Something happened over the holiday weekend – something that took me by surprise. Instead of spending the four days away from work lounging on the deck, sipping margaritas with a good book in hand, I found myself motivated for the first time in months to deep clean my home. It started off innocently enough: I would get up from the computer to go make a cup of tea and I’d find myself putting things away while the water came to a boil. When I got up to let the dogs out, I’d stop and sweep the kitchen floor. The next thing I knew I’d be on my hands and knees next to a soapy bucket of water, ready to tackle the grungy corners that seem to always get missed when wet mopping the floor.
About halfway through the weekend I realizing just how much I had been avoiding caring for my home these past months. I’d been doing enough cleaning to be able to stand living there but I had let other things take a back seat to sleeping and playing mindless rounds of Internet card games.
As the weekend drew to a close, I found myself becoming a little bit weepy. Emotions began to well up inside me and erupt in small, quiet corners of the house. A tear would run down my cheek here and there at the oddest moments. A sadness would rise and fall inside me as I lifted things and moved them about. I even noticed I was dreaming more vividly at night, waking up wanting to be comforted but not really knowing why.
By Monday afternoon, knee deep in shampooing the dining room carpet, I stopped to take a short nap. I quickly fell asleep and began to dream of my old dog, Emma Woo. She was running across a field, full speed ahead, hurrying to run into my arms with the full weight of her enormous Sheepdog body. We collided in my dream, her knocking me to the ground, licking my face, pawing my shoulders, prancing like a 100-lb. puppy at the sheer sight of me. When I awoke from the dream, I had such a mingling of emotion surface all at once. It was a cross between deep joy from getting to see her again and an even deeper sadness that came from knowing how much I had been missing her these past fifteen years.
I rose from my nap and dug back into the process of cleaning, rearranging, and reorganizing my home again. I walked over to the living room to put a candle on one of the shelves when I came face to face with the last portrait my parents had taken together before my mother had died. Suddenly, the weekend all made sense. After six months without my mother, I was finally coming up for air – ready to start putting my house back in order – literally and figuratively. It was time to stop standing still in the midst of my grief and begin, instead, to move forward into the path of my life again.
This afternoon I continued on that journey, sorting through all the junk that had accumulated in the hallway bookcase and then reassembling my dining room now that the newly shampooed carpet had dried. I let the dogs outside this evening right before the sun went down and made the rounds filling up all the bird feeders while they were enjoying the great outdoors. When I came inside, I went to wash my hands at the kitchen sink and, taking a quick look around, realized this was the cleanest my kitchen had been in a very long time. I flipped the bottle of Dawn detergent over and squirted a little soap onto my hands, washing away not only the dirt of the day but also letting a little more of the grief I have been carrying around go down the drain as well.