I look around my house and see books on the coffee table, crayons left out, a stove that badly needs to be cleaned. Shoes are scattered by the door, afghans are rumpled on the couch, and there are toys from one end of the living room to the other. Upstairs, there are bits of paper on the floor, a stack out outgrown clothes, and the bathroom counter is a mess of hair bows and hair clips and brushes and combs. It’s messy.
And the voice of perfectionism starts to whisper… you’re not good enough. You’re a mess. You need to DO MORE! How can you raise a family in these conditions? What if someone came by right now and saw this? And echoes of a conversation with my mother return: “If it was so important for you to look perfect, then why wasn’t your house cleaner?”
Just as I start to go into overdrive mode – Park the kid in front of the TV! Attack the dishes in the sink! Start a load of laundry! Make all the beds! Frantically toss toys into the drawer! – another conversation comes back to me. This time, it’s a voice of reason, asking me one question: What would your house look like if it was perfectly clean?
It’s a conversation I had with a mentor and friend. At the time, I went deep into fantasy, luxuriating in the thought of crumb-free counters, spot-free mirrors, doors that didn’t get hung up on shoes discarded too close, rooms that stayed clean when I left them. He let me go on and on. Then he quietly told me, “When your house looks like that, you will be living alone.”
I was abruptly stopped short. He was quiet. I sat and thought. Just like I sit and think today.
The books are from when I read to the kids last night, snuggling together on the couch under an afghan. The crayons and bits of paper are from a picture that Ladybug colored for me and cut out. It’s hanging on the fridge now. The mess on the stove is from dinner last night, a dinner that we all shared around the table, that nourished our bodies and strengthened our relationship. These are the indications of life, of people that I love living with me in our home, not always in calm and quiet, not always in clean and neat, but together. Happy. Content.
So I sit and I think. I look around, and I still see the toys, the crumbs, the things that need to be put in order. But instead of choosing to see messy, I choose to see joy. I see life lived together, and lived well, and lived exuberantly. I see evidence of creative play, gifts given and received, and time spent connecting heart-to-heart.
I begin to speak, a new soundtrack to quiet that whisper in my head. I speak aloud and I say: “This is our home. This is where we live. This is where we are safe and free to learn and grow and explore and mess up and start over again. I look around and I see it, and the evidence is beautiful.”