“If it had teeth it would bite you.” I heard this phrase all through my childhood and adolescent years. As intelligent as I was, I was still a scatterbrain. I would put something down and forget where I put it. I would look all over the house and still not find the item. If it was something important, like my glasses for example, my grandmother would find them right away. Thus, began the ritual; I would ask where did she find them and she would say, “If it had teeth it would bite you.”
It would bother me in those early years but I must have developed a thick skin because I still misplaced things. Then the messy part of my character kicked in. I did not have a grandmother to clean-up after me anymore. I was in my twenties and I was working and my desk was an absolute mess. The supervisor would complain that she could never find anything on my desk. However, if she asked me to find the paper or file, I knew immediately where to look. I was content in my mess.
My days of being messy came to an end. I was told point blank that the department could not function properly if they couldn’t find anything on my desk. I was told I had to keep a clean desk “or else.” That worked for the office; but, at home my home was a mess. It used to take me an hour to find my keys, a pen, a certain paper I needed or even yesterday’s mail. I just could not remember where I put things.
One day I was late for an appointment because I could not find my keys. I finally had enough and so I decided to put my keys in the same spot all the time; that way I did not have to go searching around the house for them. It worked for the keys but I still couldn’t manage finding other things that I misplaced.
I eventually got sick and stopped working. I took to writing in order to make extra money. Now I had two good excuses for being messy. I was sick and in pain and I was a writer. Writer’s desks are supposed to be messy – everyone knows that.
Even though I justified being messy by claiming to be a writer, it just didn’t sit well with my friends and family. They didn’t accept the excuse that I had to be a writer and worked all the time, therefore I did not have the time to clean up. They were not writers. They did not understand the pressure of deadlines and the dedication needed to write for different magazines and online sites. They had a nine-to-five job and they left their work issues at the office.
To make it worse, my mentor was also a writer and she was an immaculate housewife. Yet, even though she was a great example to follow I just could not keep up with everything. I was disciplined when it came to writing; but, not when it came to housework. The truth of the matter was I hated housework and would find any excuse not to do it. Unfortunately as I got sicker I also did less cleaning up. I have diabetes, arthritis, fibromyalgia and a host of other ailments.
Worst of all was the blow to my ego. I used to go to other people’s homes and noticed how not even a glass in the kitchen cupboard was out of place. I longed to be a super housewife like my friends. I began feeling it was useless and I was a failure. I lived like a hermit and stopped having people at my house. I figured if they don’t come to my house my little secret would not be revealed. I was able to pull it off with new friends who thought I was neat and tidy. However, keeping up appearances was making me even more depressed. Now I felt like an imposter.
In September of this year I moved to a seniors building. During the course of my stay I have met several seniors who are handicapped. However, one particular lady uses a wheelchair. Her house is spotless. Sometimes she leaves her door open and I see her wheeling her chair and mopping the floor at the same time. The first time I saw this lady do this, I was so astonished. Then I found out that the janitor is quite lazy and this woman sweeps and washes the long corridor to our apartments as well.
Something inside of me just changed. She became my inspiration. I felt if she could do all these things, I could do it too; pain and all. Now my housework is kept up. I had to cut down on my writing to allow time every day to clean my house, but it is worth it. Anyone can come to my house and I feel comfortable having them. I have learned to do a little bit each day so that my house does not get messy. I feel much better now and I owe it all to my neighbor.
Previously published in Bubblews