Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday. Like most things, though, this year I’ll be celebrating slightly differently.
Instead of piling into my childhood home with my brother and sister and their spouses and children, I’ll be spending the holiday with friends, hiking, laughing, and eating great food, while my kiddos spend the weekend with their dad and his girlfriend.
Funny, then, that change, growth, and the clarity that comes on the other side of it is what I’m most thankful for this year.
A long list
I’m grateful for soul-filling moments that become frozen in time. Just a few nights ago I convinced my son to come for a run with me. It was a short run — hardly worth the effort from an exercise point of view — but at the end of our run he spotted a patch of dry leaves, grabbed a handful and let them crumble between his fingers.
“You’ve got to try this, mom! It feels SO GOOD!”
And so I did. And we stood there, four steps away from the car and for five solid minutes, crumbling leaves in our fingers and covering our shoes in leaf dust. Our cheeks were pink, our hands smelled like fall, and I’ll never drive by that spot without smiling.
I am thankful for my body, for the way it moves without pain (most days), and for how strong and reliable it is. I’m thankful for the scars that remind me that yes, in fact, I heal.
I’m thankful for all of the things I didn’t say, the secrets I didn’t spill, and the gossip I didn’t repeat. I’m thankful for the texts I scripted in anger and deleted, and for the ones I received, read, and left ‘seen’ and unresponded to.
I’m thankful for remote work and videoconferencing, and for the side conversations that go on behind the meetings.
I’m thankful for all of the times over the past year that I’ve screwed up. I know there will be so many more screw ups in future, but at least those ones are behind me.
I’m thankful for the relationships that haven’t worked out, for the roads not taken, and for the lessons that saying goodbye have taught me about myself and the kind of person I want to be.
More than anything, though, I’m thankful for the relationships that have worked out. For the friendships that are richer now than they’ve ever been. I’m thankful for the life-long bonds, and also for the brand new folks that show up unexpectedly. I’m thankful for the relationships that start off as a few shared gifs in a work chat and an eye roll here or there, and then before you know it, you can’t imagine a day without that bit of connection.
When grieving the end of a marriage people tell you that the evenings will be the hardest part, but that’s not true. Not for me, anyway.
When you’re a parent, mornings rage in like thunderstorms, startling you from sleep and smashing you over the head with needs, wants, demands and expectations. Mornings are noisy and frantic. Despite how prepared you feel the night before, each morning brings with it its own new catastrophe. Someone lost something. Someone forgot a spirit day. Someone finished the last of the favourite cereal. All of the favorite lunchbox treats are gone. There are seeds in the bread.
At the end of my marriage I expected to feel at lose ends in the evenings. But, as is often the case in life, reality serves up unexpected hurt, and for me (even a year later) that hurt comes in the morning.
Let’s just make it to bedtime without killing each other
Since becoming a parent, the evenings have always been my goal posts. Children are fed and bathed. Whatever happened that day, good or bad, is behind you and the next day brings a fresh new blank page. The little arguments we had have been resolved – or they haven’t – but either way those children are safe and softly snoring, and even if you didn’t earn a gold star for the day, you at least get a checkmark. You may not have exceeded expectations, but dammit, you met them.
Evenings have a charm and a lightness. The quiet of evenings has a peaceful quality to it. The sofa is softer because you know that you can sit for more than a moment. The tea tastes better because you know you’ll be able to drink it while it’s still hot. TV is funnier and more entertaining, complete with sex and swearwords.
I expected that the evenings would be the hardest because of the dark, but it’s the bright light of morning that takes my breath away.
The sound of silence
Every other week I languish in the mornings. I lay in bed and listen to the silence for a moment and I find no pleasure in it. I yearn for the chaos that I always thought I hated and now crave.
I’ve never not had a human to wake up to – whether it was a partner rolling toward me with a stretch and a groan, or a child with his knees shooting daggers into my back. I’ve also always had a morning soundtrack: A television, an argument, cupboards and drawers opening and closing, and of course the sound of that epic morning pee and subsequent (if I’m lucky) flush.
So often these days, I wake up to silence, and now (thanks to the pandemic), I shuffle into work in silence. I don’t greet the neighbour as I get into my car because working from home I have nowhere to go.
Hey. How you doin’?
