The Dirty Work of Letting Go


It used to be that every Saturday for at least the morning hours, my family and I cleaned the house. Dusted, vacuumed, laundry, cleaned toilets and tubs, scrubbed sinks and counter tops. If I was lucky, I managed to volunteer for outside duty instead which consisted mostly of pulling weeds, using the hula ho, and moving around rocks, bricks, or holding a board for my dad as he cut it. Sometimes if I was really lucky, it meant painting, climbing on the roof, or belly crawling in the crawl space under the house with the silty dust. But usually, every Saturday was clean up day. Roll up your sleeves, dirty work.

I’m afraid I’m raising two light-weights when it comes to chores. We have a housekeeper come to our house twice a month. The night before they arrive, we scurry about the house picking up our clutter. Before we have a big party, we do more deep cleaning. But since I’ve been single, there have been very few “project days.” I have not only housekeepers, but a gardener and a pool guy. I think my kids pulled weeds only a few times as kids and they probably don’t even remember it. They helped me plant a few plants too. But not much more than that. I don’t think they’ve ever cleaned a toilet. They are going to hate me but I think I’m going to have to teach them how to do these things. Maybe lay off the housekeeper for a month or two…

Nobody sane relishes dirty work. But it does feel pretty good to get a sense of accomplishment seeing the results of your work. Everything in its place as it should be, and sparkling clean.

Sometimes the easy way out isn’t better. It makes us more dependent on experts, on a higher income. We get used to soft and easy rides and when things get tough we are at a loss how to manage.

It just amazes me how much people look to a life of cushion as their goal…and I have to admit, I have done the same.

Before I moved to California I spent four hours a week on my 1/3 acre yard. And when we first moved we tried to do our own yard. But it was so large and so manicured. We would spend the 4 hours on one side of our yard and turn around realizing we couldn’t do it properly even if we spent two whole days a week. We could have learned how to do the pool ourselves, we were just lazy. And the housekeeping? Well…I really hate cleaning toilets. Soft. I’ve grown soft.

We are soft too when it comes to doing the hard things in life. Parenting unselfish and unspoiled children is difficult these days. Telling them no on principle instead of necessity doesn’t go over quite as well with the kiddos and some parents bend to peer pressure so much that they say yes even when something isn’t affordable.

Telling people no at all is difficult but sometimes it must be done. It takes back bone, but it is hard to do.

It has been difficult for me to keep pushing away people who want in. Knowing it is not the best thing for me, does not make it any easier because I’m the type of person who cares about other people’s feelings…even more than my own at times. It hurts me to knowingly hurt someone else…even if it is the right thing to do.

I’ve learned a lot in my singleness about deciding what is best for me and accepting those things in my life that are edifying and beneficial and turning things away that tear me down. Sometimes it is very messy, painful, and difficult. But the end result is that you’ve cleaned up some messy parts and your life has more order, is purer, and sparkling. And the peace and contentment I’ve felt recently is testimony to it being worth it.

I’m really bad about tossing stuff out. I tend to hold onto certain things a bit longer than necessary. First they get set into a corner. After several months that pile gets moved to the garage, and eventually gets sold, given to good will or trashed. I don’t know why I do it this way. It for me is the process of letting go.

Yesterday I shredded some photos I had of Martin. I tossed old cards, notes, and letters. I just had to get rid of them. It was time. It wasn’t easy.

Letting go is hard. It just is. For some people more than others. And we are sometimes incapable of making clean breaks. But we keep heading in the right direction and we eventually get there.

The important part is not waffling so much that people feel like you are messing with them or not being true. We can’t take the easy way out sometimes. In order to be honorable, we must do things right and finish the job we started.

Knowing you have to, doesn’t make it any easier. It’s dirty work. But it’s better than looking around one day and realizing your life is so messy that you become a candidate for an episode of hoarders. We must, at times, roll up our sleeves and get reacquainted with the mop. Prepare for our backs and even our hearts to ache the next day….but it will be worth it in the end.

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