Today I cleaned the kitchen for 3 hours. It was a gentle but thorough cleaning; wrapped in mindfulness.
I approached each counter individually and focused on removing all appliances and containers, wiping down the surface and then scrubbing out the dirt. I then dusted off each appliance- the coffee pot, espresso machine, the dish-rack, microwave, knives, toaster, the kettle and both cobalt dog treat containers- and before placing them back on the dry, cleaned countertop that each belonged.
With cleaning spray and rags, I traced the dirt on cabinet doors; the patterns of shared life. The cabinets of the boys and I were dirtier- evidence of our fingertips opening and closing cabinets whilst cooking. The boys creating vegan, fresh vegetable and whole grain bowls, arepas with beans and fresh guacamole, and chocolate chip cookies. I cooking stir-fry and vegetable soups, chicken-quinoa bowls, and pumpkin-pancakes. K’s cabinet doors were cleaner- evidence of his preferred microwaveable, frozen-food dinner preparation with a side of pancakes and meatloaf thrown in.
I scrubbed out the coffee drips on our cream formica counter; indicators of a rented home, my penchant for strong morning coffee, and a pot that leaks. Even after wiping the splashes up immediately each morning I run the risk of staining the countertop. I rubbed off the traces of olive, safflower, canola and coconut oil next to the stove and the yellow grease stains from the backsplash tile. The backsplash is 3x3in. cream tile with a 2x2in. mauve tile band that wraps beside the stove and behind the kitchen sink. It is ghastly and yet fits the soul of this home. Or perhaps I’m simply waxing poetic- feeling connected to the tile after my afternoon of scrubbing and wiping.
I ended the hours sweeping and mopping the floor. Like the tile, the floor leaves much to be stylistically desired; yellow-cream and mauved-peach linoleum 12x12in. tiles. Still, that floor hides a multitude of sins; fluffy Bryce-dog fur, dropped red lentils and quinoa, winter dirt and dust balls.
I know I am making our home sound like a terrible mess. It isn’t. Just, lived in.
I oft clean for hours out of anxiety, or to hide from anxiety, sadness, fear, anger, [insert any other non-joyful emotion that might be plaguing me here], etc. I clean to rid myself of something. That language reminds me of Pesach and the days before of cleaning chametz from the home; ridding one’s home of the leavening that would violate Torah. In the kitchen, I clean to rid myself of a “spiritual chametz”- something I feel sours or spoils my soul.
Today, I was cleaning spiritual chametz, but unlike I have cleaned ere before. In previous times of kitchen cleaning, I have been fierce, unyielding, and unkind to Self. I have mistakenly labeled my fear, shame, sadness, jealousy, or anxiety as chametz and believed that those feelings should be erased and cleaned away. Today, I realized that those feelings are not chametz. They are feelings.
To clean out spiritual chametz is to echo the process taken within the Days of Awe. Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we consider the sins of our past year, repent and seek reconciliation with those we have wronged. Spiritual chametz are the sins I have committed, that I do commit, against my Self. Spiritual chametz is the doubt and the haranguing. It is the disbelief in my own goodness. It is my doubting of G-d and of my Self.
Today, I cleaned out chametz, and I felt every emotion. My deep sadness over Sharon dying of cancer. My confusion and regret in the ending of a relationship. My fear and loneliness at living in Boston- singly and away from family. My anxiety of being in a job that doesn’t fulfill my passion but pays the bills. And the pure joy of feeling, each emotion, each movement in my body, each tension of muscle and moment of deep breath.
Today, I cleaned out chametz.