I realize now that I approached recovery in much the same way I used to approach housework. I used to clean my whole house every Saturday morning then hardly touch it again for the rest of the week. I must have learned this style early, because I remember going to my friend Elaine’s house when we were kids and thinking it odd that her mother ran the vacuum two or three times a week. Their rugs always did look great, though, all plush and fluffy pile with vacuum marks in nice little lines. Not like the indoor/outdoor in the family room at my house. Geeze, my poor parents. I’m sure my mom would have loved plushy soft carpets in her home, too. But we would have just ruined them with our 16 pair of muddy shoes and bowls of Cap’n crunch in front of the TV.
Anyway, before I bought this house, that’s how I did my housework; once a week vacuuming and dusting unless something catastrophic happened in between or guests were coming over. Maybe not even if guests were coming over. I had dark carpets purchased with the intention that they would hide the grape juice and pizza spills. And we had old patterned furniture, basically, for the same reason. Then I bought this house with all its big uncovered windows and hardwood floors, and there was no hiding anymore. I’d look around and see dust and little pieces of things on the floors and think to myself, “Didn’t I just vacuum these floors three days ago?”
On the other hand, haven’t we been tracking dirt and dead leaves in for three days? And I began to see that the old ways weren’t working anymore. So I adopted new ways. The new way leaves me open to doing the work when it needs to be done, rather than waiting for that perfect time when the kids are occupied and all my buckets are filled with vinegar and tea tree and there is “time” enough.
One of the things I am recovering from is my formerly severe relationship with God and Christianity. For the longest time I thought that loving someone unconditionally meant to keep loving them while they kept taking advantage, crossing boundaries, and abusing. That’s what I thought love was. You love them and keep giving while they just keep taking. The love part, I guess you can’t really help. You either love someone or you don’t, but the giving and keep taking part is where I got all mixed up. I think it might also be mixed up with perfectionism, because I thought that if I just kept doing it, I somehow would get it right and it would make that other person all better.
The same with forgiveness. I always thought that famous story about Jesus telling people they must forgive seven times seventy meant that if someone kept hurting you, you just kept forgiving them until they did it the next time, then you forgive, then they do it again, and so on. Weird, now that I know better, that sounds exactly like the cycle of abuse. I wonder how many people miss that. Now I see that, yes, I do have to keep forgiving that person, but that is supposed to be taking place in my heart, not in my living room.
Still, when I’m in the middle of the same, repeated argument or some other frustrating situation, or my savings account is back down to $300 and I am saying to myself, “Didn’t I just learn this three days (or three months, or three years) ago?”
I realize whatever it is, it needs to be learned again and probably practiced a whole lot more even though the kids aren’t occupied and it doesn’t seem there is time enough. Because I am not perfect and the things I am unlearning are just as important as the things I am learning. Sometimes they butt up against one another and can’t seem to call a truce, but that’s just another lesson telling me to fill up my buckets and get to work.