Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Day two thousand fifty eight . . . Clean as you go.

Where does love go?

I guess in order to even entertain that question one would need to ascertain where it comes from in the first place. But the self-centered species we are it's all but inevitable that this would be something we would take credit for like the cotton gin or Polyester.

From my experience love is not something that is made. It's not something that is earned. It's not something that is stockpiled. It's not something that we can presume to be a natural, eventual fate.

It's something we learn.

Whether we see it from our parents or we read it in a book, see it in a movie, hear about it on the radio it is a phenomenon that is picked up little by little and filed away imperceptibly in the back of our brain. And as much as we like to think that the heart is in control of the whole of love, really it's the brain that tells everything in us what to do. The brain is the CEO and the heart is merely the spokesman or mascot like a Ronald McDonald or an Uncle Sam. It represents all of the feelings we collect about something and puts them in a neat little fist sized package for us to either blame or extoll. Sure its muscles are the reason why we breathe, but if the brain takes a break for even a few seconds damage may occur.

When we see these examples of love all around us--and hopefully we do--we can only perceptibly pay attention to so much at once. A smile exchanged here; a caress there; maybe a kiss goodbye or a wide-eyed welcome at the airport we see these for a split-second and then they're past. And like everything in this world we either associate it with something that's familiar or something foreign. And our reaction to it often depends on how many good vs bad experiences one has had with love.

So love--for me--is something I learned from my mother. It's something she wished for me more than money, fame, or even a respectable career. She wished for me to find someone to love and who loves me back. And though it took me almost four decades to find it, I finally did. And though I have few regrets in life one of the big ones is that she didn't live long enough to see me find it.

And me finding this love seems a bit strange because in all of my lifetime my mother never had a husband. She never had a boyfriend. She never went on a date. I never witnessed her--for better or worse--seek or give love from or to another.

I never saw her love anyone but her family. 

So that just about shatters the idea that if we don't learn about love by watching our parents then our odds of a well-adjusted love life (in the most general of terms) is at jeopardy. Because, though it may have taken its sweet time to come to me, I finally have it. And I feel like the journey I am taking is similar to how I thought a lifetime supply of toys might have felt when I was ten. But just the emotion, not the process.

I always imagined I would end up gathering so much from my spree that I couldn't even begin to find places to put it all, and if or when I'd have enough time to enjoy what I had. But at ten years old we are most likely unable to understand the idea of too much. We think that a "lifetime supply" of candy or toys is a good thing. We don't get that there is such a concept as balance and that having just enough of something is a worthy goal. And even when we think we have learned how to strive for balance it is so easy to disregard or rationalize away.

So what we get out of a lifetime supply of toys? A very messy room and a short attention span.

Love begets more love. It's not something to jump and grab at off of the top shelves where they keep the really big toys. It is its own lifetime supply. And though it is only from my personal experience I feel that even if we feel hollow inside, even if we think that the pain from past loves lost will prevent the door from ever letting it back in I do feel that we have no way to really be sure.

And that brings me to my initial question: where does love go?

Where does it hide when we can't see it anymore--after we've had it for so long that we expect it will be right where it always was?

I spend my mornings cleaning the house. Now that Jodi is working the day shift I have more free time on my hands than I ever have. So I am up at 6:30am and I send her off with her packed lunch and water bottle at 7:55am. When I turn around after the bright red car leaves the driveway I am often overwhelmed.

I've written about this before but one of the tradeoffs from getting clean and sober is that I've become a bit of a neat freak. I see the spots on the counter and the streaks on the windows where I used to only see a rocks glass and the TV. The magazines and newspapers that come on a very regular basis to our doorstep have a semi thought out order they live in on the coffee table. And the weeds in the garden don't stand a chance for more than a day or two.

I've learned the hard way that this is something that not everyone can appreciate. I've had to adjust the release valve on my new found neurosis so that I can find balance in a messy world. The love of my life is not a messy person. Quite the contrary in fact. But next to me at my worst I would say she sometimes feels like I have a tendency to go a bit overboard.

A good friend taught me a lesson back when I was learning the ropes in the restaurant business--a profession I held for almost twenty years.

He said "clean as you go."

Such a simple phrase.

Such a simple concept.

Such a life lesson.

If you make a mess on your cutting board clean it up before you move on to the next job. If you dirty a pot clean it while it's hot and you won't be left with a sticky caked-on mess. If you get in a new produce order put it away properly and recycle the empty boxes right then and there. Don't wait for someone else to do it because it's not their job, it's yours.

Clean as you go.

And since I learned this lesson twenty years ago I use it almost every day.

Just today I took out the vacuum and cleaned the bay window of the cobwebs that had built up over the last week. I found some dead flies and a couple of live spiders that I let scurry away (of course). I moved the little figurines that live in the window, turned the plants around and removed some of the dead leaves. The light at 8am only shines through that way for 30 minutes or so. So if I don't take care of it then I won't do it at all. Because after the world turns as it does--faster than it used to, I swear--and the sun's light show shifts direction it's out of sight and out of mind. And when that happens and I can't see the light shining on the place that needs attention it looks fine to me and my attention turns to something else.

This is where love goes when it goes.

The light shines on us at different times of the day than the sun does to my bay window. It's unpredictable, fickle, and its timing is sometimes brutal. But it shines for sure. And when it does there is a time to clean up the mess if there is one. Even a small spill can lead to an accident. And a box in the middle of the room--one that has no reason to be there--can start to look like it belongs and become part of the landscape. And as soon as we put one thing upon that out-of-place box it becomes a table and holds purpose hostage.

I look around me and sometimes I see where love has gone. I see people who have a complicated life and have built up a house they live in with so many rooms it would take a lifetime to clean. I see people who got themselves involved with something that changed without their input and now they're trapped. I hear stories of love lost over years and years of trying to make it work. And I see the look of resignation to a life that they never thought could come to pass.

I see people who are happy alone as I once was.

I see people who are too young to really know what love is and firmly believe the one they have will never end.

I see and know people who are close to 100 years old who have seen more love than most. And they see me and mine and smile and tell me how lucky I am. And I always reassure them that I know.

And I clean as I go.

I use the random light of life to shine on the problems I may encounter.

I try to work things out with my love.

I talk to it.

I listen to it.

I learn from it.

I try to keep a clean house.

I try to keep a clean heart.

And I try not to expect a lifetime supply of anything anymore.

The way I see it just the lifetime will be enough.

Thanks for reading,