clean, soothing home (well, except for the bedroom and TV room but that’s all on me), and I am grateful beyond words for the ability to pay someone to take that stress away. Once upon a time, long long ago, my family and I were a few bucks from homelessness. I grew up on public assistance. Maybe some people need a life of impossible luxury to feel like a princess, but I just need someone to clean my house.

Which just goes to show, it pays to have low standards.


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