I think my family doesn’t believe me when I say I’m turning out to be a decent cook – and that my house is relatively clean. They think they know me so well. They think the Moore gene for hoarding clutter and letting the housework go is too strong. But even as I write this, I’m looking around my desk, thinking “that can go, that can go, and that is definitely going.” I try not to nag the girls too much, but I’m always putting the stuff they’ve left out for over a day into little piles and telling them to take it back to their room.
I have to. If I didn’t, every surface in the living and dining room would be overtaken by rolls of duct tape, fossils, pine cones, school papers, fossils, library books, discarded clothing, fossils, jewelry… did I mention fossils?
These fossils come in all shapes and sizes. Half of them I’ve found in the pockets of little girl jeans when I do laundry. (Side note: How in the world does a week’s worth of laundry for two girls become so flippin’ stinky?) Other fossils are left soaking in our bathroom sink. They have a box of rocks they’ve washed and literally picked clean (at least someone is using the toothpicks). Gift 2 is especially obsessive about these things. I finally got all the stickiness off the bathroom counter after she attempted to bathe a large pine cone into sap-free purity. I had to put a ban on the nature migration into our apartment, and that was before I saw the pile of cones in one of her cubby holes. No wonder she’s complaining of not enough storage space. The great outdoors of Middletown, Ohio, are living rent-free in our 850 square-foot apartment. Yay.
Dear child, read my lips: No new nature. Leave it where you found it. You already have plenty to gloat over in your room. Trust me; I just stepped on one of your “discoveries”.
While I’m far from perfect – yet – this whole clutter-nazi thing I have going on is a change for me. If you’d told me two years ago I’d be a working-from-home-wife who plans out each week’s dinners and household chores, I’d have laughed. Everyone around me would have laughed. We would have chortled in glee over the preposterous idea.
But here we are: Our apartment is a very, very fine place; with two guinea pigs in their cage, and fossils all the rage… And me constantly picking up things.
As is my habit, I needed to analyze my new behavior. This is what I came up with: Keeping the apartment clean is my way of controlling our environment. I have felt lost and un-me after moving here and not being able to find a job for so long. All the things I did and all the people I hung out with to fill my world as a single woman were gone. There was no problem filling my time, but my head? My heart?
I’m in a better place now, but the fact remains I still use keeping the apartment picked up to help me feel in control of my immediate environment. Messy means confusion. It makes things harder. Avoiding messy is great when we talk about things. Not so great when we talk about relationships.
Recently, someone revealed to me that they deliberately abandoned a friendship when they went through a life-changing experience with another person. In a well-meaning (at least on the surface) attempt to protect everyone from a difficult situation and inevitably uncomfortable conversations, they just removed the option of interaction altogether.
This reminded me of certain friendships I’ve had, where someone avoided me because they didn’t know how to talk to me about behavior that bothered them. It reminded me of the times I’ve avoided others because it was ‘too hard’ to confront them. It reminded me of the pain of rejection and betrayal and distrust I felt; and it reminded me of the shame and guilt and dirtiness I felt.
Are there times when it’s appropriate to turn and walk away from a close relationship? Absolutely. But I would say that generally involves some kind of abuse or toxic behavior. Otherwise, walking away is itself abusive. It’s manipulative. It’s cowardly. It’s lazy. It’s so much less-than what we are called to do to love each other. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
I’m guilty of loving my comfort more than my friends. I’m guilty of running away from hard and messy and claiming it’s out of protection. Protection for what? If my relationship is real, if it’s more than having a good time together, then I know through experience that the hard and messy will only make it more real and beautiful and deep in the end. I know, whether I wish to admit it or not, that the person I trust least on the difficult road is me. I know it’s easier to do the rejecting than it is to do the real; it’s easier to walk away than to walk through.
I hope I’ve learned that ‘protecting’ relationships by avoiding the messy parts is an illusion. It’s an excuse to hide our hearts, and that ‘protection’ turns into a wall that we sometimes can’t scale. We can avoid messy, but there’s still a mess left behind – and a lonely road ahead. Sometimes, when we walk away, we can’t walk back again.