Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Coming clean

Last night as I was spritzing bleach water on my kitchen table after getting the rest of the house in "going to bed" order (dd has a cold and I WILL nip that in the bud!) I relished a bit of the fruits of my recent reorganizational order. Aside from a pesky pile of papers and books that refuses to quit multiplying by my phone, I have to say, I've been pleased at how I no longer have that "putting out fires" feeling all day. The laundry--which once seemed like an entity to itself-- is actually under control. The floor has as litle dog hair as possible with a bear-sized canine shedding on it all day. The shelves are dust-free. The pillows are actually *on* the couch. I go to bed every night with the satisfaction of knowing that I'll be greeted by a clean house in the morning.

So why, I wondered, do I still feel a niggling sense of not-quite-good-enough?

Then it ran through my head: the same conversation I've heard dozens of times in the past few months. Without getting long winded (because I'm only *mostly* long winded, you know!) the gist of the comments was that my good friend, who moved from our street to a new neighborhood last year, had left because of me. Or rather, because of not wanting to *be like me*.

When I say "be like me" I mean our living situation: we have five people (and said hairy dog) in our 1,500-and-some-odd-square-foot townhouse. We have three bedrooms. We don't have a backyard of our own--we live on an open common area. We are actually quite happy with our house; I am not a big house person. If I could split it from the adjoining home and fence a bit of yard, I'd have what I'd consider the perfect family home for us. Clearly I can't do that, so I'll just bloom where God has planted me.

But it's pretty clear that most people don't think or feel that way. And the conversation I mentioned illustrates that. While I honestly (at the time) thought I had dismissed the nasty words, it became clear after a bit that they had stuck in my heart. The speaker had insinuated that our "cramped" conditions were a bit frightening for my friend, who was hoping for more children and just couldn't see staying in her own house of the same size after hanging around our place. The final comments made me feel like I was a somehow lazy, neglectful parent and just plain less-than-great person.

But did I dismiss the voice when it popped up again? No. And did I go to my good friend and ask if she had said those things or how she felt? Nope.

Instead, I have chosen to walk around for the past seven months or so wondering if that's what someone who claims to be my best friend really thinks (and says) about me.

Shades of junior high, huh?

The result, I realized last night, was that I have pulled away from my friend. Sure, there are other issues (her oldest is the age of my youngest, which makes for mismatched playdates... she doesn't yet have a homeschool schedule to keep up with, or bigger-kid activities...they're not six houses down anymore...) but underlying all of them is the fact that I have doubted that she sees me as an equal or values me beyond the stuff I own (or don't).

After all those months of keeping it inside, I decided to admit my hurt to my friend and apologize for bottling up what I was fairly certain was a lie anyhow. Do you remember the feeling of asking someone new to spend the night at your house for the first time when you were in third grade? Just that pit-of-your-stomach fear of rejection and sweaty-palmed anticipation? Well, I revisited that anxiety when I picked up the phone.

No surprises, but my friend knew that there was something brewing in my head and my heart (there's a reason we're such good friends, right?). It was obvious to her that I had been holding back. When I finally got it all out, she was respectful and loving and kind and actually racked her brain trying to figure out how any conversation she had had at that time could have been taken to mean that she disapproved of me.

In the end I felt forgiven for hiding something so damaging in my heart. And I tell you, there's a reason that it says in the Bible that when light is thrown on evil, it tries to hide. I went to bed last night not only with a clean house but with a clean heart ... and new determination to carve out precious time in a full schedule to walk alongside the friend that God has so clearly given me.

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