But not so long ago I rolled over in bed, grabbed my phone and spotted a text that had been sent five minutes earlier, which read simply: “Good morning!”
That was all. That was it.
The “good morning!” asked for nothing. What it gave, however, was a reminder that just because it sounds as if I’m alone, I’m not.
It reminded me that I’m not the only one living so quietly these days, and that this pandemic solitude can be breached through intentional and thoughtful connection.
In other words, good mornings are now on the menu. When you receive a “good morning” from me, here’s what it means:
I care about you. I’m thinking about you. I am happy because I know you. I am grateful that you are in my life. It is a privilege to be your friend, your mom, your lover, your daughter, or your colleague.
And what I realized also is that good mornings don’t have to be quite so explicit. Maybe they’re just a funny meme, or a news story that you read that relates to a conversation you just had. Maybe a “good morning” is just a gif, a joke you heard, or maybe it’s an in depth retelling of a super weird dream.
That’s all. And that’s so much.
I can’t always hear the folks who love me, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
Tonight, though, feels like a breakthrough; tonight feels like I’ve given myself permission to stop feeling guilty for a moment and breathe one big, deep soul replenishing breath.
Growing weary in a pandemic
Tonight they are at their dads. It’s been a long, busy week. There were bike rides and home reading battles. There were concurrent work deadlines and big conversations. There were so many dishes and there was, for some reason, an inordinate amount of dog vomit.
The weather was spectacular and every moment spent inside in front of a computer screen felt like punishment. Crystal clear blue skies and glorious wind lifted the flags in the schoolyard next door and cast shadows across the pooch often sleeping at my feet. I spent most of the week inside looking out; pandemic numbers have been steady but hospitalizations are at an all time high. The media assures us that we’re all doing everything wrong and that there is no guarantee of a reprieve this summer. I endeavour to always be kind and calm, but this week’s mandated kindness and calmness has come at a psychological cost.
Tonight, though, there’s no one watching and modeling my behaviour, and I can finally switch off. Tonight, instead of having to lay down the law at the dinner table demanding they eat and threatening some form of punishment, I ordered sushi and ate it slowly and quietly without background noises of YouTube or some weird anime.
Tonight the house is clean — there are no stray socks on the floor or toothbrush smears on the bathroom mirror— and it smells good in here. I lit scented candles knowing that I won’t have to stop my kids from blowing them out or dunking their fingertips into the wax and then peeling their waxy fingers all over the clean countertops.
Tonight I had a bath at 7 p.m., during which time I applied a face mask, read a little bit, and sipped a glass of wine. I ended my bath when I felt like it instead of when someone banged on the door announcing that they had to poo.
Tonight I am recharging and I am trying not to feel guilty about it. My children are growing up so quickly that it takes my breath away. When I stare at photos of them from a year ago, two years ago, or four, I catch my breath and sometimes sob. How can I be both a wonderful, loving, and attentive mother, and also a woman who craves space, time, and quiet freedom?
Tomorrow morning I’ll miss them. I’ll miss the energy they wake up with, I’ll miss their laughter, and their odd pronouncements. I’ll miss making them pancakes, and I might even miss the sound of their weird cartoons, interrupted only by cries of pain as they wrestle each other for the remote.
Tonight, though, feels different; it feels as though I’m honouring myself. In giving myself permission to enjoy this solitude and shed the guilt associated with it, tonight feels like a gift.
Once upon a time in a neighbourhood just like yours sits a woman staring out her office window. It’s a dreary day — cold enough to snow, but it’s not snowing. It’s not even windy. It’s not anything. If the weather app was honest the day would be described as “blah.”
The woman feels like she pressed pause on winter two months ago and misplaced the remote. She is so, so, bored.
Working from home is a privilege. Working from home right now, though, in the middle of the longest winter, stinks.
an Invented drama
This woman (OK, it’s me) is so bored of her own company that she not only knows her neighbours’ schedules, but has become weirdly invested in their routines and creates elaborate narratives about the goings on that take place outside. You’d be surprised at how the smallest variation in her view excites her.
For example, this week there was a plumber’s van parked in a neighbour’s driveway. Did the hot water tank burst? Were they installing a heat pump? Did someone drop their hearing aid in the toilet?
