As I begin to emerge from the fog of fever/cold/congestion/coughing that has enveloped me the past few days, I have been able to finally return to my routines. Much more than merely hauling my ass off the couch and remembering to brush my teeth, this means I’m back at work, back in the kitchen (cooking, not re-heating soup for all my meals), and back to cleaning and scrubbing the apartment like an old Polish cleaning woman.
This, I understand, may sound strange. Why would anyone want to compare themselves to an old Polish cleaning woman? Let me explain:
These routines–making the bed, vaccuming, cooking–aren’t mere chores. They’re a form of meditation. For me, a clean house reflects a clean mind and psychic state. If my socks are lying on the floor, I don’t feel calm. When there’s crumbs on the countertops, I’m distracted to the point of irritability and stress. Just ask Joel; if there’s a lot of dishes sitting in the sink, I can’t be in the kitchen without acting crabby.
Every week, I typically spend a few hours during one of my days off giving the apartment a thorough scrub down. I vaccume the rugs, sweep and swiffer the wood floors, dust, clean the gunk off the kitchen countertops and stove (for some reason, I HATE dirty stoves), clean the bathroom and mop both the kitchen and bathroom floors. This actually isn’t a lot of work, and I’m convinced if I do all these chores at least once a week, the truly disgusting stuff won’t have the chance to reveal itself. Certain chores are monthly (cleaning the microwave) or seasonal (washing the windows), but doing these few things every week guarantees a (relatively) clean home for the rest of the week.
Cleaning becomes even more meditative when I reward myself for these days of labor. I like to clean when Joel’s out of the apartment (I’m slightly embarrassed by how furtively I scrub the stove burners), and so when I’m finished, I make sure I take a LONG, luxurious shower afterward. I also allow myself time to sit around in comfy clothes, listen to classical music, read and generally enjoy my (now sparkling) domain.
When I was sick, Joel wouldn’t let me clean. He didn’t want me over-exerting myself pushing the vaccume cleaner around, and I should just relax and not stare at the dirty carpet so much. The thing was, I couldn’t relax…not with dirty carpet underfoot, anyway. Joel was right in banishing me to the couch and ordering me to rest, but I couldn’t fully heal unless I addressed my body AND spirit. Luckily, I had the day off yesterday, and I spent my time cleaning until my heart was content.
While I was cleaning, though, I thought back to another set of routines from college that were just as spiritually uplifting. Thinking back now, they really were some of the best times I had in college, and starred nobody else but me. You see, I was busy in college, especially during my senior year. I was, of course, focused on school, working as a senior editor at the school newspaper, and working 12-15 hours a week at the library. Of course, this doesn’t include maintaining my long-distance relationship with Joel, as well as spending time with friends. Four nights a week were spent at the newspaper office, I juggled at least two or three 400-level classes per semester, and I was stressing about what to do post-graduation. As a lover of leisure, how did my sanity survive?
To cope with all the chaos, I had “my” Saturday mornings. My roommate liked to work her hours at the library during the weekend, and so she gave me blessed alone time from 7:30 to 11:30 every Saturday morning. During that time, I would wake up at 9 (making sure to get in my full 8 hours) and start my laundry. My dorm was small, and so was our laundry room; competition was fierce at the best of times. But, except for insanely early risers like myself, not at 9 on a Saturday morning. I would then take a shower, which would also be devoid of wait-times (we had two shower stalls for the entire first floor of girls). This wouldn’t be any ordinary shower though; this would be a long, relaxing, actually-shave-my-legs kind of shower. By the time I was finished treating myself to the pampering I didn’t have time for during the week, it would be time to switch my laundry. Next on the docket would be cleaning. My roommate and I lived in one small room, but when she was gone, I made it sparkle. I vaccumed, dusted, cleaned the crumbs out of the futon, and Febreezed. With my laundry hanging to dry and my bed made, I felt like a new woman. At 11, I would make my way over the dining hall across the quad and be the first in line for a freshly-made waffle and smoothie. I never ate breakfast at the dining halls…except for Saturdays. I would then eat my breakfast back in the room, watching the History Channel until my roommate returned. At that point, she would be mildly ruffled from work and stressing over her homework. I too might be worried about whatever papers I had to write, but at least I felt ready to start my day. Hell, I felt ready to take on the week.
Now, my days off are irregular and my routines have to be flexible. But if I can work in some form of my college Saturday mornings into my life (both here in Cincy, and later in Detroit), I feel my body and mind has a fighting chance of staying healthy.