Quest for neatness can make you and others nuts

I think I am the beginning stages of not being obsessed with having my house look perfect.

I used to be so crazed that I could not leave beds unmade, dishes in the sink or anything out of place. I remember almost being late for a talk I had to do because I vacuumed up some crumbs off the kitchen floor. In those days I worried that someone might come over and report that I was a slob.

I have had many people like me in my workshops. One woman told me that she had to vacuum the rug in the same direction. I asked her why this was so important, and she responded, “I don’t want to disturb the nap.” I told her I didn’t think it was the nap that was disturbed.

I don’t think she had a huge epiphany from my comment, because she went on to tell me how necessary it was for her not to leave any dirty dishes in the sink. I told her to put them in the trunk of the car and then she wouldn’t have to see them.

Unfortunately, this woman kept going on and on with her “shoulds and musts,” because she really needed her family and friends to feel she was perfect. After a few years of hearing similar stories, I began to delve more into “why am I driving myself nuts in order to have my home resemble a museum?”

If I’d bought red velvet ropes and cordoned off certain rooms, I’d have been all set. My family could have been relegated to the basement; then I could enjoy the order and cleanliness.

However, the energy it takes to keep everything pristine is exhausting, and it drives everyone around you nuts.

My other dilemma was my ability to see a dirt ball a mile away. I’ve been blessed and cursed with high-level awareness. I would have made a great forensic scientist.

During the past five years my need to “seek and clean” has been tempered by being in a partnership with a wonderful man who is the direct opposite. Any time I walk into the kitchen, every cupboard door is open. He loves coffee and has three or four half cups in different rooms in the house. I often find one he forgot in the microwave.

He loves to eat something late at night, and I always know, since there are traces of it all over the kitchen. What I find interesting is that I laugh about it more than I curse about it.

I’ve realized that having a loving partnership overrides having a spotless house.

Buffer Our Fears! Extrapolate from your day to day life what you feel good about and think about it often.

The last several years have seen a proliferation of books on how to think positive, and be happy so that you can become successful and fulfilled. The only problem is that more often than not our brains prefer to choose negative thoughts. John Milton said that “The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” He certainly knew what he was talking about. On any given day we average about 60,000 thoughts. Many of them are focused on what’s wrong, or what could go wrong. This made a lot of sense thousands of years ago when there was a huge possibility that your village could be obliterated by your enemies or that you might be attacked by a behemoth while taking a morning walk. Unfortunately the brain has taken it’s time catching up with modern-day society. We are still struggling to rid ourselves of a lot of our fears, which often come from negative thoughts, even though we are living in modern times. Researchers have proven that our brain patterns are defined in part by how we think. Optimists take credit for their successes and see bad events as flukes. Pessimists, on the other hand, blame themselves for anything that happens and often discount success. Dr. Martin Seligman has dubbed the dialogue of pessimism and optimism as explanatory style. He points to the fact that pessimists use the three P’s to explain themselves: personalization (“It always happens to me!”), pervasiveness (“it happens to me every day in every way!”), and permanence (“It will never end!)”. This practically guarantees a life that contains a feeling of hopelessness and suffering. It also contributes to a sense of inner worthlessness and a lack of self-control. The more we think we are a certain way, the more we become that way. Learning to change our inner dialogue can be very difficult for those whose biology predisposes them to depression and or anxiety. So learning to parrot positive statements may prove to be an act of futility for them. They may need a combination of medications and a cognitive behavioral therapist. For those of us who have simply become habituated to thinking that the universe is not a friendly place, I suggest spending some time everyday thinking about what you feel good about. There is always something we can extrapolate from our day-to-day that can help to buffer our fears.  If you can engage in this practice you will find yourself more able to handle difficult situations and there’s a good possibility you may even live longer.

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