Tag Archives: costco

Inadequacy and the Cleaning Ladies

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They’re back. I re-hired them after I let myself decide that it was ok to not give a damn about letting someone else clean my house. That if the funds are there, and the stars align,  I reasoned that I was keeping these women employed and I didn’t have to sweat my sons’ bathroom toilets and bed-making. They know my home, they know where stuff goes and in the future, I will likely employ them to help me purge.

So the funds are there, thanks yoga teaching, and the stars have aligned. The ladies have been back for months. What has returned with them, along with a lovely surprise I’ll get into shortly, is the sense of inadequacy and the reminder of my flagging mindfulness. At times, I’ve simply laid out the sheets on the beds to be changed. I’ve left my clean folded clothes in piles — it’s like I’m a transient in my own house: I don’t always put away my clothes. I live out of the familiar piles of cleaned shirts and undies and jeans and sock twins that are like small indicators of unfinished projects. They’re cotton archipelagos of inadequacy. What I need to do is vet out my t-shirts and gut about half of all my clothes. I have too many pairs of yoga pants.

“But there will be a funeral and I’ll need that dress.” “And that sweater to go over it.” “And those boots because I know we will go out to a bar again, one day, maybe after the funeral.” “There’s a wedding this fall…”

Lots of clothes I don’t wear anymore are tied in my former identity: corporate shill of corporate messaging. They were pricey then, nice wools, beautiful blends, “status” labels and now… I don’t wear them. I can still fit into all of it, but there’s this part of me which simply won’t move on. This part of me SO GETS MY MOTHER: that she would hang on to her gorgeous classic-hewn clothing because it never went out of style, and she was right.  Mom could rock a camel-toned cashmere sweater in May like NO ONE, other than Lauren Hutton.

I also know that clothes and books and things were important to my mother. I sense that after all her kids pushed off for lives of their own, and my father pressed on in his career, her drive to fill our rooms with things she’d never use, but things which sated her fears and sadnesses beat any fleeting sense of mindfulness or rational objective in acquiring such things. I’m sure it’s a combination of her numerous anxieties and predilections as well as a sincere interest in reading that book, or giving that gift, or using that purse, or wearing those boots that over time simply became too overwhelming to deal with. So instead of purging, she acquired more to quiet the noise. More things to hide the things she never used.

I can feel the sensations in my body: quickening pulse and a shallowness of breath when I look around my accumulation of unused or once-used items and shame myself internally for having them. I think of landfills and waste. “It’s a lot,” one of the cleaning ladies once said to me when I sighed at the house. And I think I’m relatively organized!

I don’t need 52 multicolored Sharpies, but there was a time when I did. The kids use them for school, still, but there’s this nagging sense of “USE THAT ALL THE TIME OR IT’S WASTE” mentality. I blame Costco. I’m mostly serious. You can’t buy three pairs of socks there, you have to buy six in a pack. You can’t buy 12 Sharpies, you have to get 52 — because if you buy 12 a la carte elsewhere, it’s almost as pricey as buying the bargain pack at Costco.

But the cleaning ladies come, and when they do, the house must be “in order” to a certain degree because they can’t access the table to clean and dust it if it’s covered in 52 Sharpies. I mean, they will put the Sharpies somewhere, but often their choice of placement is like a planter or a silverware drawer because they’re just here to get shit done and move on.

So here’s the surprise I’ve finally allowed myself to enjoy: when they come here, for at least the first afternoon, I will enjoy and revel in the quiet, the order, and the essence organization that reigns and it’s ok if I didn’t do much of it myself. I know I can; that’s not the point. It’s that I’ve allowed myself to let someone else do it and that I’m ok with it.

Even though I know and YOU know what’s really going on in that junk drawer, that for the moment, everything is chill and my home makes me look like I’ve got my act together. When they’re here, quietly tending to my home in a way that I certainly can, but I’ve basically abdicated, I do feel less alone. My heartbeat slows and my breath becomes mine again. It will get done. That’s the gift.

