Sugar Daddy: So, how were the installers? Were they professional?
SD: Did they have you sign anything?
Mad: Yes, I signed their little paper, and I rated them a 10. I hope that was okay.
SD: Jeez, just give it away, why don’t you. Did you sleep with them too?
Mad: Yes. Both of them. The man and the woman.
So I came back from my California trip on Tuesday night, but I’ve been busy busy busy since then. Had to catch up with the kids, who were feeling unloved after a mother-free week. More urgently, had to prepare the house to have new carpet installed. Good news: it was only the downstairs that was getting new carpet. Bad news: There was a lot of crap and furniture downstairs that needed to go somewhere else. We don’t have that many elsewheres on our property. The garage and upstairs were already full of crap. And being that it’s only March, we can’t very well leave our furniture and crap on the front lawn. Or the back lawn, for that matter. (Full disclosure, the front and back lawn are also semi-full of crap, but it’s crap that we’ve more or less given up on. Don’t you wish you were our neighbors? You know you do!)
There are few things more depressing than the process of rendering a room completely empty. An empty room is not itself depressing. Quite the opposite, as far as I’m concerned: an empty room is a thing of beauty. It may be the most beautiful thing in the world. But getting to this point is a soul-killer. It’s the thing I hate about moving. Moving would be a piece of cake if it weren’t for the fact that you have to somehow get all the crap out of the place you’re living so you can go live somewhere else. If I could just pick up and leave and by leave I mean “leave most of my crap behind,” the thought of moving wouldn’t horrify me at all. But no–people tend to insist that if you leave, you leave completely. No traces of your crap-filled life may remain. Since we only had to empty two rooms–albeit two very crap-infested rooms–this experience was only a fraction as horrifying as an actual household relocation would have been. But it was still horrible.
Too many toys, too many papers, too many containers, too many lids that may have container counterparts somewhere in the house but who knows anymore, too many crayons and pencils and markers and pens and scissors and glue sticks and magnets and stickers and screws and nails and random plastic thingies that might be important but I can’t remember why, too many books, too many knick-knacks–and I really actually hate knick-knacks and actively avoid accumulating them but somehow I still do–and too many…things, just things that defy categorization which is why they’ve never been corralled into a box somewhere, but they just roam freely about the cabin like they own the place. Well, they DO own the place. Why shouldn’t they roam about accordingly? It’s just a hopeless situation.
What I want is for someone to come in and magically vaporize everything that I’d never miss. I don’t even care if it’s valuable or useful, just as long as I’d never know the difference. This is why I can’t get rid of the stuff myself. I overthink everything. I know I don’t want this stuff, but I can’t just throw it away. Why can’t I? I DON’T KNOW. It’s not like I care about using up valuable landfill space. They’re going to name our local landfill after us, probably. I don’t know. I grew up in a home where you’d take the butter out of its wax/foil wrapping and then scrape every last bit of butter that clung to said wrapping off of said wrapping so that none of it would be wasted. Do you know how many years it took for me to stop doing that? Do you know that I still have the instinct to do that every time I unwrap a new cube of butter? It’s no wonder I own so many ball point pens, and yet I never have one when I need one. And playing cards. Jeez louise, how many playing cards are lying randomly about this house? None of us even plays cards anymore, and yet I can’t throw out any playing cards because if I’m able to gather all the playing cards together, there must be at least one full deck in there, and a person ought to have a full deck of playing cards, just in case…something…happens, and you need a deck of playing cards. Don’t you? NO, YOU DON’T. And anyway, I can’t make a full deck, even if I wanted playing cards. There’s a metaphor in here somewhere. I’ve lost track of what I was saying.
Anyway, we were ripping out the old carpet late last night–or more accurately, SD was ripping up the old carpet and I was moving crap around, and then I was sweeping up the dust and debris left behind by the old carpet. This was the original carpet from when the house was built in 1987. It looked fine when we moved in, but after eight years of Madhousewear it looks…about 25 years old. We had the upstairs carpet replaced after the fire, of course, which made the downstairs carpet look that much worse, but you don’t really know how horribly you treated your carpet until you see what lies beneath. (Remember that movie, What Lies Beneath? It wasn’t about carpet, but maybe it would have been scarier that way.) You can see every place where somebody spilled something and whatever spilled seeped through the carpet and the padding and muddied up the dirt underneath and then hardened into a concrete-ish substance. It’s one of those things that isn’t surprising but is nevertheless dismaying. I mean, it’s not like you can be proud of it.
I spent about an hour scraping that crud off the family room floor last night. And I had a little epiphany. I’ve spent so many years wondering what I should do with my life, rejecting option after option and recently coming to the conclusion that I’m good for just about nothing, so maybe it’s better if I don’t think about it at all. And then there I was, scraping crud off the floor, giving myself some pretty neat blisters in the process, and I realized that there was something immensely satisfying about it–much more satisfying than the process of emptying the room of all the crap, because it was a discrete goal with a foreseeable end. I knew at some point I would be finished and wouldn’t have to immediately start over. More to the point, I may never have to do it ever again. (You only have to replace carpet every 25 years, right? I should be dead by then. Or so infirm that my husband won’t solicit my labor just to save $400 on the installation.)
What makes housekeeping so unsatisfying and so unfulfilling isn’t that it’s menial drudgery; it’s that so much of it is just perpetual chaos management. Not bringing order to chaos, which is something else entirely, but just managing chaos. Like herding cats for eternity. You and the cats are never going to go anywhere; you’re just going to herd them. Until you die. Or become so infirm that you become one of the cats that someone else has to herd. Or something like that. It’s a metaphor kit; I don’t have instructions for you, just improvise. Anyway, scraping the crud off the bare floor was the opposite of what I usually do, which is play musical chairs with an endless supply of crap. Now I’m throwing in another metaphor. Don’t get confused. It’s not even really a complete metaphor; don’t try to do too much with it. I’m just saying. It felt good to do something that wasn’t going to be undone just as soon as I’d done it. No one was standing over my shoulder pouring more 25-years-worth-of-filth onto the floor as I worked. It was very…empowering.
And I thought to myself, “This might be my calling. Scraping crud that I can walk away from. And just think if I were a professional crud-scraper, I would probably have much better tools and could do an even better job. But the important thing would be that I would love what I did and be proud of it.”
Back in November SD and I went through my MIL’s new house with the home inspector, and he (the home inspector) and SD got to talking about careers and stuff, and he–I’ll just call him Mr. Home Inspector–said something to the effect of “I didn’t have what it takes to go to college, which is how I ended up doing this,” and he said it all self-deprecating-like, but I was thinking, “Man, this guy knows so much stuff–all these codes and requirements and such–and he performs a valuable service, unlike some people I could mention *cough* English majors *cough*. I wish I had a purpose in life.”
I’m telling you, kids. My so-called “writing career”–meh. My even-more-so-called “housekeeping” career–meh. Bringing four human beings into the world–meh. Scraping crud off the family room floor–I felt like I really accomplished something last night. And I rewarded myself with chocolate cake, even though it was 12:30 a.m. because I didn’t just need it–I really believed I deserved it. It just doesn’t get any better than that. No, it doesn’t.