When I was 18, I lived with three other girls.
I was enrolled in 21 credit hours.
I was in marching band.
I worked as a writing tutor.
I lived on a diet of tater tots and canned spinach.
I was stressed.
I threw that stress into my house. I cleaned that old beater pink college house like you wouldn't believe. I'd dust and scrub and scrub and scrub.
My roommates had a pow-wow one night. They pulled me down and told me I had to STOP. I was making them feel lazy.
They thought was getting frustrated because they weren't cleaning enough. They thought I was mad.
"No," I said, "I'm just stressed. When I'm stressed, I clean."
"Oh! Never mind. Carry on..."
I'm not a great housekeeper. It's something I have to work REALLY hard at. I stress clean, yes. But my house isn't always clean or in working order.
For years after I was married, I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. I felt stressed, but I wasn't up for cleaning. Maybe it was the kids. Maybe having kids changed me.
I was tired.
But other women had kids. Their houses were in somewhat working order.
The other women's kids had proper fitting clothing. Mine were always one size behind, and I never seemed to have them dressed warmly enough.
Something was wrong with ME. I was a bad mom.
I was constantly apologizing over the state of my house. I brought my newborns home to clutter -never properly prepared to bring a pure baby back home with me.
I knew my husband was looking at porn, but I didn't know he was an addict.
HE didn't know.
If I didn't know he had an addition, how on earth could I have known I had an addiction to HIS addiction?
I hit my rock bottom big time.
But the great thing about rock bottom? It's bouncy. ROCK sounds so hard, and it is hard. But it surprised me. After I smacked it, I started to feel myself slowly rising.
And on the way back up, I found treasures all around... it's funny: I didn't see the treasures as I was falling. They MUST have been there.
I grab one, then another.
I look at my kitchen counter and finally SEE what a mess it is. I throw myself into it. I replace stacks of paper with a wire basket. I place my vintage cookbooks in a neat line in the basket.
I put homemade cake plates next to them.
After that, the counter stays cleanable.
Then I do something I've never done before: I create a routine.
I clean all day Monday: sheet-washing, floor scrubbing, shelf dusting...
I cook all day Tuesday: freezing, rising yeast, crock potting...
I do laundry all day Wednesday: wringing, folding, movie-watching (my favorite!)...
I shop every other Thursday, and set this day aside as the day to focus on church callings...
I take Friday "off".
I spend the weekend with my family.
It was a glorious routine, and it proved something empowering to me: I was okay. I was living. I could keep a house in somewhat working order! I wasn't a bad mom after all! I just an actively addicted mom.
Pregnancy threw things for a loop, but I clung to the fact of my routine: I couldn't work my routine while pregnant, but I would be able to someday.
This Friday, I was stressed.
Without realizing what I was doing, I'd let some boundaries slip.
I didn't know how to handle it or what to do... and I found myself in the laundry room, chucking every item of clothing OUT into the hallway. I was sorting and scrubbing and washing.
And then my wonderful sponsor called. She asked all the right questions, and in the middle of a filthy laundry room with a dirty blanket draped over my left shoulder, I had an "ah ha" moment.
The stress that had plagued me vanished, and I looked around me.
I was stress cleaning.
I! was STRESS cleaning!
It was glorious! What's more: I was cleaning clothing that FIT my children. They were properly, warmly dressed (or would be, if their clothes had been clean, which they are now).
The weekend continued suit. I embraced my empty womb and cleaned hard-to-reach places with ammonia. I raked leaves, moved a rotted out horse trough (it's going to make an amazing planter box, just you wait and see). I helped my husband paint. I crafted something for the now-clean laundry room.
And today. MONDAY.
I've been cleaning all morning, and I can tell before the day's out that the house will be clean.
Before I started cleaning, I logged online and bought Easter Dresses for my girls. I usually don't think enough in advance to buy my daughter an Easter dress (and I end up at my sewing machine whipping something up from my imagination and fabric scraps that fits snuggly for one whole day).
And you know what? I've been confessed to -told of slips. And I'm okay. I don't hurt.
I can say that honestly: I don't hurt.
Maybe I will hurt later. Maybe the next time he confesses, I'll take my place on the couch with a bowl of cookie dough and a roll of toilet paper and I'll cry... and that's okay. But for now: I'll take NOT hurting. I'll take it and run with it.
I'll clean with it.
I'll bake with it.
I'll fold laundry and shop with it.
I'm not 18 anymore.
But I'M back.