Tuesday, February 06, 2007

On my knees...

Scrubbing the floor in our bathroom yesterday, I wondered whose crazy idea it was to put white tiles on the floor. The Zep stuff I'd discovered on the top shelf of the hall closet was cutting through months and months of cosmetic crud buildup between the tiles. The grout that used to be white and had turned brown was turning white again. Spray, wait, scrub with the brush. Rinse. Spray, wait, scrub again. Make sure the window is open. Wash your hands frequently to keep the Zep stuff from washing off the brown stuff - melanin - on my hands.

After 15 minutes of spraying and scrubbing, I decided to rinse and rest. There is still brown stuff to be scrubbed away, but at least and at last I'd begun. Progress had been made. Nice. As I stood up and looked down at my handiwork, I wondered if anyone else would notice the difference. As I looked around at the rest of the floor and all the gunk that has yet to be tackled, I wondered if I would notice the difference an hour later. Nope, G, no self-criticism allowed here. You started. You made progress. You will come back and work more on this even if no one notices.

I'd spent weeks trying different products on those stains. Organic things. Inorganic things. Downright horrendous things. Fumes. Bleached spots on my clothes. Skin irritation. And absolutely no noticeable change in the condition of the floor. Then as I looked for something else in the closet, there it was: Zep for toilets, tiles, and grout. How had I missed it before? Would it be any different from all the other things I'd tried? Nothing to lose in the attempt. Perhaps something to gain: these shoulder muscles would get a good workout from the scrubbing.

Good thing I didn't look at the bottle, shrug my shoulders in despair and walk away. This product worked. It smelled awful. The label came with lots of warnings against contact with eyes, skin, clothing, and mucous membranes. Carefully I followed the directions. Gratefully I saw results.

So much like life.

Ground-in, angry stains on my soul, places where resentment has gotten caught between the tiles of my heart, and crusted layers of superiority and self-righteousness layered over bitterness and hurt feelings. I've tried some of the usual stuff: telling every and anybody who will listen to my tale of woe. I've moaned and groaned. I've invented new details about the perceived injustices that have come my way. I engage in the age-old practice of stony silence, broken up now and then by the sound of me angrily sucking my teeth or defiantly sighing.

I've successfully made a mountain out of a mole hill: a small disagreement has become reason for abandoning my marriage. Or a slight disrespect on the part of one of the children becomes justification for not kissing them good-bye when I leave for an evening event. I won't return a telephone call or text message because that person took a little too long to get back to me. Someone disagrees with my opinion, so I deftly erase them from my address book and the phone list on my cell phone.

Sometimes the offense is more serious than that. I have been yelled at and had the telephone hung up in my ear. I've been disrespected in public by someone who ought to know better. I've been lied about and intentionally disparaged. My request is denied, or worse ignored, and no apology is offered. I am deeply wounded. And the outcome is the same.

I'm pissed off. Downright upset. With good reason.

What is required in response, however, is the same in each case.
Roll back the carpet. Look at the mess.
Pull out the journal and markers and stickers.
Write it all down - describe it in detail. Excruciating detail.
Open the window of my heart and mind, and let it rip.
Get alone in my study and cry.
Or go for a ride in the car and scream.

This sucks. I am angry.
I'm not sure I'll ever get over this one.
I'm not sure I want to.

Spray the angry spray of words onto the paper.
Or into the air.
Let it sit. But don't let it dry.
Wet it with my tears.
Scrub it with the truth: I am bigger than this. I will survive this.
I am not alone. I have never been alone.
This is not the end of my life. Even if it is, all is well.
Not my will, Lord, but Thine be done.
If necessary, I get lathered up again.
I rinse and repeat.

Then I get up. I look down at the somewhat less messy mess. I am grateful for the progress towards cleanness, wholeness, and improvement. I no longer worry about whether or not anyone else notices. I notice. I know what I've done. I know what it cost me in time and tears. I know that I am better, that I am on the road to restoration and reconciliation - with myself if no one else. The work is hard. The smell of relational rubbish burning is putrid, but after the fumes and the debris are cleared away, the results make the hard work well worth the effort. My emotional and spiritual muscles are getting stronger all the time.

In a few months' time - or perhaps within a few hours - when the gunk builds up again, I'll pull the rug back and get down to work again.

On my knees.

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