It was anyone’s guess, really, but she spent a full hour speculating.
This morning Larry walked by at 9 am on the dot with his Jack Russell terrier, Molly. Larry and Molly always walk by at this time, so there’s no news there. But this morning, something was up.
Larry is in his late 70s or so. Molly looks young for her age, but with small white dogs it’s hard to tell as they don’t show the grey. Larry always wears a red ski jacket. This morning, however, he wears a StormRider jacket (circa 1996), and it is in pristine condition. The woman recognizes this jacket because her high school boyfriend wore the same one (albeit his was drenched in Cool Water cologne). When Larry walks by in this new get-up, she’s baffled. “What Rubbermaid tote did you pull that vintage piece out of,” she says to herself, coffee cup paused in mid-air.
What will Larry wear tomorrow? High tops? A bandana? This show just got interesting! Literally anything could happen!
people really are watching you. and judging
This is work-from-home entertainment: Invented dramas enacted by near strangers who have no idea that they are currently on set. There’s the couple across the way who perplex her: He’s retired, and she isn’t quite retired yet. They own a car, yet she runs a block to catch the 7 am bus to work. Why doesn’t he drive her to work? What’s his deal? Is he awful, or does she enjoy her morning sprint and subsequent city tour via public transit? Why would one casual observer make judgements about the state of her neighbour’s (presumably) happy marriage based on their transportation choices?
Years ago, an older, wiser colleague said: “Danna, stop worrying about what other people think of you. They aren’t. Most of the time, they’re thinking about themselves.”
(In actual fact, this older, wiser colleague might have been Oprah. And it might have been a segment from her talk show. Danna has never worked with Oprah #regrets)
For a long time she believed Oprah, but then the pandemic hit and she found herself staring out the window watching the most boring show ever produced, and it dawned on her that Oprah was wrong. People think about you all the time. They’re looking at your heaping recycling bin and wondering if you have a drinking problem. They’re noticing that you’re still going for afternoon walks and speculating about how long you’re going to stick with your New Year’s resolutions (and frankly, they’re impressed that you’ve lasted so long). They hear you yell at your kids every damn morning, shouting at them to zip up their coats, and put their toques on their heads and not in their pockets, and they wish you would just go a little easier on those sweet boys, who are trying so hard (even though, reader, they are really not trying. Not at all).
Working from home is a privilege, certainly. But let’s be honest, this show is getting old and there is a very tired person writing the script.
This is my first (and perhaps only) food post, and guess what, I’m going to post recipes, too, but in order to get to the recipe you have to read the entire post, where you’ll discover the complicated history of the sugar cookie and learn about how these cookies have become the soothing balm needed to heal my broken heart. Kidding! These are cookies, not tattoos!
I love baking. It’s something I’m decent at, and I’m a tiny bit proud of that.
Hands up if, as a kid, you thought your mom, or your grandma was the world’s most accomplished baker. I know I did. What I’ve come to realize, however, is that the reason their baking tasted so good is because we loved them so much. We associate the foods they prepared with the way their hands looked as they kneaded the dough, or the way we felt standing beside them on a stool us as we cracked our first egg.
But if there was a blind taste-test between samples of my baking and my moms, mine would win, no question. I don’t like to brag, but there it is. Sorry mom. You use too many raisins.
Mince? But why?
The first rule of Christmas baking is understanding what to bake vs. what to buy, and the second rule is understanding what to avoid entirely, like mince anything, or anything with candied fruit.
The only candied fruit that is allowed in my kitchen are red and green candied cherries. And the only place candied red and green cherries are allowed to exist is on top of a shortbread cookie.
My mom likes mincemeat and fruitcake. She also likes the hot cross buns that you buy at Easter with the colourful fruit inside. My problem with all of these baked goods isn’t necessarily taste, but texture. With mince and candied fruit there is an element of surprise that disturbs me. Take a bite, chew, chew, flavour is OK, and then BAM! weird unexplained crunch. It’s unsettling.
What to bake vs. what to buy
Another rule is to not waste time baking something complicated when there is a store-bought version that tastes almost as good and is significantly cheaper.
