Saturday, January 4, 2014

Untidy Underpinnings?

We fool ourselves rather easily. What I see in my life is the romance of living beside the sea, and with it, the quaintness of this old seaside city. The untidy and the cluttered become part of its charm. A friend, Brian Crovet, paints the dilapidated cars and trucks, turns them into art pieces. We take visitors from Australia to show them with pride our pebble and rock-strewn stretch of Willow Beach, all of about a half-mile long crescent. And then one sees an Australian beach, beaches, with their miles and miles of gold. Ha! Need one feel less-than?

Between what should or could be, and what is, lies the consistency of cleaning up our messes; lies reality. In our minds we look better than we do (or worse, we look worse.) In our hearts we love more than we show. We mean more than we say. We intend more than we do. We go into a state of acceptance about the unpainted and the cracked and even the broken, and we allow lazy habits of thinking, of speech, of communicating, of living mostly for ourselves to suffice. Keeping one's room, one's house, one's city, province, country, world and universe orderly takes a consistency of effort that generally is not practiced; that is the reality. (I speak for me, not thee.) Perfectionism is not necessarily its own reward. We seldom do things just for ourselves.

Families live under the disguise of accord. The house is tidied, for guests. Bathrooms are cleaned, for guests. Flowers are arranged, for guests. The car is cleaned, the papers are put away, the shelves are sorted; the closed door conceals the shame. Children grow up learning that we do not speak 'that way' in company. Parents put on tones of respect for each other, for their children. Dad is warned not to drink too much. Mother makes 'a special dish'. Grace may even be said (though we don't usually.) And depending on the season, even the lawn has to be mowed. What we do to have others think a certain way of us gets ingrained early. We learn to dress and act and comport and pretend and be nice, especially while Auntie So and So is here!

Friendships start that way too. Initially there is no swearing, no racist jokes, no evident overindulging or taking for granted. Voice-tones and interest and care and even compassion appears commensurate with the moments, and we like the other. And then, over time, the muddy boots are brought in over one's floor, the language disintegrates into vulgarities, the arguments arise, the selfishness asserts. Yet for some reason we stay friends. Women allow husbands to get away with the hit and the hurt. Men allow wives to niggle, nit-pick, natter. The friend becomes an irritant, a knock, knock, knocking at the senses over the frequency of phone calls, or the demands for attention. We become more natural, more real, more just ourselves.

Our bedrooms are the one cave in which we should (that word!) feel entirely comfortable. They are where we sleep, safe. Where we dream, secure. Where we wake, invigorated. They house our clothes, the book we're reading, the sheets we wrap ourselves in. They are the place where, while the world turns without our consciousness, we are undisturbed. No wonder sharing one's bedroom is a big deal. Let alone sharing one house. And some of us "never" need make a bed.

Tidying up the exigencies of life is an ongoing process. Like laundry, the dishes, cleaning the bathtub, or taking out the garbage, it is never-ending. Trimming the excess, dusting the knick-knacks, organizing the bills and the birthdays and the social engagements and getting the kids to practices and events and ensuring homework is done and having a balanced meal on the table is all part of the advent of living with reality. We can make our homes nice, our yards nice, live in beautiful cities, drive shiny cars, or have to exist on the streets in makeshift shelters. It is not the outward tidiness that necessarily makes us better people, it is the consistency of wanting to be in a caring accord with all that is, and accepting of all for what it is, as we are; tidy, or not.

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