On Cleaning

Jesus Tap-dancing Christ I hate cleaning. I’m talking about the kind of hate that I can feel down into my toes, that reverberates throughout my soul. Cleaning is like doing work, but I don’t actually get anything accomplished. I’m not studying for my Russian test, I’m not putting the final touches on my story, I’m not getting paid to do something inane and repetitive. Sure, I get a clean apartment, but I’m just going to make it dirty again. I think, If I had a choice between cleaning my apartment, or watching Twilight while my crazy exes cried over their current boyfriends, I think I’d disregard my usual prohibition from exes, and side with them. At least then I could be an asshole and tell them to go clean my kitchen.

But I need to clean around here. A stick of incense is burning in the corner as I type. I needed to light it just so I could stomach the smell in here. My sink is filled with a stack of dishes, dirty water floating in some and the remains of meals coating others. Pots, plates and bowls mingle among a layer of rotten water, food crumbs freely sprouting the beginnings of new life. Damn my vegetarian, some-what healthy diet, and damn myself for not succumbing to the typical frozen-meal fast-food on-the-go diet my college friends subscribe too.

I have a water filter in my fridge that hasn’t been filled for a week. I keep thinking about it as I scrub old food off of plates and cram them into my dish washer. Sure, I’ll drink tap water, but I love the sweet sweet taste of cold, clean water, and I can’t wait to have it on demand. Living on my own means I need to be more responsible for my life. Only as an adult can I appreciate the continual hounding my parents gave me over homework. I’m still on the Dean’s List, so the habits they instilled in me have kept up, but I skip homework way more than I ever did, living with them. The flip side of this is that I possess a degree of independence; a big deal for a strong-willed 24 year old. However, that brings me back to responsibility. I don’t have enough of it, and if I’m going to succeed on my own, I need to realize that sometimes the best option is taking care of my freaking apartment.

Okay, there’s the last dish in the dish washer. I’ve got the water filter under the tap, water on low, a glittering waterfall of the stuff my body needs to keep function. My fingers have lines pressed into them, from the soaking in dirty soap-water they just received, but I don’t care. I’ve had a good day.

After laying in bed for an hour, I got up to find my keyboard broken; hitting the “M” key made it type “6hmn.” So I took that keyboard back, got a return (thank you extended warranty!), and picked up a newer, and cheaper, keyboard from the local place down the street. Then I went grocery shopping and cleaned my kitchen. Now, I’m at the highlight of my day: writing. It’s the end of the semester, so most of my writing is actually revising. I need to spend time making my pieces pretty, to transform them from a fumbled first attempt to a polished final draft. Pages appear and disappear, words are mixed and mingled, shifted around and dropped out, and entire sections of the story are sliced out, formatted, and dropped elsewhere. The final result is something to be proud of, something I can give to friends and family with happiness, perhaps even something I can send to a publisher. But, much like cleaning, this is a part of writing that I despise. I’m much happier with the process of creating; entering the thought process that allows me to come up with ideas, to fashion miscellaneous bits that occur in my daily living together into a coherent whole. When I was a music major, I had more fun playing my set than sitting through theory class, and the same holds for writing. And, thank God!, the latter is what I’m doing right now.

Music, I think, is to blame for my inability to spend time on things like cleaning. I spent a summer marching drum corp, which is like marching band if marching band was a lot more like the army. I spent ten hour days on a gravel parking lot, memorizing the steps to the show that I was to perform at near-perfect a few short months later. As preparation for drum corp, and as part of my music major, I spent 10 hours a day practicing on a regular basis. If I wasn’t practicing, I was sitting and listening to music, or in class. I absorbed ideas as actively as I could, pursuing everything I could to push myself to be the better musician. The best musician is the one who gets the job, and if I’m going to do, I should be getting.

But I’m not a music major anymore, precisely because that life style is what’s needed to survive in it. Music is my deepest passion, but I also like to read books, play video games, cook a fresh meal, and go frisbee golfing with my friends. Being a music major didn’t allow me to enjoy my life, but being a creative writing major encourages me to enjoy my many fascinations.

Still, a part of the productivity drum corp drilled into me is alive and kicking. When the final two weeks of school rolls around, I easily switch into go mode. I’ll pound out two papers, edit another one, and study for a test in a eight hour block for a week solid. But my kitchen will suffer.

But that’s where the idea of responsibility rears it’s ugly head. Eventually, I’ll have an afternoon where I won’t have much to do. Typical me would spend that day relaxing, regaining energy for my next big push. But how much time do I need to relax? Surely, I can spare an hour to scrub some pots, another hour to cook a meal, a half hour to vacuum and throw some clothes in the laundry. That is what I’ve done today, what I don’t normally do. Perhaps that is why I feel so good about myself.

The dishwasher is busy running, and the last of my formerly dirty pots and pans are sitting in the drying rack. I still have a few plates, though, tucked on the side of the sink. Once the dishwasher is clean, I can empty it out and throw these in there for next load.

…Speaking of, why do I have a stack of eight plates? Both of those were donated to me, from my sister and a roommate who left quite a few of his belongings and will never be seeing them again. But that doesn’t mean I need them; I hardly have more than two people over for a meal. I could certainly get rid of them. I have a few friends who just moved and might need more plates, and if not Occupy Omaha could probably use them. But having this many plates only lets me slack off. I have eight, so why wash the three that are dirty? Might as well wait until I have six dirty, then clean them. Makes sense, but it means I’m going to have six dirty plates sitting around, unused. Less stuff means I have to clean more often, which means my apartment will stay cleaner. It’s that damn responsibility, again. I think I’m getting the hang of it.

Oh, but don’t let me forget to tell you about the best part of cleaning. I just stuck a pan on the stove and threw some mushrooms drizzled with olive oil in. It’s simmering, and now that the dishes are packed away and the incense has run out, the smell of mushrooms is filling my house. I’m not sure what I’ll do with them yet; maybe mix them with my dad’s marinara sauce or chop them up and throw them inside of a pepper to bake. But either way, it’ll taste delicious. God I’m hungry.

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