How I Found Meaning in Cleaning my Room

“Enough is enough!”

I was tired of shuffling through the piles of clothes strewn about my room trying to find a shirt with few enough wrinkles to wear in public.  I was tired of always keeping my door closed to conceal my carelessness from my tidy apartment-mate.  And what if I wanted to invite a guest?  My sloppiness needed to be brought to a halt.

It isn’t that I don’t appreciate cleanliness or even enjoy the activity of cleaning. (Cleaning can excuse hours of unadulterated thought time.)  It’s more that I have a nervous impulse (not to be confused with diligence) to always be using my time learning or creating.  I’m restless.  Instead of taking 10 seconds to put clothes away, I toss them aside and rush to get my hands on a book or my violin or a pencil and paper.  I’ve always been exceedingly more interested in organizing my thoughts than my surroundings.  I have a vibrant existence in my “inner-world” but can sometimes be remote from and oblivious to the world around me.

What changed my mind about cleaning my room?  A visit to the clubhouse of my former apartment complex.  Two winters ago, I would tread cautiously across the icy parking lot almost every morning to run on the clubhouse’s treadmill.  It was the loneliest period of my life.  I lived alone.  I had no friends.  I walked to the music school each day for classes, orchestra, and hours of practicing and came directly home.  The weekends were a blur of sitting on the deck overlooking the river, channel-surfing on the couch, listening to Ligeti, and plenty of tears.  I took up cigarettes to try to calm my raw nerves.

My life is completely different now.  I love the people in my life.  I love new experiences. This time I went to the clubhouse to play pool with friends.  As soon as I arrived, I felt as if I were dreaming about a former life.  This place, the layout, the smell, the colors, startlingly revived my inner-world of the past.  I remembered the books I had been reading, the lectures I listened to while running on the treadmill, the emotions I felt, my worries, hopes, passions.  I suppose I knew but was still struck by how inseparable even my most abstract memories were to the places in which they occurred.

A memory is like a message in a bottle, thrown into the ocean of time.  It might return when least expected.  Will I like what I find in those bottles?

Of course some aspects of our memories are totally out of our control – such is life.  We choose what we will from the range of possibilities presented.  Even then, the outcome is unsure.

But I want to control what I can, as a gift to my future self.  I don’t want to look back and see “good not used, love not given, time/ Torn off unused.”  I want to remember myself doing creative work, building meaningful relationships, looking foolish by taking risks.  No regret.  And I want to remember a clean room, one that doesn’t embarrass me, one that doesn’t inhibit me in any way.

When I visit the places of my past in my imagination, I hope I don’t see apathy or waste.  I have an exciting opportunity to forge out the kind of life I want to live.  I can extract my thoughts and make them a physical reality by altering the world around me.  I can work to make the world a better place to live, both for myself and others.

I can start by cleaning my room.

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~ by falleninparadise on July 17, 2011.

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