tending (homes and souls) takes time

by rebecca on October 9, 2012

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For more than 2 years I’ve been trying to keep the horizontal spaces in my kitchen cleared off. I mandated. I nagged. I berated (especially myself). Occasionally I cajoled and bribed.

I surged with sponge in hand, wiping away crumbs or signed my name to assure teachers I’d read their syllabus. I put away reading glasses day after day. Why could I not learn to put them where they belonged in the first place?

Sometimes I sauntered. I’d listen to someone on the phone doodling on one post-it note after another, scooping up the whole conversation on a rainbow of tiny squares. The squares would live on my counter for days until pancake batter smeared the words beyond recognition.

I’ve been yearning for clean counters each week when I write out my goals and send them to my buddy, Yvette. Some weeks I cheer and some weeks I moan.

Why can I not stay ahead of this mess? I’d ask.
But of course that is the wrong question to ask. My brain came up with many answers.

  • Because it’s unending.
  • Because it’s overwhelming.
  • Because 4 people contribute and I am the main one who cleans it up.

Ask a better question: How can I stay ahead?

  • Tend daily.
  • Tend during breakfast.
  • Tend while someone else cooks dinner.
  • Get others to tend with you.

It seems so simple now. On this side of the lovely Light streaming into my kitchen.

In the darkness, when I was mired in “Where am I getting this wrong?” I couldn’t see my way out.

That’s when I realized how much I wanted something. For myself. Work that made my life meaningful. Teaching. Writing. Reaching out to people with different lives that aren’t so very different from me.

But I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my family. This is EveryWoman’s conundrum.

The kitchen was my tipping point.

If the kitchen was out of control, I couldn’t function. I’d try to make dinner when I was tired and be overwhelmed by papers where I was trying to chop potatoes, causing my nerves to fray. I lost my temper more frequently. I lost imagination when it came to good food. I had no focus when my kids were talking to me.

A dirty kitchen was keeping me from connecting to the people I love most. This is why I was finally able to see clearly enough to ask for what I needed.

Asking for help is often tough for me. I back away, ask slowly, or ask sideways so people misunderstand. But this year I was direct, “Empty the dishwasher.” “ Clean this until nothing is left on the counter.” “Put away all the groceries.” “Cook dinner, please.” “Don’t leave until we’re all finished.”

When people moaned, or when they dove for cover, I searched them out. I asked. I wanted help.

Because I didn’t just want a clean kitchen anymore. I wanted to pursue dreams of my own without risking connection.

When have you gotten enough clarity to have a project breakthrough? Do school papers end up on your kitchen counter as well? What is Autumn Light illuminating in your home?

I am participating in 31-days of Soulful Cleansing. This project is the collaborative brainchild of The Nester. Join her here and see all the other 31-day projects.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Shannon October 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm

I hear you there! Yes you’ve got to teach the kids how to respect the spaces and your wishes…everybody grows!


rebecca October 9, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Everybody does grow. That’s what has amazed me about asking for what I want. At first I felt like I was failing, then I realized I was offering another layer of connection and intimacy if I remained open to that.


Lindsey October 9, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Not sure I have clarity yet, but reading your words here (and every time I do) helps me inch towards it. Thank you for that. xo


rebecca October 19, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Lindsey, I think the clarity of which you speak is both elusive and takes time. You are so persistent in writing that I know it will come. Light bends. It will find you because you are so diligent about being willing to receive.


Kristen @ Motherese October 10, 2012 at 12:33 am

Horizontal spaces are hard for me too. They’re magnetic, I think. Place one magazine there and the mail and that day’s schoolwork and a campaign flyer end up there too.

You’ve helped me learn to start small: for me it’s the end table next to “my” seat on the couch. At the end of the day, I tend it by clearing it off. And I find when I do, it stays clearer longer.

The kitchen counters are tricky here. I like them clear, but, like you, I’m dealing with other people and their things and their ideas of where those things should live. It’s a process I’m still negotiating with them and with myself.


rebecca October 19, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Magnetic indeed! I am learning so much about tending. I think tending is like exercise, it is something that needs practice long enough in life that it begins to be its own reward. Tonight I am alone in my own home and the thing that sounds most soothing is a podcast, a candle and some time to put away laundry and magazines at a gentle pace. Boring? maybe, but also very gentle to my soul.


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