Guilty. As charged. A thousand times guilty.
If you’ve come to my house, I’ve probably said it at least three times before we walk in the door and at least as many more before we get to the living room.
It used to bug me that I had to say it all the time. Ok, fine… it still does, but definitely less.
You know what made the difference? It wasn’t deep hypnosis therapy. It wasn’t a self-help book. It wasn’t a spiritual experience. I didn’t decide to “just get used to it.”
You want to know what made the difference? Maybe you did, I don’t know. Friends made the difference. Not the friends that walked in and said “Oh, this is nothing… you should see my apartment/our house/photos of my first bachelor pad.” It wasn’t the friends that walked in and said nothing. (Though that isn’t exactly a resounding vote of compassion or solidarity.)
Friends that I was visiting made the difference.
“Sorry… the house is a mess.”
It was initially comforting that they said what I said and that we all seem to say the same thing, but as I looked around, I just didn’t see what they were talking about.
When you’re kind enough to invite me into your house, I’m walking into an extension of your life. You’re inviting me into a space in which you live, a place where you are present. To see the kid’s toys on the floor is not out of place, it is perfectly “in place.” To see a pile of laundry, half-folded isn’t insulting, it’s including.
It says to me, “I also wear clothes, and they don’t fold themselves either.”
Dishes on the counter and in the sink tell me that you eat and that sometimes you run out of time. It’s great if you have one of those remote organizers, but if all the remotes are spread out on the arm of the couch, on the coffee table, and even on the floor with the batteries strewn from the last run-in with your toddler, it means that I’m not the only one.
I don’t mind a dirty floor. I don’t turn and run at the sight of some clutter. That box of tools that should have gone back down to the basement weeks ago doesn’t bother me. A vacuum left out means you tried and the phone rang, or was it the doorbell, or was it the latest skirmish between the mortal enemy clans of son verses daughter or eldest verses youngest?
I’d like to take this opportunity to say to you, “It’s ok.”
It’s not a mess.
It’s lived in.
No matter how you feel about it, it’s not a disaster site. I’ve worked them. You have walls.
It’s not a crime scene. The only evidence here is that it is truly a home. It’s the space where you live. It’s the place where the real you and the real spouse and the real kids do real things and live a very real life.
I’m not saying I don’t want you to say it. I’m not telling you not to feel pride in your space those few and rare times that you do get it close to “clean.” I’m not discouraging the eternal maintenance it takes as a parent to keep things livable. That is discouraging enough. What I am saying is that I don’t expect spotless. I don’t expect perfect. I don’t expect a glint with a sound effect off your stainless steel, your picture frames or your teeth.
I expect life. And when I see it, it’s welcoming. I’m saying, “it’s ok.” You’re not alone. You can still say it if you want to. But you don’t have to. I probably won’t. We should never have to apologize for living.
It’s on me to take the garbage out and to keep the dirty laundry contained. It’s on me to keep the fridge up to date and the bathrooms clean. We don’t do those for you, though. We do them for ourselves, for our house.
Beyond that, life takes space and time and there’s stuff involved. We are called to community and that always carries a little mess with it. A little mess that I’m more than willing to sit in with you, to share in with you. And for the record, I’m going to let you into my little mess, too.
I might have lied. Maybe it was a spiritual experience.