“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.” -V. Woolf
Once a year since we’ve moved into our home, I’ve had our treasured housekeeper clean all of the windows. Feel free to cringe if once a year isn’t enough for you. Only Judy can judge me. When we transitioned to working from home in the spring I thought I’d clean the windows myself this year. Dalloway vibes… but little follow through. I’ve been home for five and a half months and I’ve cleaned five windows.
They are regular suburban house windows, nothing ornate or oversized. I’ve spent probably less than an hour total on these five windows. Glancing around, there aren’t many windows left to clean; like I said, regular suburban house. So, why haven’t I cleaned them all? And… the five I cleaned in April… they aren’t looking so pristine anymore.
You know me by now, dear readers– this isn’t a cleaning story. There’s a lesson here. There’s always a symbol, a metaphor, a reading deeply into the basic.
Flashback to the fall semester of my senior year in college. I remember waking up early one morning, grabbing the syllabi for each course in which I was enrolled and thinking to myself: I’m going to sit at this desk and write all of my papers today for the whole semester. Get it over with, marathon, be done, be free of looming tasks. I wrote three papers that day… but seven were left untouched. Seventeen years later, I can still recall the palpable feeling of failure. I didn’t give myself even a moment to celebrate writing three papers in a day– I only focused on what was left undone.
Back to present day… we return to school in a week. I did a lot in the five and a half months I’ve been home. A solid portion of what I accomplished was finally slowing down, taking on less, and shedding a layer of work/accomplishment addiction. Yet I sit here, feeling that familiar lump in the throat of the windows left uncleaned, like the papers left unwritten. All of the personal development I do (and teach!)… but the subconscious and the body… their programming runs deep!
I don’t mean to conflate five wiped-down windows with three academic papers– but as different as the things are, the feelings, the habitual thinking, the paradigm is the same. And now I get to decide if I’ll beat myself up for the tasks left undone, the windows left unwashed… or if I’ll pick up the Thieves cleaner and a rag… or, even more radical, just let it be. You see, everything just is. We choose the direction, the feeling, whether positive or negative, whether roadblock or stepping stone.
This story is a parable of awareness and of growth. I promise, whatever I choose to do for the next week before Denise transitions back into Ms. B., I will not be sitting here in seventeen years from now thinking about the windows I didn’t clean in 2020. I choose. I surrender. I am enough.