Cleanliness is next to sanity or Pledge saved my life

First off things are going well in the office. Drama free but super busy. I've been working non-stop, every day since that fateful meeting a week ago. By the time we head for the port on Sunday for the cruise I will have worked 10 straight days. If you remember I normally work 15-18 days a MONTH. This has been a shock to my system. I love the work and can live with the long, extra days seeing as something good has come from all the drama. But I am running out of time and have done nothing to prepare for my trip.

Thankfully, I got GNW (Gorgeous New Housekeeper) on the phone last night and she's coming in the morning, 5 days early, to help out. OK, some reading this may think me petty and spoiled relying on a housekeeper but with mine & T's schedules (even with my old schedule) it is impossible for us to keep this house clean and this place running smoothly. I am truly happiest when everything in my home is perfect. It's almost spiritual to me knowing that there isn't dust hiding on top of the pictures & mirrors and that everything is in its place. I've always been a neat/clean freak (I blame my mother, "Miss Perfect Homemaker" for raising me in a spotless home) but it became even more important to me several years ago when I was at the height of a full-fledged depression. I'd closed a business that I poured my heart & soul into and was virtually left with nothing to do with myself; a depleted bank account; and tens & thousands of dollars in debt. Add to this that I had just started to allow myself to grieve for the death of my father -- 4 years after the fact.

At my lowest point the only option I saw for myself was death. Sad but true. It literally took me finding myself on the floor of my den one afternoon holding my father's antique pistol (loaded) and completely broken down before I made a call to a shrink and decided to make a change. It was life or death for me. I wisely chose the former. I remember this moment as if it were 5 minutes ago. It’s said that there is a changing moment in everyone’s life that decided who they will become and this was mine. Slowly I pulled myself back up to walk among the living. With medication, therapy, and tons of free time I threw myself into my home. It was all I had left -- or so I thought anyway. Part of my grieving process was cleaning and organizing. I was obsessed but in a good way as I had a mission….something to strive for. And at the end of the day the glean and shine, the smell and feel, of a clean home was like being held by a loved one -- something back then I wouldn't(couldn't) allow a real person to do. I had to do this alone.

Aside from my therapist I wouldn’t allow a person to get close to me during this time but dust rag and a can of Pledge became my best friend. I couldn’t open my heart up to a friend or family member but I exposed my soul to the tops of the cabinets and the underside of my household appliances. Organizing drawers and closets was healing for me and carefully vacuuming a treasured Persian rug was like confessing my sins and secrets to a priest.

I remember one day vividly. I was cleaning the antique piano (circa 1890) that my father had bought and refurbished for me shortly after I was born. It is a gorgeous Tiger Oak upright piece with a contradiction of bold, thick curves and delicate carvings and detail. As I painstakingly cleaned each key and polished each notch in the fine carvings I allowed myself to let go of some of the sorrow and worthlessness that was consuming me and simply enjoy being alive. When I was finished with this task I sat down and began to play. Nothing elaborate by any means but rather a little song that to this day makes me laugh, “The Happy Little Robin”. It is Beginner piece that my piano teacher, Miss Clara Goddard, taught me to broaden the agility of my young fingers and accustom myself to the keys. It is basically a series of scales, a heavy pedal, and a repetitious chorus. My mother HATED this song as I would play it over and over and over. I would practice for 2 hours a day and 50% of the time it was this song. “My GOD can’t you play something else?!?!", she’d scream out from the kitchen or “Are you really sure you want to take piano lessons?” Anyway, I played The Happy Little Robin on my perfectly cleaned/polished piano and the healing began.

Back to the theme of this post…each spotless mirror, painting, surface, wall, or perfectly polished piece of glass or silver represented an achievement of mine and proved to me that I was worth something again. Eventually I lowered the wall I’d built around myself and began to allow people back into my life. But only when I deemed my home perfect.

Obviously things changed for me fiscally and emotionally over time and I'm happy to say that the long, hard road that got me where I am today was the best thing that ever happened to me. Coming up from my emotional bottom was a humbling, growing, test of self worth. I emerged stronger, happier, and well-adjusted than I'd ever been in my entire life. The small things in life -- such as a clean home for example -- were something I'd never take for granted again. I am thankful for this dark period in my life as it opened my eyes and heart to what was/is truly important to my existence.