I read with great vigor A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin. It’s a collection of short stories. Many of them are memoir, some are written with disdain for the client / employer, and I shuddered a little upon reading Berlin’s observations about us, knowing when we’ve had our periods, or the last time we had sex, what we’re reading, what we’re still not reading, how we’re sleeping, or if our children eat in their beds, hoard candy in their rooms, and the secrets they have, but I get that. Other stories are deep, wandering tales about love, the oceans, sex with near strangers, and marriage. It’s a wonderful book as Berlin is masterful — both succinct and dreamy — and real. You can’t hide from her, she has found you.

I think often about these women who clean my home, Flora and Linda. They are sweet and obsequious. They banter in Spanish and usher tender giggles to each other upon encountering our dogs and marveling at how much my children have grown. I’ve worked with them for eight years. I wonder about their lives, about what keeps them up at night. Shortly after my mother died, they came to clean and I thought I was going to be OK. I hadn’t let the house get too bad between their visits. But Mom had died and I was a mess.

The moment they came in the door, my eyes welled up and Flora (the older of the two) saw my face. She knew something had gone horribly wrong between our last encounter. “My mother died last week…” and I wailed and bawled and cried heaving sobs into her neck as she held me and rocked me in her arms. She’s not that much older than I am, but I have an affection for these women that goes back to my childhood as I was basically raised by my cleaning lady, Betty Sortino.

Flora’s partner, Linda came in to help soothe me. And we stood there in my front hall for about a minute until I composed myself and told them what happened. Three weeks later, Linda’s husband also died. He fell off a scaffold at his worksite and died in the ambulance. He was 36. He and Linda have three children. She took a couple weeks off and then came back to work; she has no choice as she has to feed her children and her husband is dead. I wonder about her children. When I give away clothes, I give Linda and Flora first rights of refusal. Over the years, I’ve given them clothes, desks, dressers, books, and toys.

About a year ago I learned how much these women earned from my payment to their broker. $20 per house. I was paying many times that for the fee. If clients kept their appointments, they would clean up to four houses per day. They only got paid if they cleaned and I used to flake out on their employer all the time because I couldn’t get my house ready. Each house takes about 2 hours for them to tackle.

One day, I asked them if they worked on their own and that’s how we do it now. I’ve increased their rate and I believe that my paying them outright and directly rather than through the company whence we first found them does make a difference. When I pay them directly, I am less prone to cancel because I don’t have my act together because the house wasn’t tidied in time or appropriately. They don’t judge. They are eager for the work and I am eager for the respite from the visual chaos. It’s become more of a relationship which transcends the work and I trust them completely. I respect them and they get to keep the money I pay them instead of only take home a sixth of it when I paid them through their broker. I give them extra cash for Christmas.

Each time they are here, I promise to myself that I’m going to go through my things and really sort and donate. Lighten my load. I have a neighbor who’s moving this weekend. She’s more than a neighbor, she’s become like a cousin to me. She’s leaving for Florida and I honestly hope I go see her. When she put her house on the market, I helped her straighten up — I was literally a third pair of eyes added on to her own and her young friend who’s got a real knack for spatial placement of things.

She asked me to come view and give pointers. I admit I felt a little like a white-gloved Marine Corps officer running quarters inspection, but my advice, adjustments, and insight were helpful. I was impressed by how austere her home had become. It felt like a resort property. It felt like a rental on a beach and I envied that — the lack of shit crowding everything. Yet she felt it was too sterile, too antiseptic, no “life” or “personality” in her home anymore. She was right. The house had a “tone” now, not a feeling. We all agreed that the powder room needed to feel like a “spa” so I filled her glass vases that hung on the wall with neutral tone rocks, some branches from the wispy white pine tree in her backyard and clips off the rigid birch tree in my front yard and voila. Spa.

It sold in three days. For the asking price.

I will miss her a lot. More than I think either of us realize. She has quietly supported me — unconditionally — for our entire relationship. She has never passed judgment and has been a true cheerleader in everything I’ve ever ventured. It hurts that she’s leaving, but everything was in such utterly perfect cosmic alignment — like the kind of alignment you read about — that her staying here meant spiritual coma. You don’t get the kind of opportunities, conversations, situations and challenges thrown at you the way she has and keep things as they are.

