Five months ago I met a nice guy and started going out with him. Anything I could say about him would sound very much like a Hallmark card but, I won! After 44 years, far more of which were spent single than not, I found the guy I kept insisting I wasn’t actually waiting for but really I was. I’ve got joy, laughter, friendship and love coming to me now in regular doses and I don’t have words to explain what that means to me.
This really isn’t about him, exactly, but it’s a good starting place. I’ve been on the earth enough years to understand that the idea that a man is going to solve your problems is one of the worst delusions out there. I knew that before I met him, and I’ve known it as we started this journey together. I’m still me, and I’m still dragging this broken wheeled suitcase stuffed with crap I’m not thrilled about everywhere. Not to be indiscreet, but he’s got one too. We’re middle aged. At this point, if you don’t have one of those battered cases that in itself would be profoundly suspicious.
What I wasn’t really prepared for was having some of those things about me I’m not thrilled about actually start to get worse. I’ve been packing on the pounds since he and I started going out and I hate it. It started innocently enough really. He and I go out to eat together a lot, more than when I was eating alone, and if you’re going to be eating out you should have what you want, by god, and suddenly gravy is starting to be a significant food group. But, it’s not just the eating he and I do together. I’m eating like crap at home too. More often than I should admit publically (I should never admit this publically) I find myself visiting 7-11 for an Icee and nachos, or grabbing a bag of chips for an afternoon snack, or doing drive through breakfast even though it would take me exactly the same amount of time if not less to make breakfast for myself.
I brought it up to him, that I felt we should eat out less, and he agreed. He admitted he wanted to start eating better himself and then, get this, he’s actually started to eat better. Skipping the bread and desserts. Leaving food on the plate. Making himself oatmeal at the beginning of the week to eat for breakfast. I have…well…I have definitely decided that I’m going to join Weight Watchers again and, um, I was going to go today but then I didn’t and that’s as far as I’ve gotten. Still I’m making food choices not conducive to health or weight loss. Still I’m beating myself up for it.
In my younger incarnations, I can imagine handling this differently. I think the correct term is “poorly”. Getting pissed at him for doing what we both agreed was a good idea. Using this as an opportunity to assault myself for being a failure as a human and proof that I would never ever ever lose weight. I know this is true because this girl is not gone, and the feelings snap at me, but I see them coming. I see the crazy. It has made me wonder, though, about the difference in methodology. To make a change that’s good for me, is it always necessary for me to drag my ass through a long dark night of the soul first, or could I just make the oatmeal and start eating it?
The thing about being single for most of your life, and in my case not only single but living alone sans any roommate or human companionship for over 20 years, is that there’s a lot of crap you don’t like about yourself that you can hide. Or at least pretend to hide. Housekeeping is something with which I am not naturally proficient. You remember that Friends episode where Ross dates the woman with the disgusting apartment played by Rebecca Romijn? Well, usually, mostly, my house isn’t quite that bad although it has approached it more than once.
I have dealt with this mostly by not having people over. For a while, in my 20s & 30s, I would have a big party once a year and, in part, the point of the party was to make myself REALLY CLEAN my house. Eventually it just seemed like an insane way to keep house, so I did the only rational thing. I stopped having my annual party.
It bothers me, that I don’t keep my home clean, but somehow never enough to keep up with it. I spend a lot of energy making myself feel bad about it, but little doing. But now there’s this other person, this person I want to spend time with. For the first month, at least, that we went out, I wouldn't let him come over to my house. I saw, clearly, that there was some crazy happening, but I felt kind of helpless against it. I have cleaned since then and, in fact, I am cleaning more regularly than I have in the past, but it feels like sweeping the desert sometimes, and most of the time I don’t want him to come over. I don’t want to spend time at my place.
The problem is, though, that my life is at my house. My pets. My clothes. My home. This is not a problem that can be solved by spending every available minute over at his place. I have to find a balance. I have to find a level of clean that I don’t mind him seeing and that I can maintain. Can I just start sweeping without having a long dark night of the soul first? I haven’t managed so far.
This week I went out to Wenatchee to present at a conference and I grabbed a talking book from the library for the long drive. I grabbed Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott. I love Anne Lamott and I was pretty sure I’d already read Grace (Eventually) as I read all her books. As I started listening, though, it seemed new to me. Sometimes we read things and they slip through our fingers, but when we pick them up later, at the right time, they surprise us.
Lamott covers a lot of ground in Grace (Eventually) but the part that sparked in my brain wasn’t even a big part. It was something said more in passing on the way to somewhere else, but what Lamott said is that keeping your house clean isn’t about maintaining an outward appearance but about feeding your soul. I’m not really doing it justice, what she said, but that’s what stuck with me. It’s about caring for my soul. I don’t mean soul in the sense of salvation or dirt is a sin or anything like that. I mean you, your soul, the most you of you, deserves a nice place to hang out.
So, today, I didn’t make it to Weight Watchers. I flopped around the house like a deflated balloon. The presentation was a lot of hard work, and then it was over, and the tide rushed out and took me with it. But I kept thinking about my soul, what my soul deserved. And I went into the kitchen and started to wash dishes. I washed all the dishes. I wiped down the kitchen counters too, although there’s more work to do in there. A floor to mop. A fridge to clean. But, for now, all the dishes are clean.
I went to the diner next door for dinner. I got half a dinner salad, a baked potato, and a piece of chocolate pie. That’s the way it goes sometimes. I wasn’t built in a day.