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.