One of my favorite and most rewarding tasks is also one of my LEAST favorite, most resented tasks. I can’t quite understand how this can be: why do I like it when I hate it so very very much?

I’m talking about cleaning up the kitchen. Not a deep clean, but the act of restoring it to its default setting, which is decluttered and mostly wiped clean (but probably roiling with bacteria and hidden grime). At minimum, I do this job at some point in the morning after the kids head off to school, again after the kids come home and have snacks, and again after dinner, but because John and I both work from home, on a typical day some variation of this process gets repeated over and over and over.

It’s always so gratifying to be done with it, when I can look around and see clean surfaces and organized objects and everything smells at least halfway decent. That part reliably lights up the reward center in my brain, and sometimes the act of cleaning does too: I frequently turn on podcasts when I’m tidying and can feel a sort of pleasant relaxation from the familiar rhythms of it all, and take enjoyment from the incremental observable improvements as I go.

Other times, though, I get that dreary hamster wheel feeling, particularly when I’m faced with the more irritating messes: the cereal sludge that somehow never stays confined to the bowls, the black smudges from pencil graphite and newspaper ink, the downright astounding amount of crumbs that one goddamned english muffin produces.

Why can’t anyone get their dishes in the dishwasher, I think for the millionth time. Why is there always egg cooked onto the outside of the pan? What sadist invented Cocoa Pebbles’ ability to transform into brown cement if it isn’t rinsed before drying? Who here is getting a fresh glass every single time they want a molecule of water because it really fucking seems like everyone besides me is doing this?

Then again, when it’s clean, I am so pleased, and my mind is more clear, and I feel that weird sense of peace that comes from both environment and achievement. (And I’m talking about clean to my standard, you know: I do continually nag people into picking up after themselves, but ultimately that default setting is a requirement I set for myself, if that makes sense.)

The trick, it seems, for not getting overwhelmed by the grind of the job is to imagine the positive feelings of the result, but man, that is SO hard to do. Making my bed, exercising, eating healthy food, choosing sobriety, buying groceries, making a necessary phone call, talking to someone I don’t know … why do these things sometimes feel nearly insurmountable with unpleasantness and the despair of unending repetition, when the view from the other side is invariably filled with relief, lightness, and the renewed sense that I did the thing, I am strong and capable and I can do the goddamned thing?

I will never understand this trickery of the brain and I realize it’s not unique to me. This is surely why we have a $64 billion dollar diet industry along with a plethora of heavily fragranced cleaning product choices.

Maybe one day I’ll figure out how to see my end goals so clearly the scales will tip and I won’t be mired in the forever loop of ugh, AGAIN, but in the meantime, I guess I’ll just be here, wiping the countertops of my life. Over and over, because there are always crumbs, but I’m always willing to keep working for those shining surfaces.

Comments

12 Responses to “Wax on”

  1. Carol on October 30th, 2018 10:36 am

    YES to all of this.

  2. Amoreena on October 30th, 2018 10:43 am

    “Making a necessary phone call.” Ugh – yes!!

  3. Leslie on October 30th, 2018 10:54 am

    YES!! You nailed the description of this ever present feeling!!!!

  4. Jen on October 30th, 2018 11:27 am

    Yes to all of this. The other day I went through the list of the same things that have to get done every day, then the weekly list and it became a little bit depressing. I have started to make a little bit of a time chart in my head in order to make room for time to do whatever the hell I want. This could be anything from staring blankly into space, or pushing myself to do something new.

  5. Trish on October 30th, 2018 11:27 am

    Your words are simply joy to me. Thank you for sharing your life with all of us!

  6. PETE J HAIDINYAK on October 30th, 2018 1:49 pm

    I have a mental block about putting away my cloths after I wash them. They will sit in the basket, or I’ll dump them on the bed but I still take a long time to put them away. I’m a guy so I don’t care about wrinkles.

  7. PETE J HAIDINYAK on October 30th, 2018 1:49 pm

    PS Thanks for the posts!

  8. Mandy on October 30th, 2018 2:44 pm

    A thousand yesses!

  9. Donna on October 30th, 2018 6:19 pm

    I just finished deep cleaning a house for my boyfriends son so he can move in on Saturday. He wanted to do it Saturday but I’m like uh, can I just do it by myself cause I’m gonna yell if it’s not done my way. So mopping the floor wasn’t enough I steamed it, to clean the grout, put down carpet fresh, let it set for over 24 hours, took a broom to the edges of the carpets and then vacuumed, counters, cabinets, all deep cleaned, wiped the baseboards with Clorox, and omg the bathrooms. They were their own horrible story that I didn’t have enough gloves for. It’s done, took me two days, and I can barely walk, everything hurts, but that house is clean dammit.
    I have realized that I clean better when I’m mad, angry cleaning is the best, and gets done so much faster. His new neighbors are gonna be so relieved that I am not the actual person moving in, there was off key singing, and cussing lol. And then I went home and was like fuck, my house is trashed, wtf?

  10. Vedjen on October 30th, 2018 9:21 pm

    You get it. I sure missed your posts. :)

  11. k on October 31st, 2018 7:41 am

    Every time I eat an English muffin or toast one up for my kids (nearly every morning), I think of you! :)

  12. Michelle on October 31st, 2018 11:58 am

    You could have pulled this directly out of my head, but you say it so much better. :)

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