What I *Really* Want for Christmas

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).

NOT our tree. This is a stock image (c) Ursula Klawitter/zefa/Corbis

NOT our tree. This is a stock image (c) Ursula Klawitter/zefa/Corbis

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!

15 thoughts on “What I *Really* Want for Christmas

  1. Oh Liz, how I love this post (and you!). There is something about this season that brings out the child in a person … and that isn’t always a good thing, is it? I too have been struggling with my own childhood memories weaving their way into my adult behaviour right now … I love your little exercise and may just give it a go myself!

    Merry Christmas Liz and family! May you find peace amongst the chaos (and inevitable mess!) in the days to come. 🙂

  2. wow Beth! so beautiful. you nailed it! I love your phrases….as you know I can identify with most of the statements you made. messy. talk.obsess. lovable.
    I recently had a similar awakening. I realized that I don’t need outside approval or validation (even though I so often have struggled with this) I AM ALREADY valuable and valid. I am a child of The Lord Almighty! I am valid and valued. it was huge when it hit me. Now I just have to remember it! 🙂
    you are on an amazing journey.

    • Thank you Shannon for your wisdom and for being on this journey with me. 🙂 Much love and Merry Christmas to you and your family, too!

  3. oh and merry Christmas! I didn’t make any chocolate this year…while it makes me a little sad I know it is ok, tradtions aren’t lost cuz I don’t do it one year! you know that I always think of you and your family when I make chocolates:-D
    love you lots!

  4. “Because if I am too messy, then I am not lovable. If I am messy, you will be mad and might hurt me.”

    So close to home for me. Know that I struggle with the same and will pray for you. Love from a kindred soul.

  5. Thanks to Beth’s post, I found your blog–and oh, I am so glad I did. This speaks to my heart. Even though I don’t clean in order to be loved, I clean because I come from a line of tidiness and order and “a place for everything,” and I believe I cannot think or relax or “just be” in a place of disorganization and mess. Seems like my left brain needs to let go, and my right brain needs to rejoice. Thank you for your words.

    • Aw, thank you Michelle! “…my right brain needs to rejoice” <--- love this. There was a lot of rejoicing in my house yesterday, and I was present and celebrating in all of it. HOORAY!

  6. I, too have 5 kids. We are expecting our 6th. Because we are ‘crazy breeders’, we, too are apparently unlovable lately….. and my messy house makes me more unlovable. We, too, have just come out of “A-PUKE-ALYPSE” 2013. Which, unlike other years, has lasted 2 and a half weeks, stolen the last of my sanity, and slooooowwwwllly and methodically, menacingly….. made its way around my (messy) house. As you know, it’s just about survival in these kind of times. What I love about your post is that it reminded me what my husband and I have recently decided: we are ONLY unlovable to CERTAIN people and that is THEIR loss, not ours. OUR house is full of LOVE! (and dirt, dust, banana peels, a huge collection of barf bowls…..) and we love it that way! Thanks for the reminder… we ARE lovable. God adores us!! God adores YOU! Merry Christmas to all. 🙂 Rebecca and family

    • Yes! Great reminder, Rebecca, that other people’s reactions are about THEM and not about ME. Thank you and Merry Christmas to you and your lovable, adorable family! 🙂

  7. Pingback: Joy: The Mess & The Music | Poemfish: Elizabeth Durant

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