Eventually, the cleaning became slightly less important and living each day as if it were my last took its place. But it’s through this experience that to this day I want my home…the core of my being to be as perfect as possible. I can’t do it all myself and “live” a normal life but I “need” it as a reminder of where I have been and who I’ve become. That’s why I hire a housekeeper. I still get that warm, tingly feeling when I come home at the end of the day and my home shines – it’s a reflection that I now shine as well. That and quite frankly I spent WAY too damn much time cleaning! J It's my hard earned money that I part with bi-weekly for a housekeeper and one of the few real indulgences in my life. So I'll not defend it to anyone. As long as I have someone who takes enough pride in their work and is trustworthy enough for to trust them in my home alone and I can continue to afford their services I will have a housekeeper. It’s a hell of a lot less expensive than my therapist was and it makes me truly happy.

Anyway GNW is coming Friday morning so I will have a clean home when I leave town and a clean home when I return. It’s a win-win for me all around!
You know what? I think before I leave for the office this morning I’ll actually play The Happy Little Robin on my soon-to-be cleaned piano.


cola boy said...

Why do I have this image of Divine spraying a can of Glade into the air while I scratch a number on the Odorama Card? (And kudos to you if you get that reference). But seriously, if you are going to be obsessive about something, cleaning is one of the best things. :-) Have a great cruise, Pookie!

Mr. Brian said...

I really love the raw brevity in this post. Amazing what little things come to mean so much to us.

And you reminded me how much happier it makes me to see a room/house well-cleaned.

Gotta love ya for that!

The Dangerous Man said...

Sbsolutely Pookie, I agree with Cola Boy (not because he drinks horrible sugar based drinks) but because his comment is right. Luckily for me, I have a boyfriend that is the same as you, therefore I have no need to be clean. It's done for me! ;-)

Being house proud gives you something to smile about (I think - no it does. I'm always happy when its all tidy).

ella m. said...

I'm not one to critcize anyone's sanity keeping indulgences as i have too many in my glass house to throw stones.

I agree with the above posters, if you are going to be meticulous about something, cleanliness is an excellent choice.

Petunia McGillicuddy said...

i always think, the state of my apartment or the orderliness of my desk represents the state of my mind. one day last semester in the middle of all this craziness i just dropped everything and started cleaning my apartment. the next day on npr there was a segment about cleaning and how many people find it therapuetic. what we do outwardly is an expression of what we are going through inside.

that said, i hope you have a truly relaxing and lovely, self-indulgent vacation!!!! check out some cheeks for me as you are languishing poolside with a novel and a fancy umbrella drink!

doris said...

Offtopic: You are away soon so I just gotta wish you happy cruisin' ;-) I hope you and T have an extra super fantastically splendiferous and huggified holiday.

I'd be waving you off at the pier if that is possible. Oh to be on the ocean wave and enjoying the warm salt air.... I am assuming you are going somewhere warm?!


Badaunt said...

My house would make you INSANE. Even the dust has dust. We need a housekeeper, but we'd have to clean up first. (Actually we need to move to a new place, but we can't afford to. We can only afford a place this big because it's earthquake damaged and the landlord doesn't want to pay for repairs.)

I understand fully what you mean about the turning point. I don't think I've ever been really depressed (or at least not like that, not for long), but there was a moment when I had to make a life-changing decision. It felt like falling into an abyss - and then finding I could fly. Everything just turned around, and nothing was ever the same again.

Scott said...

What a beautiful post - love it! Thank you for sharing this slice of your journey. Really - in so many ways - love it!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Hikaru said...

Feel no guilt about having a housekeeper. It's the simpler pleasures in life that matter, not the mountains that we scale to get them.

Sangroncito said...

A moving post (and well written).
And by the way, just today (Feb. 3rd) I read your Jan. 1st post (1st Pookie Blog Awards) and I was so honored...thank you!!!! (since internet speeds are so slow here I don't get to read as many posts as I would at home)....thanks again...and here's to clean living!

Derek said...

great blog i'm really enjoying it.

Pookie65 said...

Welcome Derek! And many thanks to everyone for the comments. I've said it before but I mean it -- you guys are the best.

Having this blog has really given me an outlet to express myself and unload a lot of excess emotional baggage. Meeting all of you along the way has been particularly wonderful. At some point in life I'd like to meet each of my friends here face to face and give you each the hugs I can only do now through words.

Thanks again!

Spider said...

Beautiful post Pookie - enjoy your cruise - you sure deserve it!

The Confused One said...

Good post. I think I am going through what you went through. I don't have a gun though nor does my old man. I anyway don't like the idea of having my brain sprayed to the wall. Anyway, you found cleaning as your way out of your troubles, I, on the other hand, am still groaping in darkness