Like Nanaimo bars, for instance. You can buy an entire flat of delicious Nanaimo bars from Costco for $10. To purchase all of the ingredients to make your own you’re looking at $30 and about 2 hours in the kitchen. A person who makes $25 per hour just paid $80 for Nanaimo bars that would have cost $10 from Costco. This is what I refer to as “baking math.” It might be fundamentally flawed, but it’s worth considering.
Furthermore, you can buy Forty Creek Nanaimo Bar Cream, which is the booze version of a Nanaimo bar that you can sip while you’re baking. Discovering this delightful concoction blew my mind, and if you haven’t heard of it yet, you’re welcome.
Let’s not get too fancy
Some of the most delicious baking is the simplest. Faux Almond Roca with a saltine base? Fancy? Heck no! Delicious? Absolutely! If you’re baking for family and friends, and for kids especially, these are the treats that get gobbled up, year after year.
These recipes are not complicated, because 1. It’s been a hard year, and baking shouldn’t stress you out, and 2. You might be drunk baking, in which case, simple is safe.
Sugar cookies with simple glaze (head over to Pinterest for some cute decorating ideas)
This is the best sugar cookie recipe because it tastes amazing, and the dough is easy to work. Do not refrigerate the dough, just get busy rolling it out.
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
5-6 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup milk (more or less, depending)
¼ tsp almond flavouring (optional)
Gel food colour
Preheat oven to 350F
Cream together the butter and sugar with a mixer until smooth
Beat in vanilla and egg
In another bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder
Add dry ingredients to wet a little at a time, continuing to use mixer until everything is combined and the mixture is crumbly
Wet your hands and knead the dough by hand. Separate it into 2 dough balls. Cover one with plastic wrap while you are rolling out the other (don’t chill the dough)
Place the dough on a floured surface, sprinkle flour on top to prevent the rolling pin from sticking. Roll out until it is about ¼ inches thick (don’t roll too thin!)
Cut out shapes, and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets
Bake at 350F for 8-10 mins
Cool completely before icing
Dump ingredients into a bowl and mix together with a metal spoon or fork. I never actually measure out the powdered sugar. I usually just put about 5-6 cups into a bowl with about ¼ tsp of the almond flavour and maybe ¼ cup of milk, but slowly. You need the glaze to be relatively thin, so it comes out nicely from the piping bag. The glaze will harden after a few minutes. If you’re working with kids, I recommend avoiding piping bags to save your sanity and just giving them a bowl with a spoon and butter knife for spreading.
Haystack cookies (AKA chow mein noodle cookies)
My mom makes these every Christmas. Eat them over a plate because they’re a mess to eat, but so yummy.
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup butterscotch chips
½ cup chow mein noodles
½ cup salted peanuts (you can use whole, or crush)
Note: Mess around with these. You’re going to want to double or triple this recipe. Also, if you’re like me and prefer chocolate over butterscotch, switch up the ratio, or replace the butterscotch with chocolate entirely. If you like butterscotch a lot (which just seems weird), toss the chocolate. These are YOUR cookies, so you do you! Try using pretzel bits, add a bit of coconut, or throw in mini marshmallows just for the heck of it. You really can’t screw up this recipe.
In a microwave, melt chocolate and butterscotch chips, stir until smooth. Stir in noodles and peanuts until well coated
Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 2 hours, or until set
How do you like my sunglasses? They’re actually winter boots! Amazing, right?
This magic illusion is made possible through a Facebook scam, of which I was a victim.
It’s humbling, being the victim of fraud. I watch the news all the time. I read about the women who are bilked out of thousands of dollars because they fall in love with fraudsters. The Canada Revenue Agency calls me routinely telling me that I have to act now (and send gift cards) before my case is sent before a tribunal.
I tuned those stories out, to be honest. After all, I’m too smart to be fooled by these fools. Too savvy to be scammed by these scammers.
But now the scammers are laughing at me. And so, to prevent anyone else from feeling as foolish as I do right now, I’m going to tell you a story.
I got greedy, and then I got fooled
About a month ago I was scrolling through social media and whizzing past all the ads showing women shaving their faces with giant, multi-bladed razors (do women do this?) or prancing around wearing leak-proof underwear. When, all of a sudden I saw an ad for Sorel boots and stopped scrolling.
The ad caught my eye because 1. I’m Canadian, and 2. Boots.
