Thursday, March 10, 2016

Cleaning, Therapy Style

     We all have our ways of coping. Whether it be from stress or grief or loneliness, we react in a myriad of ways. We may overeat or drink, meditate or pray, snap at people or withdraw into solitude, whatever combination of the above, our minds and bodies are attempting to cope. Some of these methods occur automatically and we react without giving it a thought. Other coping mechanisms may be more intentional, like prayer. I tend towards a particular combination of coping mechanisms for stress and grief, but there is one quirky little thing that I've learned about myself over the years and that is my obsessive compulsive need to clean when life feels out of control. It's not a scary, life altering OCD reaction, no. Rather, it's a day's worth of channeling what I have absolutely no control over into something that I completely control. I guess the reasoning goes like this, "My mom has died and I can't do a thing about it, but I can clean, damn it."
     I can usually detect when the urge to clean is barreling in and my thoughts organize around what cleaning jobs I will tackle. I become very focused and my attitude is forthright. "Everybody stay out of my way and no one will get hurt. Hand over your toothbrushes, I need them." Normally, I would never do hard labor after the dinner hour, but this particular night you might find me scrubbing cabinets at 9:00pm. I hope my family knows me by now and there's no need to worry at such a sight. I'm simply coping.
     Wonderful things come out of this particular coping mechanism. Obviously, the first result is a clean kitchen or perhaps an entire house, depending on my energy level. Secondly, I discovered a new cleaning tool that has upped the game. I saw this on someone's blog but I can't recall where in order to give them credit. This little scrub brush holds soap inside and dispenses it as you scrub. My cabinets have never been cleaner. It even gets at the nooks and corners in the cabinet doors where greasy kitchen dust collects. Lastly and most importantly, we all know that busy hands free the mind to think and wander. Mindless work lends itself beautifully to prayer and thoughtfulness. Memories flow forward, unfinished business is contemplated and routed out from the crevices of both mind and dirty corners, and God lends His ear whenever we call upon Him whether we sit quietly in a chair or on our hands and knees, toothbrush at work.
     So, we are coping. I'm learning what hurts the most, what I can and can't do alone, and who to call on for what. I know that sometimes things have to get messier and harder before they get better. I'm in messy and hard now, trying to reason what just happened these past eight months. I ask myself what did I do right or wrong and what have I learned from it? If the scope of cleaning and renovating projects on my docket is any determination of what I still need to work out in my heart and mind then I'll be at it for a while. Some aspects of caring for my mom will never be resolved and I will need to come to grips with that, too. It hurts, but it hurts because I loved. That, I can accept.


  1. My late father used to buy new products all the time and he had one of those scrubber thingies. (It wasn't from my blog though.)

    This is not an easy time - I remember it well, after my own mother passed away. It's good you are finding ways to cope and perhaps just get your house in order.

    I wish I could be there to sit and have a cup of tea with you. Hugs!

  2. I can understand how you are feeling, Lenora. My mother passed away well over a year ago and often I find myself questioning whether I could have done more for her. She had a very full and long life and now I wish the I had asked her more about her experiences. Many days I am full of regret and other days memories of good times surface to lift me from my depression.