I am blessed to have a life filled with the most wonderful friends.
Sitting at a dining room table or on neighboring sofas, drinking tea (or wine),
Lots of talking.
Sharing ourselves and our lives and our hearts and our souls.
These visits are always magical.
Why is it then, that whenever I arrive at their homes (or to be honest, they arrive at mine), the first words after “hi” and “come in” are, “please excuse the mess”? Where did this come from?
When I was growing up, Saturday morning was reserved for chores: vacuuming the house and dusting everything, whether it needed dusting or not. I was the only girl so these jobs fell to me. It felt like a prison sentence; I was held hostage in the house till the work was done. I did what I needed to do quickly and bolted—while my own room was (what I considered) a comfortable mess. My own little piece of rebellion.
When my mom went to work and we hired a cleaning lady, my mom would clean before she arrived, so the cleaning lady didn’t think we lived like slobs. God bless her, the woman still maintains an immaculate home. Me on the other hand…
After college, I moved in with my boyfriend and did what I’d always done: I spent half of Saturday cleaning our home and doing laundry while he went out to play. Over time, my resentment grew, and coupled with other issues, the relationship was eventually done.
Three years out of college and I was living alone for the first time in my life. I was free to do whatever I wanted. Laundry was mandatory, but deep cleaning was optional.
I went through a phase for a few years where I was moving every six months and I joked that when it was time to dust, I found a new place to live. I dusted, packed and unpacked in the new place. I killed two birds with one stone.
These days? I do what I want on Saturday mornings—sometimes I clean, sometimes I do other things. One Saturday morning, I skipped cleaning and went indoor skydiving. I have two wonderful boys, two cats, a house with a bunch of houseplants and a large Lego collection.
I try to keep up with the mess—stepping on Legos in the middle of the night is a pain unlike any other–but dusting? Eh. I dust it when I see it.
I love my friends and my family. And they love me. Why do we feel the need to maintain this image of perfection, for one another?
And this obsession with perfection is not just limited to our homes. As a massage therapist, a day doesn’t go by without a female client apologizing for her legs not being perfectly smooth and shaved. Razor stubble doesn’t impede successful muscle manipulation. And for the record, I have yet, in 14 years, heard a man apologize for hairy legs, back, chest, beard, or hairy anything else.
What would life look like if we let the illusion of perfection go?
If we stop apologizing for being human: for having hair, for having kids who leave Legos on the floor, for the last of the dinner dishes in the sink, a stray dust bunny or two, or a little bit of dust on the shelves?
What would we have to give up to do this? What freedom lies on the other side? What would life feel like without the undercurrent of simmering resentment? What if, instead of apologizing for the mess, we accept our home as a reflection of who we are: human, flawed, standing metaphysically naked in front of the people we love, and just embrace our lives and our selves?
They see what we try to hide anyway and love us in spite of it, so why not? I am willing to try.
So come on in! I’ve got Chardonnay in the fridge. Look at this really cool Lego ship my son just made! Just slide it over and sit with me; I want to catch up.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s Own