Today was a mess. Not the end-of-a-great-day kind, but the drive-me-crazy kind. The kind where we barely reach bedtime with sanity intact, and then are faced with cleaning up the aftermath of the day.
Tonight, he offered to switch places.
“Momma, how about you go to sleep and I clean?”
That would be great, if only he could do the cleaning! Maybe he’ll offer again in 10 years. I just smiled and kissed him goodnight, knowing his words to be a ploy for a later bedtime.
I used to hate cleaning at the end of the day. Everything back in its place… to what end!? It all just gets strewn about again the next morning. I lived on the edge of selling everything – not for the sake of some lofty ideal, but simply to avoid putting it all away one. more. time.
The cleaning went on (and on and on) until one day I finally submitted to its reign over the twenty minutes after the kids go to bed. Twenty minutes isn’t enough to keep everything shiny, but it’s enough to wake up in the morning and feel like I have a clean(er) slate.
It’s an uneasy truce at best, but it will do for now.
I first began to make peace with putting things away when I realized its correlation to morning drama. With the hot ticket items of the previous day stowed, the kids wake up and begin creating new games instead of resuming yesterday’s feuds.
This was my turning point because, as tiring as cleaning is, our messy house is nothing compared with the internal chaos of small children. I’m on my second threenager, and emotions without name or comprehensible cause flow constantly from his little person. Big emotions that don’t fit his three and a half foot stature. Emotions that belong to the person he is becoming, not just the person he is. And what this little person does with his emotions now is building the framework of a big person’s inner life (even if the issue at hand is a slightly crooked line of toy cars).
I suppose I can’t complain, I’m a mess too! A jumble of emotions, intentions, passions; all strewn around until you can’t even see the floor. I, too, am learning where to put my big emotions, and what devastated me a year ago is no long the day-darkening apocalypse it once was.
Putting things away gives me room to breathe, space to see a new day differently and freedom from whatever didn’t happen the day before. The old day’s passing is made final, without leaving the aftermath to clutter a new one.
I wish I was good at keeping my soul as uncluttered as my living room, but in reality the junk just starts piling up as soon as it’s clean! Sometimes I wonder why I bother. There’s always a new slight to nurse, a new grief to sift, a new worry to add to the pile. But if I want to welcome a new day, it will not do to hang on to my old habits, grudges, and hurts. They must be put where they belong or else thrown out entirely.
It does my soul good to listen when God invites me to sit in silence and sort through the mess, to rid my inner life of the that which is no longer needed and that which never should have made it in to start with.
When I tend my soul, God can whisper into it the promise of a new day, of games we’ve yet to play and hopes we’ve yet to examine.
The old has gone and the new has come.
© 2020 Jacqueline Tisthammer. All Rights Reserved.
(Photo by Monique Carrati on Unsplash)