Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In Which I Find Myself Cleaning a Stain

Earlier, I found myself on my hands and knees cleaning up dog poop and thinking of my mother. Don't get me wrong, my mother is a lovely woman. In no way does she resemble dog poop. It was me, on my knees, cleaning the carpet, that called to mind my mother. I had seen her in the same posture more times than I could count. Often I just stepped over her or walked by her wondering why in the world she was spending so much energy on something so stupid as cleaning a stain. It wasn't as if ANY of the carpet was perfect. I just couldn't understand why it was worth the effort.

Now, I know. I know that being able to get one stain out is worthwhile. I know that doing a job well and seeing instant results is a source of satisfaction. The kind of satisfaction that is often missing in motherhood. Clean, folded laundry quickly turns into dirty laundry. Dishes, floors, counters and children do the same. A nasty carpet stain that is vanquished is a shining moment of reminder that I can make a difference.

I know that taking care of one mess makes a difference. Solving one problem makes a difference. Especially when you know that the next mess/problem is moments away and that you may not be able to take care of it that easily. Cleaning poop is easy. I know what to use to get the stain out, I know how to use it and it works every time. Other messes are much more difficult to tidy. I find myself much less prepared and uncertain of how to proceed. I know I can't screw anything else up by cleaning a stain. The stain is gone and I've done my job well. It's a good feeling compared to floundering for insight, wisdom, empathy and compassion.

I know that being on your knees doing a disgusting, menial task is a great time for contemplation and prayer. Cleaning up provides me a reminder and a quiet moment to collect myself and give thanks for what really matters. After all, NO ONE is going to bother me while I'm cleaning up poop/pee/vomit/blood/mud or any kind of food spill. What starts as aggravation and ranting often ends in thanksgiving and reconciliation when I'm on my knees.

I know that my mother loves me beyond belief and that cleaning that stain is just one of the many ways she shows it. Maybe someday my children will see me cleaning a stain and will realize with every moment I spend on my knees I am saying, "I love you."

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