She used my cleaning ladies before putting the house on the market. They provided her with the calm and ease they provide me every time they leave my home. It’s quiet. It’s clean. When they are here, I am forced to let them work, to stay out of their way. To leave with the dogs. When I come back, things are where they belong. Or at least they’re not in the way. The inadequacy ebbs and I don’t feel like such a failure. I know I perform a lot around here, it’s in the ways you can’t often see. At the very least, I have participated in readying the house for them.

In three hours my three boys will be home. I will be teaching little kids yoga, teaching them to learn how to calm themselves, center their minds, and know they are enough. I will not think about my friend moving to Florida and I will thank Linda and Flora.

Thank you.

 

30 Days of Jung — Day 27: #Happiness #Balance #Humility #Survival #Thrive #Costco

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I can’t help it. This quote makes me smile and think we’re all gonna be alright after all, like the theme song of the “Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Welcome to Day 27 of “30 Days of Jung,” my series, wherein (soon, I will start repeating myself, like now) I take a famous quote of Carl G. Jung‘s and try to make sense or refute or invert or disembowel it or where I turn into a heaping pile of mush because of it in 1,000 words or less.

If you don’t know who Jung is, he formulated the theories of introverted and extroverted personalities, the stages of individuation, the basis of the “Meyers-Briggs” personality (INFJ / ESFJ, etc.) tests. He’s the “father” of modern-day psychoanalysis. In short, he’s a badass. But he’s dead, so he can’t be with us today.

Here is today’s:

“There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year’s course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.”

― C.G. Jung

I am very late with today’s post; a good 12 hours late. It’s OK though because real life has taken over in a big way and as much as I’ve been enjoying this little “therapy retreat” as one of my favorite readers called it, all good things must end and soon, we will be at our end here with this Jungian journey.

My, what a ride is has been though, huh? I will have no choice but to write a retrospective when all is said and done in a few days. Then I’m off to begin phase 1 of my yoga training; I sense that my brain is the perfect amount of mush now and is ready to take in even more woo-woo, as Kelly DeBie and Lillian Connelly and I call it.

I love the quote.

I often hear from my children (about whom I’ve not written much lately, sorry boys) from one to the other sounds of mirth or rage or defiance or jocularity or surprise or wonder and even, dare I venture: support. Sometimes, though, I just like the silence.

The silence means they’re busy. Maybe even reading and so it is often that I marvel over the silence and am equally thankful for the noise, because as Jung said, there is always a balance, and were it not for the balance we’d have no way of appreciating anything.

How would we know noise if we didn’t know silence?

How would we know joy if we didn’t know pain?

How would we know right if we didn’t know wrong?

I could go on and on… one more? Ok…

How could we know bad cereal if we didn’t have the goodness of Cap’n Crunch? (It has been too long without a Cap’n reference; I couldn’t help myself.)

But where do we strike the balance? Or do we strike the balance? We can be excessive. For instance, today I was at Costco. (I could just stop there….) I had this moment of quandary: how do I strike the Jungian balance of being a part of the world, but also maintain my selfness, my autonomy and my need for progress when the world seems to want to just stand there? And how do I get to stand still and just be, try to grasp what little I can of the time that fleets before me when the zeitgeist of the world moves too quickly for my taste?

Balance. Karma. Give. Take. Cheese. Combo.

I needed to order a pizza to bring home for lunch. Two registers were open, but the twenty or so people standing in the mob-blob in front of the registers were sort of mooing, bleating and clucking to themselves; there was no order, and it wasn’t as though they were a group trying to choose from the great vastness of the menu: plain or pepperoni, sandwich or a hot dog? Vanilla or chocolate? If they were standing in front of the soda machines, I could understand it, but not where they were.

One of the cashiers was trying to get the tall peoples’ attention, anything… he was waving enthusiastically, he said, “This register is open! I can take your order!” and the answer was more mooing and croaking.

Finally, an adroit member of the Costco cashier team said loudly, her hands cupped against her laugh lines (they’re always laugh lines on this cashier): “Two. Lanes. Are. O-PEN. Form! Two! Lines!” and her arms spread out with each index finger pointing at a beige IBM terminal, their green LED screens flashing, “Costco Food Court.” The mooing and clucking became “ohhh”-ing and “agh”-ing and it was as if Moses himself had divided the red sea.

