Friday, February 10, 2012

Welcome to the Garden of Earthly Delights!

Hieronymous Bosch's
The Garden of Earthly Delight
Last night I had the most disturbing dream I’ve had in a while: I kept trying to clean the bathroom and the... um... feces... kept multiplying and oozing all over... and the harder I tried to clean it, the more there was! I felt like I was breathing it!

So naturally I wondered if this had anything to do with my consistently poor performance as a housekeeper. I wrote about this just last week - about how overwhelmed I feel at the pure-T mess that is our house... the piles of legos, heaps of other toys, overflowing closets, books on every surface, music in every crevice... 

I do regard this as an uphill battle that I fight every day, but I want to be clear... I wouldn’t have it any other way... except maybe neater and cleaner. 

Because in my particular case, the mess represents, in a way, a healed and fruitful life.

Monica on Friends
What I mean is, where there is mess, you might also find LIFE. Sure, I could have avoided the mess – by remaining alone. But relationships are messy, and people bring physical mess with them. 

In my early single days it took me a little while to get the hang of being neat, but at one point I was living in an apartment in the basement of a home that was for sale. So... I had to be ready at the drop of hat for the place to be shown. Needless to say, I got in the habit of putting things away, keeping them in order. Of course, I always had hidden areas that were spilling out with mess - a junk drawer, my closet... just like Monica on Friends

But, really, the single life for me was sewn up tight. I had my habits and routines. Okay, I was pretty persnickety. I valued my workouts, my fat-free foods, and my mess-free apartment. A place for everything and everything in its place. And not much room for the mess of intimate relationships. I had friends, even close friends, but still maintained an inflexible guard between some deep part of myself and even my nearest and dearest.

Later I became close friends with Grace, with whom I shared an apartment briefly, so you would think I had to change my ways at that time, but... it turns out that she was so kind and accommodating that my schedule and habits were not much affected by the change. It did help prepare me, though, for what was to come...

I imagine Madonna has to live a pretty
sewn-up life to maintain this body!
Allowing myself to be open to such a close friendship pried my heart open enough, so that when the man who became my husband came along there was a little chink for him to wriggle into. Getting married was a much bigger adjustment than sharing an apartment with a roommate. No, it’s much... messier. Much more of a stretch for a tight-ass like me. 

Not that my husband isn’t kind and sweet, but we were both old and pretty set in our ways when we tied the knot. And stubborn. We both clung to the way we thought life should be, resisted the invasion of our lives by the interloper. We wanted to be together, for sure, but getting used to sharing a home was a bit difficult to say the least. 

I brought very few big ticket items to the marriage, but plenty of books, music, etc. Tom brought big ticket items, and more books and music – much more. So... wed these piles of stuff, and what do you get?... yep, a mess. But in the end we have managed to shape our lives around the other. And in the process, we’ve filled in every nook and cranny of our house with the this and that, and a bunch of the other. We fantasize about a house with a separate library, a media room, a workout room, and a room with nothing but closets. 

And now, a toy room. Because now we have Bill. Kids bring all sorts of mess with them. First it’s diapers, burp cloths, baby wipes, teeny tiny socks and Robeez shoes. Then... toys. Plastic Army Men, Legos, stickers, craft projects in all stages of development... 

My friend Grace says that in the epic English poem The Faerie Queen, Edmund Spenser contrasts “bowers of bliss” with “gardens of delight,” meaning the sterility of the single life, with the fruitfulness and chaos of marriage. I tried to read it and figure out the exact reference, but even after she highlighted the passages for me, it was too academic for my brain to handle, so we’ll just have to take her word for it.

Now I know that not everyone wants to or can get married, and wants to or can have children, and I know that these are also states of being that God blesses. There are single and childless people all over the world whose lives bear delicious fruit... But in my own specific case, the single life was regimented, tight, sterile... I guess I needed these extra people to invade my heart and my “perfect” life and, well, make me normal. And normal for me means a big fruitful mess. And do I love it.

(pssstt... here's a great song by XTC to go with this!)

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