Saturday, December 15, 2007

Remembering the dead....with a mop.

Today would have been my mum's 83rd birthday had she not passed away this summer. This coming Wednesday will mark the 6 month anniversary of her death. All this combined with Christmas and the ongoing grieving of my dad's death means I have a lot of emotions flopping around.

I wanted to do something to honor mum's birthday today, so I took up my mop.

I hate cleaning, I hate cleaning with a searing white hot passion. I can push the vacuum cleaner around, and I will happily clean up the kitchen so I can bake, but there is something about the combination of buckets of water, bleach and a mop that sends shudders through my spine.

So today, I 'swiffered' my floors, then I mopped them and finally I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed each tile.

And with each wipe I remembered Mum.

I didn't remember her because she loved cleaning. I don't think there are many people in this world who would list 'Cleaning' as a hobby. I did it because of a lesson Mum taught me through the way she lived.

The energy used complaining about and avoiding a task is usually far more than the energy expended completing the task.

As a child I could quite happily waste hours complaining about being asked to tidy my room. I would rail about the injustice about how if it was my space I should be able to keep it just how I liked. Invariably the actual task of tidying would take far less time to do than I anticipated. It frequently surprises me how quickly I tidy up when I finally set my mind to it.

Mum didn't like to clean - but she kept a clean house.
Mum didn't like to cook - but she did, nearly every day.

Mum did what she had to do without visible moaning or complaint. She did the tasks quickly and efficiently so she could get back to her love - her garden.

And so, today, I stopped complaining and picked up my bleach. I stopped avoiding and started scrubbing. Now on my Mother's 'Scale of Clean' I'm sure the Bathroom Floor only moved from 'Unfit for Human Habitation' to 'In Need of A Really Good Scrub'. I can live with that. It's the Attitude behind the Action that is important here.

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux said "Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love."

So to honor Mum's memory I mopped the floor- and by doing so I scattered some flowers in the garden she loved.


Steve said...

I don't think of cleaning as a hobby but it is a marvellous way for me to avoid things I really should be doing. Cleaning scratches my itch for instant "achievement" gratification. I tell myself "Wow -- look at what a difference I made!" I can't clean up the mess in Baghdad or New Orleans, but I can plow through that stack of laundry!" or "I have a work deadline to meet and progeress is so slow; but if I dust my room then I get to see immeidate results -- woohoo!"

Yeah, cleaning for me falls somewhere between self-care, avoidance technique and mild obsessive-compulsive disorder. I like it most when it feels like self-care, I like it least when I use it to mask or avoid my emotions or some more important task.

Ginger said...

Lovely! you certainly did honor your mum!

And just so you know, I LOVE cleaning, especially with bleach. The more bleach, the better. I am sort of a germ-a-phobe, and bleach lets me know that everything is blissfully germ-free (or so I tell myself). :)
But I HATE to cook. And I'll whine and rail about that any day.

Deidra said...

Steve and Ginger if you ever run out of things to clean I know this little apartment in Cheektowage, NY that is forever in need of a cleaning, laundry, and bathroom, floors feel free to stop over any time, I am even willing to pay you. But all joking aside I have off the next two weeks and I have somewhat not been looking forward to it simply because then I have no excuses for my dirty house so today in honor of your mom Peter I am going to scrub my floors do literally 15 loads of laundry and just be thankful that I have all these things to clean. Thanks for your post.

Rima Bonario said...

Well you already know one of the ways I have overcome my aversion to housework by turning it into a powerful meditation of self and family love. It seems Peter you have done the same with your Mum as the inspiration.

BTW I absolutely ADORE St. Terese of Lisieux and felt magical connection to her when visiting Lisieux, France and her resting place.