The man in the white shirt ahead of me clearly chose the left lane. I stayed behind him. A mass of people moved to the right. I didn’t care or notice who was behind me, but I was definitely always directly behind this man and his white shirt. About four people were ahead of him. Out of the corner of my eye, behind me, definitely behind me, was this little woman and her two grandchildren. She reminded me of a very short Olympia Dukakis, one of my favorite actresses.

Was she in the right lane? Was she in the left lane? Was she aware? Was she accustomed to lanes, to order in Costco, the likes of which our Food Court Moses had manifested?

I could sense my space was being infringed upon.

I didn’t like it.

Normally, I honest to goodness would absolutely let anyone get in front of me who was encumbered by small children; I have been there and I would absolutely would allow a grandparent. Normally.

Yet, I wasn’t sure what she was trying to do. Read the menu? She wouldn’t look at me. But she got closer. Her wee charges pulling one arm one way and another arm the other way. Her salt & pepper hair was wavy and sagacious. One of the children moved directly in front of me; between me and Mr. White Shirt.

I was tired. I was hungry and I was totally aware of my Jungian responsibility to this woman: we are all connected. We are all one people. We are all the same. ‘Cept she wasn’t making eye contact. She started to move in.

The lane to the right was moving along; it was a couple people longer than mine, but it was moving as people were making orders like I would be and not actually need food served at the moment.

She stepped right into my path. She bumped into Mr. White Shirt. He turned to her, she said, “Oh! Sorry,” and she still didn’t look at me.

I cleared my throat as if I had the plague and I said to her, “I’ve been behind him since the lane formed. What do you need? Are you in a line?”

“It’s no beeeg deeeeeal! It’s nooo beeg deeeel!” She said, nodding and smiling.

I had to pee. I also had to find my husband who was still shopping. I was afraid he’d get the wrong 5-gallon tub of mustard. I hate it when he does that. I also had to order a pizza and I was also supremely thirsty.

I was still aware of my connection. “We are all one. We all have sadness and happiness; we all have fears and confidences; we all have wants and aversions…”  I said to myself.

I didn’t care. I mean, I did, so I tempered myself, but I didn’t care.

“It is a big deal; I need to order a pizza and I don’t know what you’re doing. I’ve been behind him. Are you with him? You can get behind me or that other line…” I didn’t growl, but I was firm. I also stood about a foot taller than she did; and I’m just 5’5″.

“It’s no beeeg deeeeeal! It’s nooo beeg deeeel!” She sings, smiles again.

White Shirt turns to look at me. He’s cute; looks like Benjamin Bratt. He looks at her. He turns back around.

She goes over to the other line.

I stand there, unfazed by it all, waiting for my turn to tell them “Pizza please: half-combo, half-plain, two drinks please.” It would be at least two more people ahead of me before I got to do that.

I look over and she’s already done. She’s on her way to the fountain drinks. I laugh to myself. She putters over to a table, I place my order and we go on our ways.

But the whole time internally I’m saying to myself, “Jung would beat me with his dead femur right now if he were here. He just would. I should have given my space to that woman; I should have gestured: you go ahead…” But I reasoned, “I didn’t know what she wanted. She just sort of bobbed in and out. She finished her business way before I did…”

And so I sit here, clearly exceeding my word limit as I explain this to you both, wondering: was that a balance today or was I just a Costco shrew? I try so often to be different from my fellow humans: to be aware (which I was), but to make room, to allow for the randomness and be equanimous (Wayne) with what’s going on. But today I felt as though I were the ignored one, as though she were trying to inch in, flashing her smile, avoiding eye contact and tweeting her “It’s no beeeg deeeeeal! It’s nooo beeg deeeel!” and I didn’t like it. Could’ve been cultural.

Gah! I’m such a shrew! Oh! Forgive me Olympia Dukakis of Costco!

I’ve read a lot over the years about “compassion” and how we can sometimes neglect ourselves for the benefit of others all in the name of compassion. For some reason today, I decided not to do that. Was I feeling a balance?

And she finished before I did. She moved on and I got to be.

“It’s no beeeg deeeeeal! It’s nooo beeg deeeel!”

Ain’t that the truth?

Thank you.