Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dusting the Pipes Part 2

If you haven't read Part 1, please do, otherwise this might not make much sense.

So, I wanted to share my thoughts on some of the other jaw-dropping rules and conditions of the house with the cleanest pipes on the planet.

Rule about guests: Her 13-year-old daughter is not allowed to have more than one friend over at a time. Why? Because the one time she did have a few friends over, the mom went ballistic because when they left the sofa cushions were all out of place and there was some popcorn or something on the floor. She said it took her 2 1/2 hours to clean up after the 2 hour get together, so, and I quote, "Never again!" She never has grown-ups over either. Her book club understands that her house isn't in the rotation, and anyone who might possibly have pet hair on them is not allowed to sit on any furniture.

I think I'd last in this house about forty seconds.

Rule about the closets: Absolutely no one is allowed to touch anything except for her. Of course they were organized like a Hoarders show "After" reveal, and I'll be honest; I really wanted to surreptitiously reach up and knock a shoe or two out of alignment just to see what would happen. (I didn't.)

Rule about the gas fireplace: It is never to be turned on because it would only have to be cleaned later.

The list goes on and on and on. All of the stringent regulations to make sure that no possible extra cleaning would have to take place. Of course I was thinking to myself, "You're going to be cleaning compulsively anyway so what difference does it make?" but that wouldn't make any sense to her. What doesn't make sense to me is why having an immaculately pristine house is more important than sharing fun and happy times in it.

Anyway, by that time on the tour, all of that stuff wasn't really much of a surprise. However, one of the last things she said really struck me:

I had noticed that the main floor of the house, containing the living room, dining room, and kitchen, while quite tastefully decorated, was also very dark overall. I didn't mention it, but at the very end, she pointed to the heavy velvet curtains that covered the floor-to-ceiling windows that made up one wall. Proudly she said, "I've never opened those curtains." So I was like "Never?" There was no horrible view out there, it faced the side yard of the neighbor's house. "Never," she said, "And I never will." "Um...why?" I asked tentatively. She answered very matter-of-factly, "Because if I open the curtains the sun could fade the back of the couch, and if I ever want to move this couch downstairs it won't be up against a wall and people could walk around it and see the faded part."

I swear my brain stopped working for a moment. I had to take several seconds to process what she had just said. Finally I nodded my head and said something like, "Oh," and quickly got my filthy-hadn't-showered-yet-probably-pet-hair-ridden self out of there! (Whew!)

On the way home, I realized that this last rationale of hers, is the perfect example of not doing something because we are afraid of what MIGHT happen. Even if that thing is beneficial or good or joyful, we talk ourselves out of it with scenarios that haven't even happened yet; and may never happen at all. We've had our hearts broken so we don't reach out to befriend others to make sure we're not hurt again. We really want to leave unfulfilling jobs and pursue our passions in life, but we don't because we might not end up being successful, (or sucessful enough by someone else's standards). We tamp down our dreams, convincing ourselves that it's better if we don't try at all, because then nothing bad can happen and therefore we won't be disappointed. It's so much easier to stay in the dark, protecting ourselves from what might happen. What could happen. What possibly, conceivably, maybe, by some chance will happen.

Well guess what? Whether we open the curtains or not, hearts get broken sometimes. But they heal and we move on. No matter how much we try to close ourselves off from them, disappointments happen. So we pick ourselves up and try again. Dreams often don't come true. So we figure out another way or come up with a new dream.

To plan every which way for every eventuality leaves us paralyzed. We remain stuck in a mire of fear, which is oddly comforting because it feels safe. But the irony of all of this is, things rarely happen the way we plan for them anyway. Life isn't about preventing possible outcomes, it's for taking them as they come out.

Simply put, life is for the living. It's our choice to keep ourselves cowering in a cave or to throw open the curtains and let the glorious sun shine in. While it may fade a couch, it can never fade our souls.

By the way, if you're ever concerned that the sun will fade the back of the couch, just throw a blanket over it for goodness' sake! Or not care. Both end up the same anyway.

Dusting the Pipes Part 1

I recently met a woman who dusts her pipes.

Seriously. Every two weeks she goes into her furnace room, climbs up on a ladder, and wipes down all of the heating and water pipes as well as the top of the hot water heater. She told me that she just can't stand dust.


Now I can honestly say that in all of my years of living it has never, ever, crossed my mind to dust my pipes. I mean, aside from the whole "life is too short to do things like that" thing, it's just not something that has ever occurred to me, even when thoroughly cleaning a house to sell it. As far as I know, it hasn't occurred to anyone else either. Until I met this woman.

Needless to say, the rest of her house was immaculate, to the point of it looking like a model home that no human beings actually occupied. She had lived there with her 13-year-old daughter for almost a year and as far as I could tell, no one had ever walked on the living room carpet. She also told me that things like shoes, glitter, spiral-bound notebooks, and food anywhere besides on a plate on the table were forbidden in her house.


Obviously this woman suffers from OCD, which I know is an illness that is extremely difficult to overcome. Having been divorced twice I believe she needs to feel in complete control of her life and incessantly cleaning is one way to do that. I'm not judging, nor am I condemning her. I think she needs some serious help dealing with this affliction, especially since it is makes itself present in every area of her life. More on that in Part 2.

For now, back to the pipes. So she is spending enormous amounts of time, energy, and effort to clean her pipes every two weeks. Time, energy, and effort on something that doesn't matter. At all. For any reason. So that got me thinking...even though I would never consider cleaning my pipes, what do I expend lots of time, energy, and effort on that really doesn't matter? Hmmm... How about all of the years' worth of hours I have spent worrying and fretting about the number on the scale and how it's higher than the magazine articles tell me it should be. Or the colleague I knew who spends two and a half hours in front of the mirror doing her hair and makeup just to run to the store to get some milk. Or the friend I had who was constantly redecorating her house because it was never quite right. (once she spent 3 months searching for the perfect kitchen drawer pulls, only to change them a few weeks later)

We might as well be dusting our pipes. We're spending inordinate amounts of our short time on this Earth on things that just don't matter.

So then that got me thinking, what could Ms. Pipe Cleaner be spending her time on instead of meticulously and obsessively cleaning things that don't actually need to be cleaned? Altruistic things like serving food at a soup kitchen or knitting hats for the homeless? Sure. But how about doing things that are enjoyable and pleasant and that make life worth living? Like reading a great book, or tending a garden, or going ice-skating with her daughter. Unfortunately, she can't really enjoy any of these things because she knows that the pipes are collecting more and more dust by the minute. The same way that I can't fully enjoy myself at the beach or the pool if my swimsuit is a size or two larger than I think it should be. My friend could never relax and enjoy her home because she was always focusing on the next thing that was wrong with it. We spend more time obsessed with things that don't matter than we do on experiencing all of the beautiful and wonderful things the world has to offer.

So while literally dusting the furnace room pipes seems absurd, we all have our own proverbial pipes that we polish on a daily basis. We need to realize that they don't matter, and that once and for all, we can leave them alone.

They are clean enough.