The Home · The Soul

The Meaning in Small Things

I think that, at times of great transition, we see a lot of meaning in small things.

I’m honoring this transition with a full week’s vacation to get everything done. It’s a way of saying to myself: “This is real. This is happening. This is important. YOU are important.” Women almost never do this. We squeeze in self-care. A mani here, a pedi there.

Mani-pedis are not self-care. A small part of self-care is self-indulgence, sure. And being aesthetically pleasing to ourselves is healthy. And I’ll get one after everything’s moved in and set up. But that’s different from saying to yourself, “What you’re going through right now is big, and even you will respect that.” Because we minimize our needs, and our desires, to privilege those of our kids, our partners, our partners’ kids, our bosses, our colleagues.

And yeah, this has been written about ad nauseum. But respecting ourselves and addressing what’s not working is the LAST thing we do, and the reason it’s been written about ad nauseum is because even feminists can’t always internalize the message. There’s too much around us to pull us off the path, too many hyperactive wolves pleading with Red Riding Hood to “pay attention to meeeeeeeee”.

And it’s not about deserving. I actually don’t really believe in deserving – with the exception of “I worked really hard today, I deserve pizza”. But in general, I don’t think anyone deserves anything. Wealthy people certainly don’t deserve their wealth. Poor people don’t deserve their poverty. I don’t think that looking at a problem through the lens of just deserts is a helpful way to go about things.

But I believe in self-preservation. I believe in self-respect. I believe in dealing with oneself deliberately, and not spending time with what doesn’t add grace to our lives.

Today I did the ritual clean-out. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I like it, but it is a way of taking ownership of my space. I clean off the previous tenant’s residue, and lay down my own personality. I scrubbed every surface. I vacuumed with my new teeny Dyson, mopped with the Swiffer I bought my kid years ago that she used once.

And while I was on the phone wrangling with Ikea, I heard a thud from the closet. When the call was over, I went to see what it was – the Dyson had keeled over, and the little canister had opened, dumping onto the floor everything I had swept up.

“Oh,” I thought, “I’ll just get the broom and sweep that up.”

But the dirt was so fine. It was DUST. And the broom just combed through it. I had to power up the Dyson and re-sweep it up. And it got every bit (well, granted, I didn’t have a microscope, but I assume if it got it the first time…).

It was a small thing. But it was an affirmation to me. The dust allergy that is largely behind my asthma is going to have a tough time surviving with that thing in the apartment. Sure, we could get a Dyson in the house. But I can’t clean a whole house every couple of days. It would be all I did. That little pile of dust – resulting from two rooms, plus a bathroom and a kitchen – told me I was on the right track.

Tomorrow, the Internet comes to the house. Tomorrow, I drive back to Ikea with the wrong bed parts and exchange them for the right ones. Tomorrow I scrounge some more boxes from someone (maybe even Ikea) and finish packing up my objects and my clothes. Tomorrow we confirm that the kid across the street can help me schlep boxes out of the house and into the home.

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