When my brother and I were growing up, my mom taught us the importance of keeping our house presentable. Every Saturday morning, she’d wake us up and – sometimes like a taskmaster – ensure that we completed our chores. Among the lessons of cleanliness and how it was supposedly next to godliness, my mother taught us that the living room was to never be occupied unless we had guests, and the den, kitchen and guest bathroom were to be spotless. Why? Because these were the areas of the house that company would see.
On the flip-side, our bedrooms were often in disarray, especially my mother’s. We were not unclean so much as we were cluttered. I, for one, didn’t always put my shoes and toys back in their proper places. You were sure to walk into my room and find papers and books strewn all over the bed and floor. Truthfully, my room looks like this right now. In fact, my office looks like this right now. I tend to function best in “controlled chaos.” Don’t diagnose me.
Anyway, on one particular evening, I happened to notice that my bedroom looked like a storm had gone through it, but my closet – which I keep wide open – was ordered and nearly immaculate. My shoes were perfectly aligned. My clothes were all hung and categorized by “type.” Any items on my closet shelves were nicely arranged, neatly folded, etc. I chuckled at the down-right absurdity of it all.
I was taught that appearances are important. Ironically, to me (and dare I say, my brother as well), appearances mean nothing unless they are authentic and real. I find more value in working to keep my closet clean – my innermost being, my internal world, my thoughts, spirit and emotions – than looking like I have it all together. In fact, I think that when we start from the inside, the rest will inevitably fall into place in time.
What exactly do I mean by that? Well, I’m working on my finances. I’m trying to motivate myself to eat better and exercise (and actually lose weight and keep it off). I still haven’t mastered the art of spiritual discipline in everyday practice. I’m still learning how to have a healthy, romantic relationship, and cultivate healthy attachments with friends. That whole “work-life balance” thing…yeah I still have days that I laugh at the concept. I still have moments when I have to remind myself that I love me, especially when I don’t particularly like me.
Let me be transparent: I don’t have all my $#!+ together. But I’m trying to clear one small space at a time. I’ve started internally with the intention of my hard work flowing to externally. And I’m trying to clear it for real – not sweep the junk under the rug, not throw it in the back of the closet that I clearly have worked hard to make some sense of. I, too, am trying to “get my life,” and that is most definitely a process that requires compassion and patience. But it does pay off.
I’ve been working on and in myself since 2007. Lord only knows how many therapy sessions, journal entries, tears, profanities, etc. I have engaged since then. But something amazing has been happening lately. People have been affirming me in ways that they don’t realize. I’ve heard “You look so healthy…your skin so clear.” Several people have asked, “Are you losing weight?” I laugh inside because it’s quite the opposite. Someone commented on a social media post, “You look so happy.” Nothing spectacular has occurred. I haven’t changed my beauty regimen or started a new diet or exercise program. I had an epiphany that what people are seeing on the surface is in fact all of the work that I’ve done under the surface. It’s finally starting to pay off. For this, I’m grateful; and, I’m encouraged to keep “getting my life.”