My current Sorel boots lasted longer than my marriage and I had been considering an upgrade, you know, for something a little more modern. A little less dated.
I’m still talking about the boots, folks. (Or am I?)
I hadn’t pulled the trigger on the boots because I wasn’t sure if I could afford them. Sorel boots can be pretty pricey.
As though reading my mind (as Facebook often does), this ad promised me Sorel boots for less than half of what I would normally pay. This broke mother said, “Heck yes!”
“This seems almost too good to be true,” I muttered to myself as I clicked through to the website, which was filled with pages and pages of Sorel boots. I found a pair for me. I found another pair for my fast-growing kid. I’m nothing if not a generous broke mother.
Buyer’s remorse sets in
Moments after completing the sale, I felt it: Dread. I sent the URL to a friend who explored the site’s code and gave me the bad news as gently as he could: “Dude. That site is fake. You’re not getting any damn boots. Dummy.”
He would prove correct. The company responded with an invoice, thanked me for my purchase and asked me for my patience as shipping would be delayed due to COVID-19. Two days later I received shipping information, telling me my package was en route from China.
Something shipped, but what?
I waited. I wondered. Should I call the bank now? How about now? Like I do with everything important, I wrote a reminder on a Post-It note and stuck it to my computer monitor.
And then yesterday my boots arrived! But wait, the box was adorably small for two pairs of winter boots.
Were they boots for ants?
No, indeed they were not boots for ants, they were actually sunglasses! Really fancy fake Ray-Ban sunglasses, with a nice little case and a lens cloth and everything!
As adorable as these sunglasses were, they were not $180 worth of winter boots.
Could I afford to learn from this?
There was a moment I considered doing nothing. It was my own fault. I should have known better. I was embarrassed.
Had my purchase been for $50 I probably would have done nothing. I might have even sucked up a charge for $100 and called it a life lesson.
But $180 is not nothing. So I peeled the Post-It from my monitor and called my bank.
An hour spent chatting with a great fraud investigator at BMO, and it appears I may someday get my money back.
In the meantime, here is a word of advice:
Shop local. Shopping local won’t prevent you from going to a shoe store and walking out with a fun new pair of sunglasses. But it will prevent the black magic of that can turn much needed winter boots into silly (but adorable) face accessories.
Compliments are hard to manage for a well-adjusted woman, and even at my most confident I’ve never known what to do with them. However, right now, right in the midst of heartbreak and transition, if you give me a compliment I will poke a million holes in it. I will deflect like a boss. Make no mistake — I want the compliment, I just don’t know how to handle it when it arrives.
Them: “You look so beautiful in your photos!” Me: “The photographer was amazing, and the lighting would have made a block of cheese look like a supermodel. We sure timed that right!”
Example 2: Them: “You have a real gift for writing, Danna.” Me (via text to a friend): “How do I tell the difference between a pity, we-feel-sorry-for-you like, and a real like?”
When I’m wallowing there is not a compliment that I’ll believe, and there is not a nice thing you can say that I will trust entirely.
(“Let’s face it,” sad me will say to myself, “if I were actually beautiful enough, then this probably wouldn’t be happening. If I were actually talented and funny and smart enough then I probably could have prevented my world from turning upside down.)
But there is, thank Christ, a time limit on being pathetic. I can enjoy the food and music (sour jujubes and Adelle mostly), but I can’t move in and unpack.
The antidote to being down in the dumps awash in self-pity, is, unsurprisingly, administered by women.
the gift of company
During my 42 years on this planet I’ve come to realize a universal truth — the longer you live, the busier you become. I’ve heard life doesn’t even slow in retirement. Life, like skipping rope, just gets harder as you get older. And time for leisure becomes more scarce.
My own calendar is filled with work commitments, family commitments and other obligations, both in-person and virtual. There is never enough food in the fridge, the laundry is never done, and no matter how many times I walk the damn dog those big sad eyes will always be staring at me, begging for just one more trip around the ‘hood. I know I should go to bed earlier, but instead of sleeping I use the ever-shrinking time after the kids go to bed to tidy up, or to answer a couple of emails to get a head start on the next day.
There are always extra things to do. There is never extra time.
This is what life is like for all the women I know, but that hasn’t stopped them from showing up.
