It started a month ago: What do you want for your birthday, mom? It's kind of a joke actually, because every year for every holiday I ask for exactly the same thing.
A Clean House.
My mom got savvy a while back and started booking our old housekeeper to come in every year for my birthday and for the winter holidays. It's easy and always the right color and fit.
The sad thing is, I am serious. It IS what I really want. Its hard enough for me to figure out what I want, when the family has so many needs. And I certainly don't usually dare ask for what I want. Not getting it hurts too much. Still when I look in my heart, what I really want is a clean house. A clean house means I am free to read a book or do something interesting. A house already put together means I can move on, and not be weighed down by the the Awful Should Do's. Every week I finish a full week at work and have to come home and put in another 20 hours just keeping our house from being a health hazard.
But this year, something was different. Maybe this birthday is a big enough number that I can hear the clock ticking. I know the show does not go on forever. And maybe this year, I don't just want a clean house, I NEED a clean house. My world, organized.
And so I asked. But I didn't ask my family. I framed up a little email request, and I asked my dearest girl friends to help me. It was really really hard to ask-- I had the thing on my computer for weeks before I dared to mail it. I am not the one who needs things--I have spent a lifetime in the counter role: the one who rescues and fixes.
I have no problem accessing professional help when I need it. But asking a friend for a favor is really hard for me. Perhaps it is the pioneer stock, the midwestern ethic--it is a mark of one's strength to go it alone. But for my birthday I gave myself the gift of asking.
And so they arrived, in sweats and jeans, ready to roll up their sleeves, and roll em up they did. After 3 hours, I called them off, and we ate lasagna with a celebratory glass of wine, and surveyed their gift: a completely reorganized and decluttered front room, and a kitchen wall of appliances suitable for a photo in a lifestyle magazine. I felt lighter than air, happy, as I took the garbage bags to the trash and loaded the cast offs into the Amvets donation box. A morning of work did not give me an entire house, but it started a process of paring down, of unblocking my chi, of lightening my load, and this process is long overdue in my life.
As this birthday is solidly in middle age, I come to grips with all the things I might not have time for, but there are many things I chose not to have time for: toxic people, stuff that no longer serves me, and patterns that hold me down. The gift of time that my friends gave me was so precious and will last forever--and it will never need dusting.
At the end of my birthday weekend, my youngest daughter asked me, as I ask each of my children each year on their special day, Was it a Good Birthday? It was, it was.