It’s late and I can’t sleep. Having just survived The Great Puke Apocalypse of 2013, I’m worried about the next few days. How am I going to make it through the rounds of holiday festivities and a week-long visit from my mother-in-law? I don’t feel prepared. I’m behind on everything, and the house…oh the house.
I’ve been working lately on trying to recognize and name my needs. I need a tidy house. This is hard to admit, because some part of my brain scoffs loudly and says that when you become a parent you abdicate any right to non-sticky floors or clean (let alone folded) dish towels (that you can actually find because they are in a drawer instead of toddler-tucked in with the pots and pans or tupperware).
But…I know it is a need (rather than a nice-to-have) because of the small flame of fury that leaps in my belly when I notice week-old banana mush congealed to the arm of the high chair. I tell myself: this isn’t a health hazard. It’s just disgusting. LET IT GO. But oh that flame, oh that fury.
It is hard to be all ho-ho-ho and welcome-friends in this condition. Plus: PMS. Plus: did I mention…Puke Apocalypse? And the tree fell over? TWICE. Broken glass ornaments and a sopping wet area rug. Also, we are out of cat food.
All of that is just (kind of) funny. Here’s the hard part: I am actually not sure I can be a good parent in a messy house. It is akin to sleep deprivation. I am irritable, because I’m not getting what I need, and furious, because I resent the need in the first place. All these other wise mothers on the internet, they have messy houses, and they aren’t about to snap. What’s wrong with me?
Ok, but that’s an awfully judgmental question, right?
So maybe I can ask, with curiosity rather than shame, why? Why do I need a tidy house?
The answer came fast and just took my breath away.
To be loved.
Because if I am too messy, then I am not lovable. If I am messy, you will be mad and might hurt me.
I have proof of this, I do. So many memories, from childhood. (No, I’m not sharing, you’ll just have to trust me.)
But I’m not a child any more.
The people in my life now – my wife, close friends, my sister – they don’t care how messy or disgusting my house might be. I know this because they say so, and they act so.
So it suddenly occurs to me that there might be a different way, a new way, that I might help myself survive the week ahead. Instead of making detailed lists, breaking my back to clean, and then feeling guilty because I neglect my daughter in choosing mopping over cookie baking and storytime, I could experiment with telling myself: Elizabeth, your house is a mess AND you are lovable.
In fact, you are messy and lovable.
You talk a lot and are lovable.
You obsess over details and are lovable.
You sing off-key and are lovable.
You ___________ and are lovable.
I just practiced saying these things out loud, and it feels really different…in a good way.
In fact, it feels a little like a miracle, like an incredible gift I just gave myself. Maybe THIS is what that whole return-of-the-light-holiday-magic-God-come-to-earth-thing is all about. Loving and being loved. Just as we are. Just as we — this minute, right now, without any clean-up — are. Lovable. Loved.
Oh I hope so.
How are you lovable? Tell me!