When life gives you lemons, get out the vacuum cleaner. I get some bad news, something I can’t change, and there is nothing I can do right now except absorb the information. I can’t go there, I can’t comfort, all I can do is worry. So I do what I always do, start to clean. I take the kitchen apart and scrub till it gleams. Then what? I pull everything out of the refrigerator and start to cook. All the ingredients are shaped into a coherent meal and the family is making those quiet approving noises as they tuck in. Yes, all feels right with the world. This part that I can control for a little while.
I don’t often acknowledge it, but life as I know it is a delicate balance. Life works when all those elements are operational, but take out one support, have one thing fail, and it’s shocking to see how quickly things fall apart. When the kids were small, that balance between two working parents, living nowhere near family, and daycare was more precarious than I originally recognized. Until the morning daycare called me to come pick up my son because he was sick. I was at work and thought, “no, he stays there until 5:30, what do you mean?” That project deadline was looming, but I had to leave. While I imagined my co-workers’ angry glares as I theoretically left them high and dry, it turns out the world didn’t end. This little bump in the order of things was absorbed and all was well.
For some reason, when life is chugging along, I tend to think that it will always be “this way” – whatever way has become the recent pattern. I know what to expect and there are certain things to look forward to. When something unexpected happens, I’d like to think that I can be flexible. I want to see myself as easy-going, able to roll with the punches, but I’m not always good at it. I get flustered or angry – reactions that feel like an important release, but I tire of rehashing what I should have done, and how the world conspired against me.
Hence, cleaning to sublimate whatever else is going on. Rather than rail against the world, or feel unfairly put-upon, I try to channel it into something that may at least have a useful outcome. With a cooler head, I realize the sky isn’t falling, the sun will come up tomorrow, etc. And – bonus!- I have a clean house.