Monday, May 28, 2007


Spring brought with it an urge to spank my house into shape. For me the urge itself was a relief. I had become comfortable with clutter and disarray after my breakdown. I'd had to be. There was a time when I couldn't do anything about it because I was in bed crying, and after that was a time when I taught myself to let go of general housewifery in order to stop yelling about the shit all over the kitchen counter and kicking shoes against walls because some asshole left them in my path.

All of this was wonderful and instructive, but as of this spring, I couldn't contain myself anymore. I really needed to reorder the linen closet. I really needed to plant flowers and herbs and I really needed to dig compost into all the planting beds.

This kind of work required my strong back, but it also required trips to big-box stores, and it required substantial mental energy spent on the merits of bamboo storage bins and a complete inventory of the house in order to figure out where in the hell to put the dog food bin so we can use the shoe cubby for shoes. Etcetera.

This can be sort of fun. What household manager hasn't experienced the breathless rush of possibility upon entering a place like The Container Store? Alas, all problems are not solved in one four-hour block while the kids are at home with the sitter. I learned for the hundredth time that this sort of organizational and freshening campaign requires merchandise that must be measured, scrutinized, paid for, experimented with, and, about 50% of the time, returned. Which necessitates more car trips.

But I was into it. I solved the kitchen command center problem. I solved the toy storage problem. I amended the soil in my yard and planted dozens of new plants. I bought a big-girl bed for Audrey, and moderately-priced bedding from a giant chain store. (I wanted to splurge on cool stuff from Habitat but it turns out that these groovy modern bedding design houses don't make their groovy stuff in twin size. Probably they figure no sane person would spend that kind of money on a kid's duvet cover.) I still have not solved the shoe cubby problem.

But that's fine because I'm all emptied out now. I can't spend another moment in one of those stores. I can't spend another drop of brainpower on what color towels to get for the bathroom. I don't want to buy anything or fix anything or make anything happen. I just want to sit in the sun and read novels. I want to primp the flowers with Jonah, and have evening picnics on the front lawn, and, in a larger sense, tend what I have created.

Now, as I try over and over to write, I keep hearing the voice of writing-guru Natalie Goldberg in my head: "Sometimes, you're empty."

Sometimes you're empty. There's a new thing to observe. What is it like when I am basically done creating for the moment? What is it like when striving has ceased? There's nothing to work out. Things are proceeding as they're going to proceed. I can sit on my deck and look at the orange nemesia that I planted in pots last month radiate color and warmth. A breeze will cause the blossoms to tremble, exposing their pink undersides. My black dog will streak across the yard and stop short at the cedar tree while a squirrel scratches up the trunk and chatters in victory.

This is all punctuated by my children demanding a graham cracker and insisting I decide a disagreement over who has the rights to the squirt bottle. But that's fine.

This is just being. It's okay not to be trying to make something out of nothing. If memory serves, Natalie Goldberg also says that when you are empty, you are supposed to lie around and watch the grass grow for awhile. Doing nothing is a great opportunity for spiritual practice, as well as a time for recharging. So I needn't feel guilty.

Plus, we all know it won't last.


Jane said...

I get to read two things before I go to bed tonight. I choose you and and article from MSN on The Right Haircut for Your Face. Both will be the very things I need to prepare for the week ahead.

susie said...

Fabulous. So glad you checked in.

Rose said...

Ahhhh, that sounds so wonderful! Empty...I think I will have that moment of empty in about 4 years...ahhh something to look forward too.