And on the Eighth Day, She Rested.
“How about we honor a Sabbath, and take Sundays off?” Dina suggested. Although we both come from traditional religious backgrounds, our current spiritual practice is like a Greatest Hits album. We draw favorite bits from across the board, making a holy hodge-podge. It’s potent stuff. Our days simmer with a mystical synergy that defies definition.
We’re doing the work, spiritually speaking. We also bust our asses physically, mentally, and emotionally. We shepherd a small tribe of toddlers, for crying out loud! Rather than shuttling them off to another institution, where adults actually get paid to care for children, we’re rolling up our sleeves and plunging in. How do we rock the stay-home-mom life in today’s world? How do we hold space for these enormous littles while tending to our own temperamental inner children? How do we keep the kids clean AND the house clean AND our cars clean AND our selves clean when the only thing that happens effortlessly is chaos?
I figure a day of rest makes great sense, since we both seem hell-bent on cleaning all day, every day. We’ve lived here over a month and some might claim we’re still in the house-holding honeymoon phase. However, I can say with total confidence that this place stays exceptionally clean. This is a real pleasure, and something of a dream come true, except where it crosses into self-pressure.
For example, it’s common practice in community homes for residents to assign chores and make charts and check boxes. For me and Dina, it seems an open format of “do what needs doing whenever you can do it,” allows us both to move freely in full expression of our obsessive-compulsive cleaning tendencies. Cleaning gives us that hit of dopamine, that sense of order, that satisfaction of control. The clean house feels calm, when kids are anything but. And since we’re constantly juggling multiple demands, the open format allows us to pick up each other’s dropped balls without keeping score, which is one of our love languages.
But this means that we’re both in cleaning mode, all the time. Even when we’re in the midst of other tasks, we’re prone to pause for a quick cleaning fix. There is always something that needs to be swept, scrubbed, wiped, or put away. The whole day is subject to such interruptions. Not good for inner calm.
So, for the sake of whole-self regard, we set out to do less. One day. Just let the dust bunnies procreate. Just let the sink fill with dishes. Just let the finger streaks on the glass wave back at us for a while. No cleaning.
Should have been easy, but somehow, it bombed.
We had just finished breakfast. After rinsing off the dishes, we slyly left them in the sink. The children went outside to play with dolls and balls. A minute later, sunlight setting her hair aglow, Athena came running back to ask for a blanket for her baby. I tossed her a dish towel. Meanwhile, Lily called out that she needed a doll, too. Dina fished into the baby bin and pulled out a dingy-looking doll. Its misshapen frilly dress had a smudge of avocado on it.
“I need to wipe the baby’s dress off real quick,” said Dina. Which I thought was fine, since we agreed that emergency cleaning wasn’t subject to the Sabbath. After all, what if somebody pees on the floor? She wiped the dress and sent the doll to its juvenile mother. But then: “I’m just going to wash ALL the baby dolls’ clothes.”
“Sometimes when we relapse, we go hard.” I shot Dina a grin. She sort of laughed, and slid the baby bin back into its cubby. Perhaps fifteen minutes later, she caught me cleaning dust from the bottom of the bathroom sink. Sweeping of the kitchen ensued.
Thus, we joked about our addiction as we fell right back into it.
We’ve decided to designate specific time windows for cleaning. For 30 minutes after each meal, we clean. This means dishes, sweeping, wiping, whatever the space seems to need. When the timer rings, we wrap it up. We both have plenty of other things to do, from unpacking boxes to responding to emails. But the most important job right now? SIT DOWN. Breathe. Stretch. Meditate. Pray. Journal. Feel into and occupy our sacred and bountiful bodies.
We both love to dance. This is a chance to find new grooves in the way we move through space and time. This is an opportunity to train a new pace, and therefore peace, of mind.