Despite the pressure put on these remarkable women to do everything and to be everything to everyone around them, they show up. These women are running businesses and raising families, but they pick up the phone and actually call. They give an hour, sometimes more, and fill up the silence that would otherwise eat me alive.
They arrive, and they give, and holy shit, what a compliment.
If I am enough for these women, then I am plenty. And even though you might not be able to hear it, or accept it, you, my friend, are pretty spectacular, too.
I have been called a lot of things, and those labels have changed over time. I have always been “daughter,” “granddaughter,” and “sister,” and one of my fondest labels is “friend.” Don’t get me started on the labels that were placed on me in high school, though thankfully I didn’t hang my identity on “band geek.”
I was “journalist” for many years, which was a label I loved and have yet to remove completely; and of course, I have been “mom” for the past 11 years, which is label that has threaded itself into my DNA.
For 14 years I was “wife”. It was a label I wore nearly as proudly as “mother.”
But today I am an ex. The prefix is one I actively resisted. This is not a label I longed for, in fact, it is one I actively dodged for more than two years.
I had no interest in being single, separated, divorced. And yet here I am — two of those things, and probably months away from being the third.
Today, I am somebody’s “ex”, whereas moments ago I was the same person’s partner. Ex is a label I’ve used a hundred times to refer to other people and their former partners, but when attached to me it feels wrong. I wanted to brush it off like a cobweb that I walked through on my way to take out the garbage; I wanted to cut it off carefully so as not to tear the fabric of my favourite shirt.
In pirate adventures, an x marks the spot where an amazing treasure is hidden, but put an e in front of that x and all you’ve got is a person with baggage and several sad stories to tell. Now that’s me: Teller of sad stories; carrier of baggage.
I’d much prefer being treasure.
Today, I am an ex, and instead of being “parent”, I am (legally-speaking) a co-parent, which is another label that will no doubt give me a rash. As I get used to wearing these scratchy tags, I busy myself by unpacking in my new home, setting up my new space, and ensuring my children have two of everything so they never feel like guests, or have to live out of suitcases.
And when I look up from my busyness, I realize that it is now dark outside and so quiet in this house. I’m spending my first nights alone. I miss the taken-for-granted moments. I miss the every-day silliness at the dinner table, and the serious talks before bed. I have heard from other moms — other exes and co-parents — that I will come to appreciate these quiet moments. That when I wash these labels enough they’ll become soft and comfortable. That when I watch my children thrive, I will relax, and I will be grateful for those tags.
But I’m not there yet. In the quiet moments, these first ones, the labels chafe and are unbearable.
Yes, children are resilient creatures, and I take comfort in this. But when it comes to the resiliency of this mother, this co-parent, and this ex, we will just have to wait and see.
I’ve been thinking about my massage therapist a lot these days.
I wonder how he’s doing, and how he’s keeping busy, and I’ll be honest, I’m a little envious of his wife who had the forethought to marry an RMT. Was he an RMT when they met, or did she direct him toward his career path? Either way, I consider her an absolute genius.
I did not pick my partner based on the skills he could bring to a pandemic. I mean, his sense of humour has been a blessing, and he is wicked good at making Excel spreadsheets, but he is not an RMT, or a chiropractor. Neither of us are particularly good teachers, either, as it turns out.
Who makes the team?
Determining my fantasy quarantine team has taken up quite a bit of my imagination over the past several weeks as I itemize specific skills and discount others. Until recently I didn’t realize how handy it would be to be socially isolated with a hair stylist, or an esthetician.
And I would trade all the Excel spreadsheets in the world in order to add a fitness trainer and a nutrition coach to my roster, as all this self-isolated snacking is getting decidedly out of hand.
I also wouldn’t mind adding a bartender and a barista to my team, either.
There is room on my team for a pet groomer. I was eyeing up my husband’s electric moustache trimmer recently and noted that it was the PERFECT size for trimming the fluff around my doodle’s backside, but after a few moments of reflection I opted against it (because I’m a good person, and that would be a mean thing to do).
Mostly, though, I just miss my massage therapist. Being socially isolated with someone of his talents would be wicked handy. My home office is not ergonomic, and this momma has a neck kink like nobody’s business.
