Getting down and dirty

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Karen's Quest with Karen Smith

Here’s some trivia: if you serve children a bucket load of watermelon, they will ask no questions - no matter how many bloody Band-Aids you’re sporting. They simply gorge themselves happily, ignorant of the fact that you’ve mutilated yourself for their recklessly messy binge (aka: picnic).

I’m not much of a rubber glove wearer anymore, but I went through my share in my twenties when I would invest in anything to make the drudgery of housework less soul crushing. (Yes, I did consider the tearing open of a new pack of yellow gloves a cheap, powdery dose of hope in my tiny, city-apartment kitchen.) Nowadays, though, I just dive in. I’m happy to get dirty to get clean.

And so, with nary a glove to be found, I’ve gone through most of a box of band aids, trying to keep my flapping injury sealed lest I lose the morsel of flesh altogether and send blood spurting across my freshly washed dishes (or children or whatever). Having this one, Band-Aid-bound finger impeding my rituals has reminded me of my early difficulties with cleaning.

I’ve always had a dark habit of fretting about messes too big to clean up, (like the ocean or Russia or whatever) which has actually grown into an affinity for tackling the messes in my own life. In my house, I’m the go-to mess-cleaner. My husband may not always be able to count on me for fine foods to please his dynamic pallet, but if he ever drops his tacos; I’m on it like a bonnet (disclaimer: that may or may not be an actual saying).

Doing homecare, I used to work for a lady who often said, “The mess you don’t make is the mess you don’t have to clean up.” (Apparently she thought I was messy). I tried to learn this lesson, but isn’t it more exciting to dig into something that’s grossly (you can take that either as disgustingly or extremely) dirty? I love making something dirty like new again. Rarely can I make broken things new again, I have to rely on the professionals for that, but I love removing grime, splatters, funk and gunk to revive what, to others, might appear to be a lost cause. No amount of rubber glove opening can bring about that love. Trust me.

I used to hate the cruel, life-sucking necessity of housework so intensely that I literally thought it was going to kill me. - I have that disease where you yearn for every action you take to be inspired by excitement and love, and when you have to do something you don’t want to do your soul becomes crippled and your body wants to follow suit, so you go back to bed only to find yourself getting worse and not better, then you realize that you’ve tragically overestimated life and have been clinging to illusions since you were a little (and obviously very special) child. Growing up is hard.

But through the gift of near-poverty and the nearly psychotic devotion to the idea that to be released from my burden I would have to push harder into the work and all the torturous suffering it was to me; I have been born again as a woman who cleans with a contented heart and it’s so beautiful I wish the same for you (except the part where you want to die because you think chores are a bummer).


Karen Smith is on a quest for personal truth and boundless consciousness. She feels lucky to live with her family in Truemanville. Her column appears bi-weekly in the Amherst News.

Organizations: Band-Aids, Amherst News

Geographic location: Russia, Truemanville

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