They’re not all going to be fiction. I guess this is an essay?
More fiction tomorrow. I think the rat-things may be a longer story after all.
I clean a lot more than I used to. I don’t mean to brag, oooh my house is cleaner than yours – depending on where you look, it’s spotless or it’s a junk heap with a spider living in the dog-hair dust bunny. But I spend a lot more time cleaning and tidying and wondering why I’m cleaning and tidying.
Part of it’s because I have a nice new space, without all the clutter that psychologically derails many a good cleaning spree. You know what I mean? You’re gonna really clean the kitchen, but before you can clean under the burners you have to make space for the grates on the counters, and to make space you have to put up the flour and find somewhere for the can opener to live, and my god there’s so much dust on those spoons, and before you know it you’re exhausted, the kitchen looks worse than when you started, and there are still crumbs all over the burners. But so far, my space is mostly uncluttered (and I’m fighting hard to keep it that way.)
Part of the ceaseless cleaning, of course, is because Orion is crawling everywhere, putting everything in his mouth. But I’m really not that worried about what he eats. I think it’s really important to let him crawl around outside, and he’s going to get more germs and literal dirt in his mouth from the outside than he could possibly get from my unswept living room floor, so.
Part of the cleaning is just the particular balance of hormones soaking my brain right now, as a nursing mom. I’ve noticed that my visceral response to a lot of things has drastically changed. There’s baby slobber everywhere and I don’t care. Baby snot doesn’t even register. Makes sense that I’m inherently a little more inclined to scrub the applesauce off the floor, right?
But I’ve recently realized it’s just that the countertops are basically the only thing I can control. My husband goes to work, yells and cajoles other adults, gets different workplace processes implemented. Me? I open doors and cans for the cat. I refuse to feed the dog as much as she wants, or let her eat off my plate, or let her lie in the kitchen, or let her knock the baby down and take his food – but she never stops trying. She’s a middle-aged Lab; she’s never going to stop trying. And Orion! Babies just rage around doing whatever they want, and parents either fool themselves about it or accept they can’t make the kid do a damn thing.
All I can do is run and clean the house.
My dad got sober maybe thirty years ago, and I grew up with a lot of AA slogans. I’ve read a lot of on-point criticisms of AA over the years, and I certainly don’t think it’s the only road to Rome (or that Rome is the only place to be, if you follow my strained metaphor), but it’s been a useful philosophy for me for most of my life. Anyway, he’d say that you’re powerless over people, places, and things – meaning that the only thing you can change is your reaction to things. We can argue about definitions of each of those words, and you can come up with increasingly implausible scenarios, but it’s not a deterministic rule. It’s just a handy phrase that I try to keep in mind. The only thing I can change is my reaction. The only thing I can really control right now is whether or not I sweep the living room today.
(If you happen to read this and you’re in a really bad place, please remember that walking the fuck away from an abusive relationship is a perfectly acceptable reaction.)