Friday, April 6, 2012

The Fear of (Im)Perfection

This weekend my sister-in-law and her boyfriend (Lee and Don) are coming for a visit.  They have never been to our place, and I haven't seen Lee in almost two years. I'm truly looking forward to the visit.

Now my pesky house gremlin begins its work.

I think anyone who comes over is looking at everything in my house with a critical eye.  Every cobweb, layer of dust, ball of cat hair, speck of mold on the bathroom ceiling because we don't have an exhaust fan, I am going to be judged by it all.  This time of the year, most surfaces are covered with muddy cat paw prints and shedded-out horse hair.  Then I go spastic over the yard and grounds.  I want people to see the place the way I see it in my mind's eye: gardens beautifully kept, lovely walkways, neat woodpile and whatnot.  Instead, I see the stack of cinderblocks that pass for back steps, peeling paint on the house, the leaning ancient outhouse which I SWEAR I will fix up this year, the chicken poo that someone will inevitably step in.  I do warn people of that last item, but it still happens.

And yet in my logical mind I know this is all ridiculous.  People really don’t care all that much.  But I do.  I think it's some reflection on me AND I want people to see how fabulous I see this place to be.

My mother was the white tornado.  Every Friday night was go-through the house night for her, cleaning everything (this was in addition to spring and fall tear-throughs).  I admit it was nice to live in a clean house but, honestly, it was lost on my father and me.  My mother did say that the year I got a horse, a broom grew out of her right hand.  I now find myself doing the same thing with my husband almost every time he tracks mud into the house (Gasp!  It’s true!  You DO become your mother!!!).  While I have never shared my mother’s penchant for fastidiousness, I have, over the years, developed my own fairly laid-back tolerance level of clean vs. dirty.  When it bothers me, that's when I clean it.  And that normally works pretty well for me.  I remember once my mother looking with scorn at my oven, which was less than clean, and she said, "It's a self-cleaning oven, you know," to which I replied, "Well, then it didn't do a very good job, did it?"

Except when company's coming.  Then I worry about how things will be perceived, seen, interpreted, insert angst here.  I looked out the window at the side yard the other day and thought, I should do this, do that, put this away, rake up that, trim that bush, yadda yadda.  Then I was like, oh for God's SAKE, stop it!  This isn't the freaking Shelburne Museum.  Larry doesn’t worry about ANY of this stuff. 

So this morning when I went out to do animals, I took a look around and though, you know, it’s actually pretty damn nice around here.  Last week Larry did a beautiful job of thinning out the raspberries and rototilling the gardens.  And I’m happy with the way the outside looks because, duh, it's the outside.  It's a little farm, for cryin' out loud.  You’re NEVER done doing stuff.  And you know, anybody who's ever come to visit always says how warm and cozy the house is, and how cool the grounds are.  Yes, it will look nicer in the summer than now.  Why do I worry about it so much!  Then I went in the house and did some dusting and tidying up (I still need to wash the floors) and thought, this looks pretty good, too.  Done.   

My friend (and boss) Cherie Indelicato said it best when she said to me, "You know, people don't care what the house looks like. They're interested in spending time with you."  That really stuck with me.  And fellow Bona Fide Butterfly Debbie Philp also had a moment of clarity when she had Annie Gregson and me over to do some brainstorming work and was comfortable with having people there without feeling she had to have everything tidy and ship shape.  I know I didn’t care.  Besides, she was baking cookies that we got to share so I was willing to overlook pretty much anything.  I'm trying to take a page from her playbook. 

Q: What's wrong with this picture? 
A:  Nothing.  Nothing at all.           
Larry and I work, off the homestead and on.  We’re busy with lots of cool extracurricular activities.  Life's a work in progress.  I'm going to enjoy the now more and not worry so much about other's perceptions.  It’s a waste of energy that could be better spent with the people who come to share our home. 

My mother-in-law is coming for the weekend in mid-May. She hasn’t been here in several years.  I should have all the cat nose-prints off the windows by then.