Yellow is the Enemy
It feels good to admit you’re not perfect. You should try it.
Three little girls tumbled up the stairs, giggling and tripping over their tangled legs. When they got to my daughter’s room, they played like girls do. Quietly, intensely, their little voices mapping out an imaginary world. I sat downstairs contentedly listening to their happy sounds, relishing my own quiet moment.
Later in the evening, I went up to my daughter’s room and discovered my worst nightmare: The World’s Largest Mess. I looked around horrified, wondering if a tidal wave and an earthquake had joined forces to pillage her room. Dolls were strewn on the floor, face down and half-clothed, like plastic victims of doom. All of her toy baskets had been turned upside down, showcasing her enviable stuffed animal collection, lots of pink purses, and an ordinate number of pennies. It must have been raining toys and money in there.
I stormed downstairs and growled to Lucy, “Are you kidding me? Your room is a disaster! What is that about?” My face reddened and I glared my eyes into slits, thinking of the inevitable clean-up and the pre-clean-up battle that was about to ensue. I readied myself for war.
Then, Lucy said, quietly with a touch of snide: “It’s about fun, mommy.”
And, suddenly, I dropped my battle gear and my defenses and let out a mighty sigh. She was right. It was about fun. Yes, they made a mess, but so what?
I am a person who needs to make more messes. Not everyone has this gene, but I am a cleaner. A Mighty, Determined Cleaner. I like things to shine, and I take pleasure in a good vacuum job. I wage war on dirty toilet seats; yellow is the enemy. When the floors are clean, I feel calm and I must admit, a little giddy.
For me, cleaning is about control and the P word: PERFECTION. When the world is spinning too fast, I scrub the tile grout in the shower and feel a little better. When guests come to my house, I want the house to be clean so that they will think I am Super Mom. Hey, I’m a successful attorney, I have two young kids, AND the grout in my shower sparkles. It’s effortless, really.
Also, while I’m obsessively and repetitively cleaning, I like to complain and begrudge that I don’t have enough time for me. I hear my family in the living room, having the nerve to laugh and play while I clean their fingerprints off the fridge. They have no idea everything I do for them, I think, as I scrub that spot on the baseboards that has been beckoning to me for days.
What a waste of time! Precious, limited, gorgeous time.
After the, “It’s about fun” moment (schooled by my daughter, yet again), I’ve been trying to back off on the cleaning a bit. In the evenings, I pry my fingers from the spray cleaner bottle and join my daughter on the floor to play dolls instead. I go outside and shoot some hoops with my son. Sometimes, I go on the front porch and just sit in the rocking chair. Can you imagine? Just sitting, even while dust accumulates on the floors?
Turns out, it feels good to sit in a rocking chair, alone, while dust settles on the floor. Recently, I’ve noticed that if you look closely, dust shines in the sunlight, like stardust. Magical really.
You may not be a clean freak like me, but we all have habits that distract us from living a meaningful life. Maybe you’re a shopper or you over-imbibe in social media, ice cream, or wine. Maybe you hold grudges with all your might or you steadfastly take care of everyone but yourself. Whatever it is, these habits eat our time, drain our spirits, and push us into a dark, lonely corner.
I have something to admit. I want to shout it from the mountaintops (or at least from my very clean countertop) because I want to be free. I’M NOT PERFECT. I’M NOT IN CONTROL. I’m just me, nothing more, nothing less.
It feels good to admit you’re not perfect. You should try it. It’s like opening a window and letting the world in.
Really, I’m kind of tired of cleaning up messes. I’m tired of being Super Mom and creating the illusion of being perfect. The vacuum cleaner is sucking the fun out of my life. I’d like to make more messes, have more fun, and live my life with less distractions. Anyone want to join me?