My Midlife Mess
I used to clean beneath the refrigerator. It was never pretty, but at least a couple of times a year I temporarily banished the pretty–sure-theyâ€™re-not-moving-on-legs dust balls, cat hair, and runaway vitamins. As I was on my hands and knees sponging up the potpourri of ugly, Grandmaâ€™s voice was in my head saying, â€œYou can do better! A good, Godly, woman keeps a clean house.â€ And so, to be a â€œgoodâ€ woman, I put in my workweek and then spent weekendsâ€”precious, precious, weekendsâ€”cleaning the minutia of our home.
Once I hit midlife I became increasing lax on cleaning those places that only God and spiders know about. Did I believe a guest was going to ask me to move the refrigerator so they could judge me on being a good woman? Well, yeah, a little bit. They sure as heck were not going to judge my husband if the house was less than tidy!
And to be honest, I still get panicky if someone drops by and the house is in chaosâ€¦which it is on most days. Grandmaâ€™s voice will not be silenced, nor will my cultural conditioning. It doesnâ€™t matter that Iâ€™m trying to build a business and choose to prioritize my time on things that donâ€™t involve a mop and Windex. It doesnâ€™t matter that my messesâ€”piles of silk scarves, photographs, and art suppliesâ€”are all things that make me feel alive and happy. It even doesn’t matter that my husband, in an attempt to be supportive, says he likes a â€œlived inâ€ house. I somehow feel like Iâ€™m failing because I canâ€™t keep up. I canâ€™t do it all.
Whatâ€™s strange is that when I visit other womenâ€™s homes I never see disarray. I revel in the time with them, the conversation, and the work/art/volunteering that make up their lives. I could freakâ€™n care less if there is dust on the knickknacks. So why do I hold myself to a different standard? Grandma! Culture! Even my dad pushed me to be the housekeeper my mother was not. Maybe Iâ€™m doomed to a life constantly torn between artist and â€œgoodâ€ woman.
So, my friends, enlighten me. How do you balance happiness and obligation? Or do you? Give me advice on how to be a messy, happy, artist and a good woman.