Just like aftershocks, the epiphanies continue to roll in, even though Epiphany Quest 2010 officially ended last Wednesday when Vicci and I returned to Austin. I didn’t actually get back home to Florida until Sunday, July 4, because I stayed a few extra days to visit family, so it sort of feels like the trip has just ended for me. Monday, as I unpacked and cleaned my disasterized home, I felt the tremors of the latest epiphany.
First, a bit of background: my husband, Jeff, is the Anticlean. My daughters can (and will!) attest to this. When he cleans, things end up dirtier than when he started. He’s like Pig Pen from the Peanuts cartoons, with his cloud of dirt surrounding him like an aura, even immediately after a bath. Minutes after putting on clean clothes, Jeff will have tomato sauce stains on his shirt, not having gone anywhere near tomato sauce. So when I say that I came home—after leaving him alone for almost a month—to a Jeff-Bomb disaster area, I ain’t just a woofin.’
The first thing I noticed was the smell. Jeff is a heavy smoker but doesn’t smoke in the house—when I’m home, that is. Apparently he thought keeping the windows open while he smoked like a chimney in my absence would keep it from stinking, but the house smelled like an old Elk’s Lodge from all the stale smoke.
Then, when I went to the kitchen to get a glass of water, I discovered that at least one glass in the cupboard was going to need to be rewashed because it had tomato sauce on it. For the next week or so, I’m going to have to rewash anything I take out of a cupboard or drawer before using it.
But most amazingly, he laundered a book. He didn’t sort the laundry basket before tossing its entire contents (including a 500-page book) into the washer (and then the dryer) and there were millions of little paper shreddies all over the house, almost as if a down pillow had exploded.
For the record, I gave up long ago being mad at Jeff for making messes like this. He doesn’t do it on purpose, it’s just who he is, just like Oscar Madison from The Odd Couple. I also gave up on the idea that he’d ever clean up after himself in a way that meets my not-so-stringent standards. As I said, he makes a bigger mess when he cleans than when he’s just sitting quietly in a corner.
This ridiculous scene, along with the Pig Pen-esque cloud of dirt one would expect to find in a house that Jeff has lived in alone for almost a month, is what I had to contend with while unpacking and putting my own stuff away—a month’s worth of packed suitcase, souvenirs and other flotsam that made it home with me.
Ordinarily, having to clean up such a mess would have overwhelmed me and hurled me into a world of hurt because I hate cleaning. I’m using the word “hate” about cleaning. I detest housework with a passion that burns to the depth of my soul and, for some reason, it seems to be something that I can’t get away from, no matter how hard I try. A month ago I would have moaned with dismay about being faced with the prospect of such a huge job.
My dislike of housework began when I grew up in a house full of brothers and, being the only girl, I was the Cinderella of the household. That was the beginning of my resentment of cleaning. Then I married a chauvinistic guy who carried on the tradition that I had to be the housekeeper because it was “woman’s work.” (Please note that I am now divorced from him, lo these many moons.)
Not too many years ago, I had a job as the housekeeper at a resort (I really needed the money, and didn’t resent cleaning as much because I was at least getting paid for it). At that job, I truly saw the depths of ickiness that human beings can create. This total lack of concern—on the part of guests who think nothing of the cleaning staff—would boggle your mind.
I remember one particular day, on this job, when I had to clean a restroom wherein one of the guests had literally shit all over the bathroom walls, floors, sink and toilet seat. Later that same day, I found a bloated, dead frog floating in one of the poolside waste baskets. I cried all afternoon and wondered why God hated me so much. Why could I not escape this curse of having to be the one who cleans up after everyone else? And if I couldn’t escape, couldn’t I at least erase the part of my brain that resists it so desperately?
I know, I know. What you resist, persists. I’ve been working for years on becoming Zen about housework and, at 49-and-a-half, I was still struggling with it. Up until Monday, when one of the readings I received during Epiphany Quest 2010 kicked in.
The first “official” reading that I had was at the Berkeley Psychic Institute, in Berkeley, CA. I was very impressed with the reading I received there. I was told that one of the past lives showing up in my field, one that was particularly “lit up,” this time around, was one where I was sold by my family into servitude at a convent. Boy, did my ears perk up! Two of my biggest knee-jerk issues in this life are servitude and my dysfunctional Catholic upbringing, where I learned that because I was in a female body, I was pretty much worthless.
The psychic told me that, during that past lifetime, servitude was the only way I could survive. My family couldn’t afford to feed all of their kids and, being a female, I wasn’t as valuable to them as the boys. In that lifetime, I was grateful to have ended up at the convent, instead of being sold into prostitution. I also felt thankful that I had quiet time for meditation and introspection, living in the convent like that. During that particular lifetime I didn’t resent housework like I do now.
She also told me that Mother Mary was in my field, and that she was waiting to help me. I tried not to roll my eyes. As I said, I experienced a very dysfunctional Catholic training and found it nearly impossible to believe any of that religion’s icons would have my back. So I just made a mental note to think about it later.
Since the reading, I’ve been pondering the servitude lifetime, while Vicci and I traveled the country and had many spiritual experiences (I’ll be telling you about them as they unfold, in future blogs). I found the storyline fascinating. It explained so much! Even more importantly, I pondered it while I cleaned and unpacked, after arriving home.
What I discovered was amazing. I actually enjoyed cleaning the house and putting my stuff away! I didn’t mind at all that the place was coated with a month’s worth of dust and tomato sauce! I was able to see how my efforts made the house sparkle and shine, instead of pissing and moaning the whole time about how much I resented having to pick up after someone else! I realized that I’m the one who wants the house to look a certain way, and if I want it that way, then I’m going to have to do it because Jeff is perfectly content with it his way. Sure, he likes it my way, but not enough to do anything about it. Either way, I’m doing this by choice, not coercion.
This may sound like a no-thing to many people, but I literally felt the shackles of servitude drop from my ankles. I felt light and free, and content to be cleaning my house, to make it look the way I want it to look. What an amazing thing! I never dreamed that I would be able to dust and vacuum without seething with resentment. I feel like a 100-pound monster has stopped sitting on my chest and I can breathe again.
This doesn’t mean I’ll never bitch and grumble again while removing socks from the stovetop, but at least I have stopped feeling like a slave. If this was the only epiphany I experienced from this trip, it would be worth it. But I’m really happy that it’s not. It’s just the beginning.