Open to trades
What do I have to trade? I’ve got a couple of budding comedians and fashion critics on the block. One of them can tell you just about everything you will ever need to know about Pokemon, and can also relate any aspect of your life to a Garfield comic. The other one will regale you with ego-boosting observations like: “What are you even wearing? Your shirt is super wrinkled and looks weird, but your hair is the worst part.” When he’s not offering up unsolicited comments on your attire, he will just jump out at you with a surprise high kick, or tackle you into a mid-afternoon wrestle-hug, which is another reason I’m on the lookout for an RMT.
I had just completed my weekly rage-clean when I paused to admire my hard work and also to reflect upon whether this style of cleaning is typical.
Am I the only one who uses anger as detergent?
Certainly, my husband and I both rage clean to different extents. I rage clean the parts of the house that people see. He rage cleans places that are used so infrequently that you forgot they were even part of the house. Like the closet under the stairs that contains our stash of gift bags, loose tissue paper, buckets of unused paint and one red hummingbird feeder. Or he’ll clean the furnace room, or the shed. I’ve even seen him rage clean a fish tank.
During pandemic season when we’re all cooped up inside, shedding our hair and skin cells, and dirty socks in the same square footage 24-hours a day, seven days a week, I have more opportunity to observe the personal hygiene of my family, and I am frankly appalled, which means there is more rage with which to clean than ever before.
The cycle of rage cleaning
It starts with a clean house; the floors are vacuumed and mopped, the kitchen sparkles, the bathroom mirrors are free of toothpaste and fingerprints. And then little by little it starts to happen.
First, maybe there are just a few crumbs under the kitchen table, which you sweep up because at the beginning you think you’ll be able to stay on top of it. Then there’s the single sock in the middle of the family room; beside it on the table is a partially empty water glass, and before you know it a plastic cup joins it. And then you turn your head and there’s a hoodie just lying in the middle of the floor with a granola wrapper beside it. You shout. Things get picked up, but never everything, and never in a timely fashion.
Then you walk into the bathroom, and what was clean yesterday is now covered in beard trimmings and when you look down all you see are pieces of your own long brown hair on the floor; look up, and you’ll likely even find it up there attached to the ceiling. What is the hair sticking to? Nobody knows.
You Lysol wipe the counter, but those wipes are hard to come by in a pandemic. And you think about vacuuming but to vacuum you have to pick up the 700 Nerf darts and 35 dog toys that are currently scattered around the house. It all seems impossible, so you just pour yourself a glass of wine because it’s 3 pm on a Wednesday, and you head outside because at least it’s clean out there, or sort of clean, because that’s where the dirt lives, and you’re basically just visiting the dirt at its own house, which is calming.
Eventually, however, you have to come back inside because that’s where the food is. Then you decide to make dinner, but to make dinner you have to find some counter space.
They break you
And that’s when it happens. You snap. It’s taken days to get here, but your family has finally broken you, and if you don’t rage you’ll cry, and dammit, you are NOT going to be bested by these little jerks that you birthed, so you slam the cupboard doors, toss plates into the dishwasher (thanking Jesus that you bought the ugly Corelle because it’s the only thing that stands up to a rage clean), and these sounds give notice: Everybody better pitch in or get the hell outta the way, because you have lost your ever loving mind, and the rage clean has begun.
The music is loud, but the house that was filled with animals, people and noise moments ago is now empty. Children who wouldn’t leave you alone long enough to take a 20-minute teleconference have all but disappeared into the mist. They have read the mood and scattered to the winds, giving you free reign to curse them loudly while they’re out of earshot. “They are SO GROSS! How are they so DISGUSTING! They are worse than ANIMALS! GAH!”
The heart rate monitor on your smart watch is pumping, because your rage burns calories; your rage gets shit done. Your rage is ALIVE!
But it’s for the greater good
Eventually it fizzles though, and you look around and realize that your house is clean again. You’ve ordered take out. The sound of the washing machine going through its final spin cycle is a lullaby. The vacuum hose gets wound up and tucked away in the closet, the floors are now dry, so the chairs come down from on top of the kitchen table. The gangsta rap that Alexa had pumped moments ago is suddenly Jack Johnson. You can hear the birds sing outside, and when your family returns from their sudden field trip to the driveway to play basketball you greet them with a smile and a “please hang up your hoodie.”